Vital Villa's Match Report: Villa v Wigan
As dark skies gathered over Villa Park the media vultures began to circle though not many would have predicted the mauling Villa would receive from fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic.
Wigan arrived at B6 having lost 6 games on the bounce though they no doubt fancied their chances against a Villa defence that gives away goals for fun. Right about now, any team would.
Villa turned out in their now ineffective and somewhat puzzling 5 man flat defence. With the return of Weimann from injury Lambert opted for a 5-3-2 with Ireland starting with Holman and Bannan in midfield. Defensively, injuries have taken their toll. The third choice left back (Lichaj) is now the starting right back as the starting right back (Lowton) is now one of two stand in central defenders, the other three natural central defenders (Dunne Vlaar an Baker) are all injured.
With Wigan one of the only teams to opt for a 3-5-2 the flanks were there to attack though from the off Villa found themselves flat footed and under pressure, Lichaj failing to find the space in front of him and instead allowing acres of space to open up around him. Bennett would fair better, showing natural width, cover and speed down the left side though it would prove futile.
Wigan waited a massive two minute before opening their account. With some of the Villa faithful still finding their seats, Ivan Ramis, making his first start since November, found himself unmarked and with time to head the ball powerfully into the Villa net. As players in Claret and Blue looked around for someone to blame Ramis got on with the job of celebrating as a sinking feeling ran around Villa Park.
Wigan continued to maraud and press, finding space down the right and through the middle, with Villa struggling to find the fight or the pressing play that had marked some of their earlier season progression. When the Villa midfield found themselves with the ball, the pass was often wayward or clumsy, lacking invention or guile.
Steven Ireland seemed particularly jaded and ineffectual, much to the ire of the Villa fans who would largely boo him on his 63' minute departure. Surely, time is now running out for Ireland to establish himself as a creative presence at Villa park.
After a brief spell of pressure Villa finally crafted a decent chance. On the 44th minute Benteke headed down Bennett's floating cross for Holman, though the in coming Aussie's could only find the bar. The end of the half soon followed, Villa heading to the dressing room in the pouring rain.
Villa came out in the second-half with renewed vigour though their play once again lacked creativity or penetration. It was starting to look like Villa would not create another decent chance if they played all day. With only 15 league goals on their Premier League account the problem is their for everyone to see and urgently needs to be addressed.
Wigan doubled their lead in the 52nd minute. The goal was all too easy. A one-two between Kone and Boyce allowed the latter to power through the midfield. No tackle came, Lowton's weak challenge shrugged off easily by the powerful Boyce who took his chance, sending a low drive into the bottom left corner. It was a beautiful effort made easier by spineless, dithering defending.
With the heart sucked out of the stadium Villa heads once again dropped, allowing Wigan in for a quick third on 56' minutes. Kone waltzed into the box, knocking off another weak challenge, rounded Guzan, neatly finishing with a tidy goal. Again, all too easy, Wigan capitalising on Villa's shattered confidence, sending their few hundred followers into a frenzy. This was all to much for the Villa faithful, may of whom heading for a very early exit as the rains fell down.
Lambert heralded the changes with a triple substitution. Albrighton, El Ahmadi and Bowery taking to the field though by now, given the shattered confidence of Lambert's young team, any come back was beyond them. Albrighton showed some much needed penetration down the right flank, sending an array of crosses to the back post, though by now the horse had long since bolted.
All in all, another dreadful display which takes Villa's goal difference to -24. It took a late Stoke goal to prevent Southampton dropping Villa into the bottom three though if this pattern of play continues Aston Villa will soon rightfully occupy that third relegation spot. Lambert will be at pains to point out that there is little in it at this end of the table; that a couple of wins could propel you upward and out of trouble. He may well be right in that and with a host of key players out injured there are some mitigating factors to consider.
However, the play on offer is simply unacceptable at this level. Sloppy mistakes are now being made, all of which being more than avoidable, though with confidence lying all but dead on the floor those mistakes continue and they are costing the club dear. 15 goals conceded tells its own story. Only Ipswich Town (1995) have achieved such awful back-to-back humiliation in the Premier League.
Moreover, If Villa wish to avoid Ipswich's fate and avoid relegation they must now add some proven quality, creativity and penetration, deepening the squad as they do. The January transfer window can't come soon enough.
Room for improvement: Ireland