On Tuesday night, Aston Villa had the chance to turn around a two goal deficit against League Two side Bradford City and book a place in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley. As it happened though, Bradford City had other ideas and ended up inflicting more pain on one of the most miserable runs of form that I can recall as a Villa fan. Winning that game could have turned around our season, but losing it has been branded embarrassing and focused the spotlight even more intensely at our under performing campaign.
The negativity that the semi-final defeat has left is growing by the minute and threatens to rival that of the two previous manager’s eras; Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish. Personally I try to always find the positives – it’s how I live my life – but finding positives over the last two months has been especially hard.
Ever since the 3-1 victory at Anfield, our season has gone to pot in the most unimaginable fashion and we sit just above the relegation zone, with an awful -25 goal difference and looking like we are already all but relegated. In these circumstances the cups can be seen one of two ways; an escape from the relegation fight or a nuisance fixture. Now that we are out of both though, it really doesn’t matter how they were viewed and we can only focus on the one important need this season – survival.
The trip to Millwall was never going to be easy and you’d expect them to fancy their chances with our recent form, but one thing that I didn’t expect was for us to roll over again. Far too often this season we have lacked the passion and desire to win and that’s what has let us down on so many occasions. Bradford simply wanted it more than us and last night so did Millwall, that’s why we’re out.
That and because we simply cannot defend set-pieces at all, but people pinning that on Lambert have got very short memories. Ever since Martin O’Neill left we have been unable to defend corners – the problem was well documented under Houllier and even for a defensive coach McLeish’s set-piece record at Villa was p**s poor so the pretence that this is a new problem is just that.
The immediate future looks bleak for Villa fans also; with all PR that emanates from the club seeming to point towards no strengthening in January because of a lack of money, which to a lot of fans seems that we are openly preparing for relegation. No Darren Bent type winter transfer to save us this time with Lambert insisting that the squad is strong enough to survive. I agree simply because as bad as we have been we are still just above the relegation zone and I can’t see us being this bad all season - I hope I don’t end up regretting those words.
So I’ve said I think we can stay up and our home game on Tuesday is exactly the kind of game that we need to take three points from if it’s going to be at all possible. Ironically enough it was the fixture against Newcastle United at the start of the season where Villa fans first saw the positive signs of Paul Lambert’s reign but a loss in the corresponding fixture would surely leave us in the relegation zone and bereft of confidence. At the start of the transfer window both Villa and Newcastle were in a similar position, and despite selling Demba Ba to Chelsea Newcastle are arguably a stronger side now than they were on January 1st.
The “French Revolution” that is occurring there gives them far more options and a much stronger squad. The signings of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Moussa Sissoko especially stand out to me, with the latter being a target talked about around these parts early on – I can see there could well be more than one reason we will regret him moving to Newcastle by Wednesday.