What a calamity. A calamity on the pitch as well as off it. Despite our recent footballing history being littered with all too frequent lows, this awful performance, will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.
The most important thing in football is the result. Fans can tolerate losing, that is part and parcel of the game, but we were inept.
Inept to the extent that we are failing to learn lessons from week to week. Our manager and his coaches are either unable to address them or have assembled a group of footballers whom cannot develop professionally.
This is, therefore, not a new problem. Villa have a manager who despite restrictions upon funds, has paid not insignificant fees recruiting “talent”, yet has only a single central defender whom we could consider fit for the Premier League. Ironically, Vlaar is often injured, and if truth be told, is liable to a clanger or two himself.
Further, with the squad now in place, Lambert draws wide bafflement in both selection and tactical awareness. In short, we look set in our ways and most worryingly, unable to adapt or resolve them.
West Ham must have left Villa Park wondering if they will ever take an easier three points on the road. Take the away supports vocal mocking of our once great club, to the tune of ‘The City Is Ours’; "We’re winning away! how sh#t must you be? We’re winning away!“
It’s unbearable to take, but it’s accurate. How could we argue with that?
The first half was a typical Villa. Ponderous, lacking any measure of incisive midfield player. The one chance of note came on the break, Wiemann spreading the ball cross-field into the path of Agbonlahor, who could do no better than miss-control the ball out of play.
The weather, most notably the wind, played a part, but why did we persist in pumping the ball into the squall? The average parks player knows better than this, and if they didn’t, their team-mates would politely request him to not pump the ball into el nino at every opportunity.
This serves nothing other than to emphasise the problem; we have limited strengths, but not a brain-cell between us with which to play to them in the conditions or situation.
West Ham troubled us for most of the half on their left wing, Matthew Lowton, repeatedly becoming exposed. Desperate, last gasp challenges, on what appeared a tame forward line, kept the score at 0-0. At the time I remembered thinking how instantly forgettable the half was, on reflection, West Ham probably trudged off wondering how they weren’t ahead.
As an aside there was some irony that West Ham dived and feigned injury repeatedly. All this after having enduring a week listening to how hard done they have been in relation to Andy Carroll? Perverse.
The opening 30 seconds of the second half, was immediately to set the tone for the remainder of the game: ineptitude and disorder.
We all gazed on as West Ham inflicted a simple training ground routine upon us.
From the kick off runners immediately advanced, the ball pumped into the space that was being powered into, Bertrand was skinned and Nolan nonchalantly backheeled into the net. It’s a repeating theme, but our lack of attention and concentration is staggering.
Within a couple of minutes the tie was settled. Delph dithered whilst on the ball on the edge of the Villa box, Nolan robbed him, and coolly slotted past Guzan. Amateurish from one of our most consistent performers.
Thereafter Lambert sprung to life. Cue desperate, hapless tinkering. Bacuna took up a position at right back to replace Lowton, Albrighton coming on to inject some creativity.
This almost instantly reaped rewards, an inviting ball in to Benteke was somehow completely missed. This theme continued, Albrighton delivering ball after ball of varying quality, but largely impressive. Villa contrived to miss glaring chances and were unlucky with those which were more speculative.
Benteke looped a header onto the bar, narrowly missed with an overhead kick and Albrighton thumped the upright, with the West Ham keeper somehow diverting it past the post whilst rebounding.
Wiemann was hauled off after another anonymous showing to be replaced by Holt. Then outcast Joe Bennett was booed onto the field as Bertrand made way due to injury. The mood should not go un-noticed on Lambert, patience is wearing incredibly thin.
There is nothing to be gained by booing a player on, although I feel that this was largely fans booing the substitution and general standard of fooball, perhaps misreading it’s enforced nature. Either way, it left a sour taste given the 23 year old Bennett’s confidence is already shot.
The questions are simple.
Why did we wait until the game was over before putting the only player either willing or capable to create something into the fray?
Why do we persevere with a system and combination of players which just does not work?
How long will and what will it take before Paul Lambert sits down with our defense and holds it to account for it’s repeatedly unacceptable displays?
And will somebody please explain to me [and our players]; What are the tactics?
To conclude all of this, let’s keep matters simple.
We were turned over with ease by one of our relegation rivals, on our own pitch. The performance was beyond abject, verging upon an utter disgrace.
Our players look bereft of leadership direction, unclear as to their roles either individually or as a collective. The owner has no doubt put constraints upon the manager, but he has had money, ample transfer windows and time to get this comedy act together. The result and performance were quite simply unacceptable.
Lambert is at risk of losing control. We all have patience and even the most hardened dissenter will look for positives after a game in which to glean hope. The worry is that we have been lurching upon the unthinkable for three seasons, and for all of the rhetoric and occasional show of promise, we are a worse football team.
Villa’s trip to Cardiff is officiallly now a "must win”. Great.
Guzan – (5) – Little protection offered. Distribution erratic.
Lowton – (3) – Another mare.
Clark – (4) – Poor, again.
Baker – (4) – Scary.
Bertrand – (5) – Undone for the opener.
Bacuna – (5) – Ineffective.
Delph – (4) – Not his best game in a Villa shirt.
Westwood – (5) – Struggling for form. Sideways, sideways..
Wiemann – (3) – Anonymous.
Agbonlahor – (2) – Did he play?
Benteke – (4) – Wasteful.
Albrighton (Sub) – (7) – Tried his best when introduced.
Holt (Sub) – (2) – Better than Helenius??
Bennett (Sub) – (—) – Booed onto the pitch, did nothing wrong.