The bar has well and truly been lowered. Few held much hope given Villa’s recent maulings to Chelsea and Tottenham as they took their seats, but fewer still could have predicted the debacle about to unfold before them.
The game was largely decided in the opening moments. Wigan scored with such ease from a floated corner that they could have been forgiven for wondering if the whistle had blown to halt play. Invisible marking, statuesque goalkeeping, a stunned silence from the Holte End.
An awful, awful start.
And it didn’t get much better thereafter.
Lambert’s team is largely dictated to him by injury, but the puzzling formation and absence of apparent organisation is of grave concern. Villa laboured in their passing, conceded possession at leisure and chased shadows for much of the afternoon. Once more we looked on as a team strode two thirds of the pitch before encountering a Villa shirt. Our inability to address Wigans width a madness.
This is a young and inexperienced team certainly, but schoolboy, arguably amateurish play, will escalate from losing matches, to that of our Premier League status if left unchecked. Suffering defeat to competitive opposition is part and parcel of the game. Succumbing to our nearest league rivals so easily on our own pitch is not.
The game was put to bed within an hour, Boyce and the impressive Kone sealing 3 points for Wigan at a canter. Read the last sentence back. Astonishing, no?
Lambert suddenly has a huge job on his hands. He must resurrect a side devoid of confidence and which is also having serious questions asked of it in terms of both its ability to win matches and keep the boss in post. The latter shouldn’t be taken lightly with Lerner watching proceedings this afternoon.
The team selection is a huge challenge. Injuries galore, what’s left doesn’t look nearly strong enough on paper let alone against big, strong teams. Throw in world class opposition and you get results as seen at Chelsea.
Figures such as Ireland are expected to craft something from nothing. Played out of position and with little or no support he quickly became a passenger, departing to boos when hauled off. Holmann looks a shadow of his early season self, missing a glorious opportunity to level and was wasteful with loose passing all day. Al Ahmadi, raises more and more questions with each underwhelming appearance.
And then to the youngsters, thrown somewhat unfairly into the mix. Or are they? Bannan, Clark and Albrighton aren’t new names to the team sheet. Their collective performances have been nothing short of woeful. Inexperience counts for something, but not such frequent abysmal showings.
Lambert now has a very real job on his hands. There are circumstances beyond his control and then there are poor managerial decisions. Our formation and tactics with what’s available is a colossal failure that must, failing fit players or new signings, be abandoned.
Morale must somehow be lifted. A fixture against lower league Ipswich in the cup represents the opportunity to steady the ship (Swansea away first: gulp!). Alas, it could also lead to an altogether different chain of events unfolding.