The biggest story coming out of Aston Villa’s last game was that Manchester United once again went behind to a weaker team and once again came back to win in the dying moments.
Every paper and news outlet spoke about the ‘form of champions’, United’s ‘great resilience’ and all that, but Aston Villa should have been the bigger talking point, for their two goal lead wasn’t by accident or solely through the defensive deficiencies of the opposition.
They looked exciting, enterprising and seemed to show evidence of the building blocks for a promising future.
Any onlooker can tell that this is not the Aston Villa of Martin O’Neill. Those were sides who really could go at it with the big teams in the league and were more than expected to be one of the sides making the jump from Europa league challengers to ones rounding out the top four.
But the slide was obvious when key figures were not seeing eye-to-eye, while the write-off of last season was put forward through the poorly judged appointment of Alex McLeish. Even with the club still roaming around the bottom of the league, there is a lot of promise for them to slowly but steadily begin moving up the Premier League table with purpose and authority.
The decision to select Paul Lambert as the Villans’ manager was the correct one. What better choice to put the house in order and start the building process over again? But with Aston Villa, it shouldn’t really be seen as a damning shame that there isn’t much in the way to strengthen with glamour in the transfer market. Their youth products continue to amaze and flourish into very capable and even good Premier League footballers, while on the whole, Aston Villa are becoming a throwback to the days when there was overwhelming pride in doing well with your own academy players.
That’s not to suggest the club will be challenging for the Europa League places by the end of the season or even next; there are obvious parallels between Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers this season, both of whom need to right the mistakes of the previous managers. There’s also hardly a suggestion that the club are scrapping for the best they can get in the bargain bins and making do with other clubs’ unwanted – Paul Lambert has a clear and clever method to what he wants to do and where he’ll pick up his additions. The signing of Ron Vlaar was an excellent move and the powerful Christian Benteke is proving to be the perfect compliment in attack for the rest of Villa’s young squad.
Lambert has found other methods of taking this team forward, albeit an idea that will take time until a consistent end product is found. There doesn’t need to be an over-reliance on Darren Bent, and it may even be a wise move to bring in as much cash as possible from a potential sale. The rebuilding then continues, bringing in players that work well with the set-up Lambert has enforced.
Aston Villa’s loss against Manchester United might not have been what they deserved, but there is surely an understanding that teams like United almost always come out on top, no matter the opposition. But on the day, Villa didn’t look like a team who were down at the bottom of the league table and picking up the pieces of last year’s failure. Villa Park was full of gusto for what their young side were producing against Alex Ferguson’s team of superstars. Regardless of the scoreline, it was a winning performance backed by supporters who had belief. And even with the league table cruelly keeping no secrets, you’ve got think that Paul Lambert has a few more games like that up his sleeve.
It’s not just about having big players and playing to the obvious. The club do not necessarily need Darren Bent and the one dimensional approach he brings, or a goalkeeper in Shay Given who has fallen well below his excellent standards of previous years.
But it is always about having the right man in charge. The manager will continue to give the young players confidence to go out and perform to a level befitting of the club, all the while ensuring that their position in the league remains focused on the steady ascent.