What a difference a week makes. The Villa team that comprehensively outplayed Swansea last weekend succumbed to a second half onslaught from Southampton that results in a number of old frailties rearing their ugly heads once more. Limp up front and abysmal at the back, the drubbing leaves Paul Lambert with much to ponder.
The first half was a scrappy and easily forgettable affair with both sides playing out the match largely in the middle third. As half time approached neither side looked like taking the initiative, but Villa benefited from some poor defending from the hosts with Darren Bent pouncing upon a loose ball in the box. A welcome first goal of the campaign for our most predatory striker, but it marked the end of any real goalmouth threat from Villa.
The second half team-talk from Saints boss Adkins evidently did the trick. Southampton re-appeared and took advantage of Villa’s inability to hold the ball up or create any chances or sustained pressure. It did little to inspire confidence to see hapless longballs creeping back into our play; naturally to little or no effect.
The result was Southampton freely marauding on the edge of the final third and the inevitable happened.
Ricky Lambert was allowed inexcusable space among three Villa defenders and powered a drive past Guzan. Thereafter Lambert’s Lions took on a tamer look. Indeed, the inexperience of youth and lack of physical presence saw bottom club Southampton quickly grow in confidence, sensing our obvious exposure.
Clyne added a second soon after, ghosting through the heart of the defence with a clever run. A run completely obvious, yet ignored by both Villa’s midfield and defense. And with this the heads completely dropped; worryingly so. An anonymous Bannan and struggling Lichaj were hauled off as Lambert looked to stable a rapidly listing ship.
Despite this, Puncheon added a third soon-after with a fine finish but under little pressure. An injury time penalty rubbed salt into the wounds, with the fixture long since decided.
As the full time whilst blew there is much to reflect on for Villa. A decidedly poor performance that stood in stark contrast to the previous week dampens any hope that a corner has been turned. This is a shame as what optimism had been whipped up last week has evaporated and makes next weeks visit of West Brom an important and intriguing fixture.
Still, the club must put this behind them. Practically, we have to, as moping will not get us anywhere. However, a re-think of tactics may be enforced. Bent and Benteke didn’t seem to gel or have clear roles. The midfield looked decidedly lightweight. And it was notable how quickly heads dropped once behind, perhaps a reflection of last seasons morale.
Lambert has a tricky cup fixture against Manchester City to negotiate midweek and then it’s time to think about taking maximum points against neighbours Albion. Thereafter follows a trip to White Hart Lane. The games are ticking, it’s now time for Villa to plot their way towards putting wins on the board.