On Saturday evening Aston Villa and Arsenal drew 0-0 at Villa Park and I couldn’t help think the result could have been better for the Villans.
Villa put in a decent performance against the Gunners and boss Paul Lambert will be seeing encouraging signs.
However, there was one negative another week has passed without Villa claiming maximum points.
Villa also performed well in their last home game, a 3-2 home defeat to Manchester United and that sort of pattern isn’t encouraging.
Aston Villa are currently in the relegation zone and look set for a long hard season ahead of them. Last season the team from England’s second city finished dangerously close to the drop zone, finishing in 17th place under Alex McLeish.
Boss Paul Lambert is still trying to put across his ideas and embed his style of play into the team. Positive signs in recent weeks have led to fans keeping the faith with the Scotsman. Some might argue that Villa are no better off than last season under McLeish.
However I would beg to differ. Last season the team seemed stale and old. The squad of players that Lambert has put together seems far hungrier for success. The average age of the team has dropped dramatically under the former-Norwich boss.
Lambert has a very distinct recruitment policy. He tries to find young hungry players, sometimes from the lower divisions and improves their all-around game. That strategy brought him success at Norwich and he is trying to repeat the trick at Villa Park.
I have to say I have been highly impressed by some of the youngsters that Lambert has brought in this season. The likes of Christian Benteke, Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood have never looked out of place in the top flight.
Lambert recruitment policy is clever and in the long-term will prove good for the club, if the Scot is given the chance to turn things around at Villa.
Benteke has been particularly impressive. The youngster looks to have the potential to be a top class striker. Villa wasn’t the first Premier League team to show an interest in Benteke. Last season Everton had sent scouts to watch the raw youngster, but felt that they couldn’t take a gamble on such a young player coming good.
One thing that has got me confused about Lambert’s time so far at Villa is the Darren Bent situation. The club record signing has been left out of the team in recent weeks, with Benteke preferred in the lone striker role.
Bent wasn’t even on the bench for the draw with Arsenal. Instead Lambert choose practically untried youngster Jordan Bowery as his striking backup. It seemed like a strange decision, considering the 21 year-old had made just one substitute appearance since arriving from Chesterfield in the summer.
Surely Bent could have been useful coming off the bench? Granted he hasn’t had the best of seasons, but he is usually a goal threat to the opposition, although Bent is slightly one dimensional. He poaches goals and provides hardly anything else to the team.
Bent has had success before in the past as a lone striker at Sunderland and can play the role with the correct service. Unfortunately for Bent he no longer has the service at Villa that he once had.
Bent was fine when he had the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing (when he was good) providing him with chances. The Villa team isn’t setup to provide Bent with the opportunities he needs to score goals.
I thought maybe Bent could play alongside Benteke and they could be a good foil for each other. Paul Lambert likes to play with a lone striker though, so that seems unlikely. It could be the answer to Villa’s goal scoring problems.
Lambert claims that he has no problem with Bent, but it looks like the £24million man could be shipped out in January. Villa would have to take a major financial loss on the England striker though.
Villa face Reading tonight at Villa Park, in what could be a crucial fixture this season for the home side. Reading are just a place below Villa in the table and one point behind. A victory for either side could lift them out of the relegation zone.
This game is the ideal chance for Villa to pick-up three much needed points. If they don’t then their fans may start questioning whether Paul Lambert is the right man for the job.
Are Aston Villa making progress under Paul Lambert?