What is there left to say about this Villa side? Comfortable for large swathes of the fixture at St. James, they capitulated at the last.
A handy point suddenly became another worrying defeat that drags us firmly back into the mixer.
And now the fun begins. For whilst Villa must juggle title contenders Chelsea and Man City on the run in, we now go having to beat teams, far better than Newcastle United, who sit in and around us in the league.
The first half it took Villa some time to settle, but Newcastle looked wary, timid and open to our counter. Villa were also afforded lots of time on the ball, with Westwood taking full advantage.
Chances came and went as Villa built up a head of steam midway through the half. Like Cardiff, we would regret them.
Agbonlahor burst into space before unleashing a long distance pile driver that screamed just inches over the bar.
El Ahmadi showed purpose going forward. The Morrocan crafted a fine chance, running into space on the right before cutting back across goal. Where were we?
Again El Ahmadi then caught the ball skillfully before fashioning a cross come shot that evaded the sliding Wiemann. Almost.
Moments before the break Villa suffered their first real scare, Remy cutting back to Cisse who could do no better than sky his shot with the goal at his mercy. A reprieve, but a warning to us also. Take your chances and keep tight at the back.
The second half wasn’t nearly as clever or incisive from Villa. Inevitably with a pressing game, legs tire prematurely. This allowed Newcastle more space.
The loss of Westwood to injury was key. The youngster was having one of his best games in a Villa shirt, his replacement, Sylla, simply does not compare.
Villa had a golden opportunity to seal the game when breaking with Benteke. The Belgian drove at the heart of the Newcastle defence, drew the tackle to release the pass, but watched as it was superbly cut out by Williamson.
The front three were ineffective for large portions if the game, with Benteke struggling to show anything like the clinical displays of last season. However, despite their increasing ineffectiveness, no changes were deemed necessary by Lambert.
Villa proceeded to live dangerously in the closing stages, but as the clock ran down, and with the Geordies huffing and puffing, it seemed a point would do.
Vlaar, otherwise solid all afternoon proceeded to do Cruyff turns in the area. Inevitably dispossessed by De Jong, he squared to Remy, who somehow managed to slam the upright. Ludicrous from Vlaar, our captain, to gift such an opportunity.
Cue a further defensive shambles now becoming synonymous with Aston Villa.
Bennett introduced for the (presumably) injured Bertrand, failed to adequately clear. Then came a deflected pass, looping awkwardly back onto the penalty spot, bouncing between Vlaar and Remy.
Vlaar did his best to fall over. Bacuna turned his back and Loic Remy, otherwise as poor as Benteke, slammed the ball past Guzan to win the game.
The fact that Villa have lost twice to Newcastle is remarkable. Perhaps less so given the above, but Newcastle’s frailties and limitations were there for all to see.
The question of players and tactics inevitably rears it’s head when trying to make sense of this balls up.
We look settled and fine until we tired from our approach of aggressively chasing the ball. This works only until fatigue sets in, so why do we peruse this and the formation to the point of self destruction repeatedly?
The logic and reasoning is simple, play a system and style to the strength of your players. We have a system that has a purpose whilst we have the stamina and crucially, the players to maintain it. However, plans must be adaptable to changing circumstances.
Simply put, we are flogging Wimpy to an audience that wants McDonalds.
Is repeatedly lumping the ball deep to Benteke the best we can intellectually fathom from week to week?
Yacouba Sylla is clearly given no instruction as to his role or flatly disregards it by relinquishing possession and running around as though plucked from the stand. What is his role or purpose?
And poor Joe Bennett. Irrelevant of what you think about him as a footballer. He looks mentally broken and physically too small/delicate to compete at the top top level. I’ve nothing against the kid, but we looked vulnerable for Bertrand making way.
Big questions must be asked of the manager. How long will he persevere with a hit and hope system? What’s the plan when we tire and need to make changes? And when does a poor run of form become cause for concern.
Lose to Norwich and it would be naive to suggest a battle is officially on. Indeed, given our recent stagnation, anything less than 3 points now becomes paramount.
Guzan – 7 – Assured.
Bertrand – 7 – Steady again.
Vlaar – 6 – Two barmy errors.
Baker – 6 – Better alongside Vlaar.
Bacuna – 5 – Not a right back.
El Ahmadi – 6 – Faded after good first half.
Delph – 6 – Combative but struggled.
Westwood – 8 – MOTM
Wiemann – 2 – Largely anonymous.
Benteke – 3 – Wasted and disinterested.
Agbonlahor – 3 – Limited and ineffective.
Sylla (Sub) – 2 – Really poor.
Bennett (Sub) – 3 – Scrappy.