Aston Villa are a club running on empty, and Paul Lambert really needs the backing of Randy Lerner to stay in the English Premier League.
One of the alarming patterns starting to appear at Villa Park is the use of players in their wrong positions—an unappealing yet necessary tactic to cover such a thin squad.
Here, we outline five examples of players playing out of their natural positions in the last year and why it had to happen.
Has there been a single player in world football who's been abused more heavily than Chris Herd?
The holding midfielder, hailing from Australia, has been asked to play in central midfield, central defence, right-back and right midfield in the past 12 months—not what you need when you're trying to develop your game.
Herd's been a victim of his own versatility, getting a game wherever he can but failing to nail down a spot for himself and thus honing his craft. The Socceroo is now two years behind where he should be.
He's made more appearances at centre-back this season than any other position and that's down to a lack of options. Paul Lambert decided to run with Ciaran Clark, Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker, while Richard Dunne was a long-term absentee.
Vlaar came with a history of injuries and has been out for nearly two months, but no allowances were made for this.
Ciaran Clark is a classy central defender, but he's been put through the mill a bit over the past few years.
Gerard Houllier used him largely at left-back due to Stephen Warnock not fitting the philosophy, while Alex McLeish found room for him in midfield as James Collins and Richard Dunne were an untouchable centre-back pairing.
His outings in his natural position had been limited up till the start of this season, and when Paul Lambert signalled his intent to play him at centre-back, the Irishman must have breathed a rather large sigh of relief.
Playing in different positions helps add different facets to your game, but this was a case similar to Chris Herd's—development in the natural position was a must.
Brett Holman arrived at Aston Villa this summer having signed a pre-contract with Alex McLeish in January 2012, but the Australian will have had a stomach full of butterflies upon arrival, as a managerial change put his position under immediate jeopardy.
Nevertheless, Holman played a full role in preseason on the wing, then turned out on the left flank against West Ham in the season-opening game at Upton Park.
From there, he's been converted to something approaching a central midfielder, with his role in the 3-5-2 formation a particularly strange one.
Whatever his exact responsibilities are, he's been moved from the touchline to the centre of the park, and he's not looking that comfortable. He appears to be filling the industrious role Chris Herd might have—had he not been tied to central defensive cover.
Poor old Eric Lichaj.
After a relatively successful loan spell in the Championship, I asked Leeds fans how he fared. The response was resounding: "Pretty good, but very one-footed. Don't play him at left-back."
The U.S. defender has probably spent more time at left-wing-back this season than anywhere else, though, as he covered for Joe Bennett's gashed leg and red card early in the season.
A complete lack of cover forced this, and it's difficult to understand why Stephen Warnock is out on loan at Bolton Wanderers. Aston Villa fans aren't keen on the former Blackburn Rovers full-back, but Lichaj is a bucket full of nerves.
Andi Weimann is a willing runner and, like Chris Herd, just happy to play games for the club who brought him through their academy.
He is pretty much a pure striker, very capable inside the 18-yard box and unable to contribute too well in other areas of the pitch. Unfortunately for the Austrian, he's been stuck out on both wings during his time under Paul Lambert due to a complete lack of wide options.
With Brett Holman being used centrally and Marc Albrighton enduring fitness injuries due to a broken foot, the hot-and-cold Charles N'Zogbia is Villa's only natural wide threat.
It's a bit odd to see so many players being used out of position, but lack of depth and quality is the explanation in every single circumstance.
The strange thing is that the position relegation-threatened sides are usually short in (striker), Villa are stacked in. It's everywhere else that's the problem.