The on going debate in football that you can win ‘with kids’ seemed to be steadily working for manager Paul Lambert after Villa went on a six game unbeaten run in all competitions including away wins at Norwich (4-1) and Liverpool (3-1). But after the last two games, where Villa have conceded 12 without a reply and now have the worst goal difference in the Premiership (-21) all that well earned praise and hard work have come to a sudden halt .
Several talking points have arisen after the humiliating defeat Villa suffered to Champion League holders Chelsea and then the battering they received from Gareth Bale and Spurs, some more pressing than others.
The main talking points being discussed by Villa fans was Lambert’s approach to sell experience and then not replace it (James Collins and Carlos Cuellar) instead buying unproven youngsters from the lower leagues hoping they could do the job instead. Also his persistence not to change formations and personal when things weren't going right.
In the first half of the season Lambert experimented with several formations, but finally settled on 3-5-2/5-3-2, with the introduction of wing backs (Lowton and Bennett of current) This seemed to of worked in the six game unbeaten run, but was finally exposed when Chelsea’s 100m+ front four and Spurs midfield, (included one of the best wingers on the planet Gareth Bale) showed Lambert he needed to stop being stubborn and change the formation and personal.
The persistence to not change formation and personal backfired when Villa were embarrassed, sustaining a defeat which left fans in less than impressive mood venting their frustration and anger on fans’ forums, social media and radio call-ins. So why did after a successful run of six games in all competitions mean Villa implode to receive the joint second highest defeat in English Premier League history.
Down to the point straight away the current playing squad isn't experienced enough to go a whole season without the constant chitter chatter of relegation; something common to Villa fans for the last three seasons.
The main area of the team which seems to be currently lacking is the midfield. Former Crewe captain Ashley Westwood has become a bargain buy at 2 million, sitting in the middle of the park, but doesn’t seem to have anyone around him to create chances for the front two or sit back and help protect the back four. Something Villa has missed since former captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukemia, is someone who can control the game from the middle of the park and sit in front of a back four and protect it, similar to a Xavi Alonso or Muhammad Diame kind of character.
If Paul Lambert expects to survive relegation to the Championship, his top priority will to be buying a physically commanding defensive midfielder in January, alongside a new attacking midfielder alongside Westwood for Villa’s midfield three come 1st February. A new attacking midfielder is also needed; who has can do something Stephen Ireland hasn’t done at B6 since his move from Manchester City in 2010; the ability to open up an opposition's defense to supply Benteke, Agbonlahor, Weimann and Bent.
Continuing with the problematic midfield of present is the calling for the reintroduction of wingers (something which currently doesn’t suit Lambert’s 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 formations). Villa fans haven’t seen clinical wingers since the days of Ashley Young and Stuart Downing that resulted in goals left, right and centre. Although with the current formation Paul Lambert has implemented the midfield three doesn’t play with width, so it’s unlikely Villa fans will see wingers such as Tom Ince or Matty Phillips in claret and blue during the January transfer window.
Additional areas which Villa need to strength is the back four, however with returns of captain Ron Vlaar and Richard Dunne still to come it’s unlikely to see the introduction of a new centre back (such as Joleon Lescott) coming through the gates at Bodymoor Heath anytime soon. Similar is the left back position, Paul Lambert is highly unlikely to give up on new signing Joe Bennett (so far plagued with injuries in his Villa career) similar also to Edna Stevens; Eric Lichaj still hasn’t settling into the left wing back role, though he isn’t a natural left back.
Come the January transfer window which opens on the 1st January, owner Randy Lerner will need to open his cheque book after selling his NFL team, Cleveland Browns for around 1 billion pounds to finally terminate the threat of relegation to club with the history and prestige as Aston Villa .
A figure around 10-15m is needed, which doesn’t even include the more than likely departure of Darren Bent or Stephen Ireland.