Aston Villa vying to secure top-flight status as drop looms large
Aston Villa, 6/5 with Coral to be relegated, are on the verge of losing their top-flight status after dropping into the Premier League’s relegation zone.
The struggling Villans have had an appalling campaign, recently going over 11 hours of league action without scoring, and are currently on a 10-match winless run, since victory over rock-bottom side Leicester City at the start of December.
Villa’s dramatic downfall spelt the end for Paul Lambert, with his position as manager recently being terminated after a shocking season under his reign.
The relegation-threatened outfit have had an almighty fall from grace this season, despite having held second spot early in September after securing three wins from their opening four league fixtures during Lambert’s tenure.
Since a dream start to the campaign, Villa’s form quickly turned into a nightmare, after going on a run of nine fixtures without victory from September to the end of November, and are now the English league football’s lowest scoring team.
Lambert became the main target for criticism from the fans, with many showcasing banners calling for the Scot’s sacking during their recent 2-0 loss at fellow relegation battlers Hull City.
This recent away defeat to Steve Bruce’s Tigers was the final straw for the Villa faithful and the club’s hierarchy, with their side showing no signs of climbing out of this horrific rut, as a frustratingly awful run continued and the Scot was swiftly sacked.
Lambert was previously keen to deny his failures in the West Midlands and played down chances of a drop to the Championship, despite Villa’s daunting domestic position before being relieved of his duties.
It seems that the directed remarks on his managerial failings may be justified, following a series of fatally flawed choices on his part during the course of this current campaign.
Villa’s vocal problem this term has been scoring goals, having incredibly netted just 12 times in the Premier League, 10 less than other goal-shy sides Sunderland and Leicester.
This raises concerns over Lambert’s decision to let Darren Bent leave the club on loan, with the ex-England international having struck three times in four Championship outings for Derby County, two more league goals than Villa have this calendar year.
Lambert’s style of play and tactics while in charge were questionable too, playing primarily with a flat midfield trio of Tom Cleverley, Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph, with neither central man showing any enthusiasm to burst forward and support Villa’s struggling strike-force.
On-loan Manchester United midfielder Cleverley was met with a frenzy of jeers as he was substituted in the last loss, while Christian Benteke’s input has come under severe scrutiny as well.
The Belgian frontman has netted just two league goals this season and, despite a series of problematic injuries, has failed to follow up his previous two free-scoring campaigns, instead regularly performing under-par.
Struggling striker Benteke struck 28 times in all competitions during the 2012/13 season, and grabbed 11 goals last term prior to a serious injury, but he has struggled massively to carry the club’s heavy scoring burden again, with little help form his teammates.
Villa’s supreme struggles have not been helped by injury to their key defensive operator and captain Ron Vlaar, who has been in and out of the side due to different knocks, halting any momentum or progress.
Despite an immense difficulty to find any encouraging domestic league form, toothless Villa can take some comfort from Sunderland’s dramatic survival last season.
Gus Poyet’s Black Cats were in the same position as Villa at this stage last term, and had won only one more game, but secured their top-flight status with some courageous displays during the Premier League’s thrilling finale.
Aston Villa will need to find inspiration from somewhere to beat the drop after haplessly plunging into the danger zone, and are odds-on 8/13 to stay up.