Paul Lambert is having a torrid time at Aston Villa
After the catastrophic defeat to Bradford City in the League Cup semifinal last night, Paul Lambert is undoubtedly facing the toughest time in his relatively young managerial career.
Just a point and one place above the dreaded relegation zone, Lambert has a battle on his hands to ensure that one of the great teams of English football is not demoted to the second tier of the English football pyramid.
While Lambert's policy of promoting some of the younger players at the club is an admirable one, there is a fine line that can't be crossed. Every team needs experienced players to help guide the new recruits through the first stages of their careers.
The problem that Lambert has, all of his own doing I must add, is that he has chosen to discard some of the older players that could prove so valuable in what has become a fight against relegation.
There are two players that would make an immediate difference to the side were Lambert to restore them: Shay Given and Darren Bent.
Given was dropped early in the season after a couple of shaky games and replaced by American Brad Guzan. While he has played well in patches this season, he is no match for the 500 games played by Given in the Premier League and Lambert should install the Irishman back between the posts as soon as possible. His shot stopping, confidence in the 6-yard area and accurate distribution would immediately make Villa more difficult for teams to break down.
Will Aston Villa avoid relegation?
The situation that has emerged with Darren Bent is an interesting one. I am not a fan of Bent's all around game. His link up play with teammates is very poor, his distribution at times can be dismal and his work rate is often lacking.
However, he does have one factor weighing heavily in his favour. He scores goals. Wherever he has been during his career, he has scored goals consistently and prolifically. Although Christian Benteke has made an excellent start in English football he can't be expected to do it all on his own, and the lack of goals from sources such as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Charles N'Zogbia has been a huge disappointment.
Bent could offer support to Benteke, allowing the talented Belgian to roam slightly more and cause problems for the full backs and defensive midfielders.
Whatever changes he makes, he needs to make them fast otherwise Lambert could find Aston Villa out of the Premier League and find himself out of a job.