The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Aston Villa's Season so Far
If you're an Aston Villa fan, Saturday afternoon made for some particular painful viewing as your side were demolished 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
With November not getting any easier thanks to the visit of Arsenal next Saturday, where do Paul Lambert and Co. look to get their season back on track?
This article takes a look at the Villans' season after 12 games and three months under their new manager.
The Good: Swansea, Sunderland, Manchester United
We'll start on a positive note and look back fondly on good performances.
Paul Lambert's first league win of the season came at home to Swansea, as Villa dominated the game and saw debutant Christian Benteke score a wonderful goal.
His second win saw a gritty and determined performance result in a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light, while a similar game plan saw them lose out narrowly to Manchester United.
These three games are indicative of how Lambert wants to play and win games in the initial period as manager—work hard for each other and help each other adapt to the rigours of the English Premier League.
After all, the former Norwich manager has placed his trust in inexperienced personnel such as Joe Bennett, Brad Guzan, Ashley Westwood and Andi Weimann.
The Bad: West Ham and Everton
When the fixture list was released, the Boleyn Ground was one of the absolute last places any existing English Premier League side would have wanted to go.
Aston Villa drew the short straw there and failed to gel quickly in the face of a raucous home crowd. With confidence low, Everton visited Villa Park the following week and comprehensively stuffed them 3-1.
There were positive signs to take from each of these games, though. Even after a 3-0 halftime deficit and a red card to Ciaran Clark, Villa managed to compete in the second half against the Toffees and even score through Karim El Ahmadi.
Against West Ham, the Villans dominated proceedings but simply failed to find Darren Bent in the danger areas. El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph put in Jean Makoun-like performances that day.
The Ugly: Manchester City and Southampton
Aston Villa are a compact defensive unit for the most part but possess a slightly unnerving tendency to unravel at any given moment.
A 1-0 win at St. Mary's Stadium looked pretty good at halftime, and Villa fans were optimistic when a dangerous Christian Benteke header flashed past the post.
What followed was a capitulation much alike to what we witnessed at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday—one goal goes in, the rest follow.
The Darren Bent Conundrum
For those who simply don't follow Aston Villa too intently, the idea of leaving record-signing £24-million man Darren Bent out of the starting XI might seem strange. Here's a timeline.
During preseason, Bent was handed the captain's armband in the absence of any genuine leaders in a young team.
Unfortunately, it had an adverse effect on his play. The England international failed to score in the first four league games and consequently had the armband stripped.
Paul Lambert looked to the defensive line for leadership and promptly found it in Dutch international Ron Vlaar, leaving Bent feeling devalued.
With Villa failing to give Bent the service he thrives on, Christian Benteke was brought in for £7 million from Genk.
Bent's injury meant he was never able to threaten the Belgian just as he hit stride, so right now he's locked out of the team.
There are a few holes to fill in the roster come January and Paul Lambert should hope to receive a bit of cash to go about his business.
There's an argument in favour of selling Darren Bent. Aston Villa no longer have wingers like Stewart Downing and Ashley Young to provide top-tier service, and without the perfect ball he quickly becomes useless.
When Villa can't feed him, it's like they're playing with 10 men. Christian Benteke is a much larger target and easier for Lambert's younger players to hit.
That said, the Villans need a winger. Andi Weimann is doing a fine job as stand-in, but Charles N'Zogbia and Marc Albrighton aren't featuring due to injury or loss of form.
A central midfielder to control proceedings could also be a priority, while finding some injury luck for Joe Bennett would also work wonders.