Where now for Aston Villa?
The last few games have told us a lot about how much progress Villa have made under Paul Lambert.
Wins against Cardiff and Southampton have merely covered up the cracks in a team which struggles against most sides in the Premiership.
Coming against Man United on Sunday no-one expected to us to pick up a point deep down but the manner in which the team rolled over was terrible.
There were actually some nice passages of play from the Villa side, most of which came through a resurgent Marc Albrighton. It seemed he was the only player willing to pick the ball and either run at a defender to create his own space, or move into an attacking position when one of his teammates had the ball.
You get the feeling he could be one of our most creative players this season if he could keep his head for the rest of the campaign.
It’s not been long since he was playing for Wigan on loan so that - taking nothing away from Albrighton - shows the complete dearth of attacking talent at Villa Park these days.
Even more frustratingly for the fans, the one player we turned to last season, possibly too much on occasion, has become a shadow of the player he was. The sooner Christian Benteke goes the better because the way he’s playing upfront at present is not doing anyone any favours.
He seems to have a complete lack of drive to chase down balls or hold the ball up.
He got himself into some decent positions against Man United but where he would have shrugged off a challenge last year and side-footed the ball into the net last season, for the past five or six games he hasn’t even looked liked scoring when he finds himself in front of goal.
The worse he plays the less likely other teams are going to even want to snap him up so what’s happened there is confusing everyone.
Gabby Agbonlahor made his 300th appearance on Sunday for his home club over the weekend and no-one can question his passion for Villa. But he’s only scored two goals this season – the same as El Ahmadi – so he really needs to up his game for us soon.
The biggest worry, however, has been the defence. Villa’s one saving grace this campaign has been the way Lambert has managed to tighten up at the back.
We keep barking on about it but last Christmas was one of the worse runs ever seen at Villa Park, when we conceded 15 goals in three games, without scoring any.
From that point on it looked like we could seriously be doomed for relegation but to be fair to Lambert and the players a great last few months clawed us back to safety.
We have now conceded five in our last two games, against Fulham and United, without even looking close to winning.
It’s very worrying when you consider Villa’s next games are away at Stoke this weekend, at home to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day and at home to Swansea on December 28.
They are three games we should be looking to win but would anyone be surprise if we lost all three?
It’s a very pessimistic way of looking at things but when you’ve seen how Villa played under Lambert at home during the majority of his relatively short reign it’s hard to keep much hope.
We have won big games, mainly away from home, but they could easily have ended in defeat. The problem is it’s hard to remember a game we’ve lost that should have ended in a win. The next three games are going to be vital for Villa and there’s still time to turn things around.
If Albrighton can keep his form, Ron Vlaar can keep fit, Fabian Delph can stop getting suspended, Benteke can rediscover his form and Gabby can start chipping in with a few goals again, Villa’s future in the Premiership will be more than secure.
If they don’t it could be another long season.
Article by James Fisher