Aston Villa: What to Make of Form, Injuries, Formations and Tactics?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 30, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert looks dejected in the rain during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic at Villa Park on December 29, 2012 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

It's probably fair to say Aston Villa look like the worst team in the league right now.

Queens Park Rangers had the worst 45 minutes of the season against Liverpool on Sunday, but Paul Lambert's side are in a certifiable rut.

Even staunch Villans who back their team to the hills have admitted defeat, and several thousand trudged out of the stadium in the 57th minute as Arouna Kone made it 3-0 to Wigan Athletic this weekend.

So, exactly what's going on?



First of all, the crux of the issue starts with an injury-ridden side.

It doesn't get a lot of coverage, and it's not as newsworthy as Newcastle's problems in the medical department, but the Birmingham-based club have been literally crippled by injury.

Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent, Ashley Westwood, Richard Dunne, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker, Charles N'Zogbia and of course, Stiliyan Petrov, have all been absent for the Christmas period. How many teams in the English Premier League could cope with that? Not many, if any at all.

The most crucial aspect of all is that it leaves Lambert with just one fit central defender, which forces the Scot into an uncomfortable, perhaps impossible, situation.



Lambert made the switch to the 3-5-2 the game after Vlaar left the 0-0 draw with Arsenal with an injury.

With Baker inexperienced and young, he clearly couldn't trust him alongside Ciaran Clark to hold the fort in a young, relegation-threatened side. Electing to play three at the back—and using defensive midfielder Chris Herd alongside the duo—was Lambert's compromise.

If there are any errors, the spare man would probably be able to clean up. It worked.

Draws with Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City brought some stability to the side, then a surprise 4-1 win at Norwich was followed by a wonderful 3-1 win at Anfield.

But then came Chelsea. Then came a team who aren't fooled by different, unorthodox formations due to their vast experience in Europe. The 8-0 loss was the low point of hundreds of thousands of people's year.


Christmas Curse

When you enter the festive period on the back of an 8-0 loss, you can pretty much tell things won't go your way. Although the Magpies are giving them a run for their money, they've set a record for most conceded in a three-game span with 15.

There are no injury returns and Lambert is having to use League One standard players as first-team regulars. Does Eric Lichaj or Herd get into this side when everyone's fit? No, they shouldn't even make the bench.

The only foreseeable catalyst to change proceedings at Villa Park is the return of captain fantastic Ron Vlaar, or a mammoth recruitment session in January. We all know which is more likely.