Aston Villa, a lack of guile, and some very predictable football 0

Whenever a side produces the kind of performance that saw Aston Villa topple Chelsea last weekend, they frequently become vulnerable in their next fixture. It’s one of those strange problems which seems to exist within football: the game after the ‘big result’ is often the harder one - players respond negatively to a perceived ‘lesser’ opponent, the crowd isn’t quite as feverish as it was the week before, and everything about the occasion just feels a degree or two less special.

That was one of Villa’s problems yesterday, but it wasn’t the only one.

What’s striking about Paul Lambert’s side at the moment, is that they exist with almost no flair. There are players who can change games in this squad, but there’s really nobody who can be relied upon to, when the ball is at his feet, inject some guile or creativity into a game.

Villa have become a ‘success by repetition’ side; they rely on using the same approach continuously throughout a game with the hope that, eventually, it wears an opponent down. Lambert’s side seem to have two settings: play the ball long and hope that a Christian Benteke knock-down leads to an attacking opportunity, or work the ball through the middle of the pitch and then into a wide crossing position. Periodically they do counter-attack - and do it well - but they’re reliant on an opposition’s approach for that to be effective.

Yesterday’s game with Stoke provided an excellent example of how they struggle when they’re forced to be proactive within a match. Having surrendered the lead and having allowed Mark Hughes’ side to go into half-time with a two-goal advantage, Villa showed no signs of knowing how to get back in the game. Stoke dealt very easily with the predictable aerial-threat that came their way, and their lead allowed them to sit deep and prevent Villa from playing their way into more dangerous crossing-positions.

Aston Villa: Second-half crossing positions vs Stoke City.

That’s the kind of situation in which a team needs not only forwards who can run beyond a back-line, but a player or two who has the passing-range to play a teammate into that kind of space. Villa, at the moment, have neither.

Lambert and his side are probably already safe from relegation, but this is something that needs to addressed in the Summer: there has to be more variation to their game, and they can’t be as reliant on Christian Benteke as they currently are.

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