Vital Villa Match Report: Villa v Spurs
Attendance: 36 863
This is a Christmas that Aston Villa will want to forget. After capitulating against a rampant Chelsea they were then faced with a Boxing Day tie against Spurs, one of the Premier Leagues most potent attacking sides. With confidence all but shot, Lambert's shorn Lions would need to find a way to recover themselves in time to face Defoe and Co. A big ask after their televised humiliation though in the season of goodwill they would receive no charity from Spurs, who eagerly set about the task of taking Aston Villa apart for the second time in four days.
For the first forty-five minutes Villa, turning out in a 5-3-1-1, rode the storm. Camped in their own half, with no outlet other than the solitary pillar of Benteke, a mass of corners went Spurs way from which they failed to capitalise, partly due to some good defending and the commanding presence of Villa goaltender Guzan. Villa managed a couple of breaks though poor execution stifled any chance they had of scoring. Villa were lucky to go in at 0-0 having conceded fifteen corners, five short of the all time Premier League record for corners conceded in one half. Indeed, this was a nervy half, Spurs passing and moving the ball around as if in a training game. The writing was surely on the wall.
Villa were forced into a tactical change just before half-time when Baker went off injured for Steven Ireland. With Albrighton joining the fray at the start of the second-half Villa started brightly in a flat 4-4-2, conjuring an attacking ten minute display, the tactical reshuffle having caught Spurs flat footed. Their best chance came via a Steven Ireland cross which met the counter-attacking Benteke. His shot looked bound for the top corner, forcing Loris into an outstanding curling save. The linesman however, took his time in signalling for off-side, much to the ire of the Villa faithful. That was that.
Having tactically adapted to Villa's changes and with the game now opening up, Spurs went to their unforgiving work, pulling Villa's flat back four apart like a pack. Central to this was the incredible Gareth Bale. He may well look like a chimp, as everyone keeps reminding him, though he's also a phenomenal left sided player and he showed everyone why with a second-half performance of world class quality.
It was Defoe who started the rout. Kyle Naughton's slick pass finding the Spurs hitman on the inside of the Villa defence. Defoe slid the ball with a neat finish past the sprawling Guzan and into the far corner.
Gareth Bale then took his first. Having watched a threatening Villa move break down -Benteke having cut the ball back for no one but a ghost- Spurs initiated a punishing counter. Bale accelerated through the middle, pinched the loose ball off Bennett, rounded him then ran into the box, finishing off a killer Spurs move move with a sure finish. Benteke could only stand there, hands on hips, and rue his error.
Bale's second and Spurs' third came easily enough. Villa were now sitting back, any remaining confidence drained completely out of them. As a result, Aaron Lennon found Bale from the edge of the box with a simple through ball, the Welsh international running on to place the ball beyond the helpless Guzan. The tracking and marking was now abysmal making it all to easy for high-flying Spurs.
Bale's hat trick was completed when he met Sigurdsson's cut back unchallenged. He smashed the ball into the net from the centre of the box with ease. Villa fans were by now, with fifteen minutes to go, heading for the exits, having had their Christmas spoilt enough by their capitulating team. The claret and blue heart can perhaps only take so much when the bruising comes as thick and fast as this.
At this level, all excuses, and mitigating factors aside, this is simply not good enough. Many of these goals were avoidable though with such blighted confidence even basic belief in basic things goes out of the window; what follows is the sort of defensive horror show and capitulation that Villa fans have now had to swallow twice now and in the space of a few days as well. The Premier League has now revealed itself to this young and hopeful team in all its hellish glory. Having taken Villa's worst League defeat in 50 years to the chin Spurs now found the gut with a 4-0 hammering, and all live on national television. In short: a very bad week indeed.
Villa must now resurrect themselves for the visit of Wigan, a game they must now win if they wish to avoid being sucked back toward that fatal third relegation place.
Room for improvement: everybody.