As Aston Villa welcomed Newcastle to Villa Park on Tuesday evening, the similarity between the clubs was clear.
Both are founder members of the Premier League, with rich histories dating back to the nineteenth century. Both have large and loyal fan bases who occupy large stadia steeped in the history of classic matches. Both are owned and funded by successful businessmen, who have helped them stay competitive over the years.
And both were fighting a relegation battle.
There were plenty of similarities between the clubs last night, but it was the differences that made all the difference.
Alan Pardew's Newcastle have fought back against their relegation plight with some highly successful transfer window activity, accruing a legion of French and French-speaking players at exceptionally good prices.
The likes of Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran helped the Magpies bury the game in the first half, allowing the Villains slip into the relegation zone for the third time this season.
The Midlands side can only boast one league win in their last ten league matches. In their previous two games before the Newcastle defeat, they suffered humiliating cup exits at the hands of Bradford and Millwall.
At this rate, Aston Villa are destined for the Championship next season.
Panic buying is not Paul Lambert's style—and rarely does a flurry of overzealous January window activity help steady a sinking ship—but Aston Villa's complete radio silence in the transfer window seems like a regrettable approach.
This is a team that needs some fresh blood to counteract the fecklessness that has been on display for most of the season. This is a team who may yet lose strikers Darren Bent (according to The Mirror) and Christian Benteke (says The Daily Mail) in this window.
Paul Lambert may feel confident in his side—which he strengthened over the summer—but they are woefully under performing. After the Newcastle game, he asked his players to "fight like hell" to save them from a relegation battle. They've barely let out a whimper so far in this campaign.
Of course, Lambert might not be spending because they do not have the luxury to do so. Villa expressed interest in the aforementioned Moussa Sissoko, a player who was almost instrumental in their undoing on Tuesday night.
He would have cost a bargain-basement £3 million, but they ended up losing out because they couldn't finance the deal.
This seems odd for a club whose owner Randy Lerner was revealed this week to have a personal fortune of £1.1b billion (via Birmingham Post).
Lerner made £620 million ($1 billion) selling the Cleveland Browns NFL team over the summer. While he may have sunk nearly £200 million into the club, why is he not helping out in their hour of need?
Would former owner Doug Ellis have idly stood by an eight-day period in which his side slipped into the relegation zone and was knocked out of two cup competitions by lower league opposition?
He probably would have either fired the manager, or insisted on some new signings. Or both.
The January acquisition of Darren Bent helped turn their 2010/11 campaign around with great effect. They were one point clear of the relegation zone at Christmas, but finished in ninth.
Where is this January's Darren Bent purchase? Paul Lambert, after all, doesn't seem to fancy the Darren Bent they already have.
Villa have been flirting with relegation for the past few campaigns. Bent's purchase helped turn things around two seasons ago, but last year they finished in 16th, just two points clear of safety.
In 2011/12, Villa had 27 points at this stage of the season. They only earned 11 more points from the end of January until the end of the season. If they do the same this season—with their lowly tally of 20 points—they will end up with just 31 points and away trips to Charlton and Blackpool next season.
Sadly, Villa have a team of players who are generally unwilling to fight the good fight. They also have a manager who is either unwilling or unable to add to his squad.
Unlike Newcastle, they do not appear to have a survival plan. Without a plan, they are destined for the drop.
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