Aston Villa: Why Doubting Paul Lambert Is Nothing Short of Inexplicable

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Aston Villa: Why Doubting Paul Lambert Is Nothing Short of Inexplicable
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Aston Villa have enjoyed a decent start to the 2013-14 Premier League season.

It hasn't been fantastic, but it hasn't been disastrous; "decent" is an apt word for the description of their opening nine Premier League games.

Paul Lambert's charges have picked up 10 points and currently sit in 14th place. Contrast that with last season, with the club lower in the table having accrued half the points, and you'd guess the Villa fanbase are pretty content with the progress so far.

Wrong.

Twitter is a powerful tool, and right now it's awash with doubts surrounding the ability, and credibility, of Lambert in his job. Some fans are itching their feet and asking the dreaded question: "How long will he last?"

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It's an incredible turnaround from the position held in May 2013, where Lambert had saved Villa from what seemed like certain relegation alongside Queens Park Rangers and Reading.

With all the disappointments over the course of the season, including the Capital One Cup loss to League Two Bradford City and an 8-0 savaging at the hands of Chelsea, the fact that Villa survived pointed directly toward great resilience, character and man-management skills in B6.

Crucial victories over QPR, Reading, Sunderland and Norwich City paved the way to safety last year, and most of Villa's strong play can be rooted back to the new leaf they turned over on January 1, holding Swansea City to a draw in South Wales.

The summer was a wild success: Keeping Christian Benteke and signing six other key players to long-term deals represented astute work; adding depth in the appropriate areas made the group more reliable and durable on the whole.

Many believe Lambert should have invested in a No. 10—such as Hiroshi Kiyotake or Younes Belhanda—but overall its difficult to begrudge the work Lambert did (largely because it was excellent).

But at the time of writing, the home crowd seems restless. "Why haven't we kicked on?"

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The Beast scores his hat-trick against Sunderland.

Ten points from nine games isn't fabulous, but when you play Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Everton in that short streak, how many points would you be expected to garner?

The very fact that Villa beat Man City 3-2 without Benteke is worthy of a medal alone.

It can be argued that most of the summer additions have not improved the starting XI. One, Antonio Luna, certainly has, while another, Jores Okore, is out for the season with a torn ACL. It always seemed Lambert's intention to allow the side who survived last season to continue to grow now, though, so that shouldn't be a critical concern.

The club are still floating heavy, heavy wages in the form of Shay Given, Darren Bent (to an extent), Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia. Until the four, seemingly unfavoured by the boss, are moved on, Villa are hamstrung to the tune of approximately £150,000-per-week in wages.

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This isn't a season where the club can make the seismic move from 11th to 6th in the Premier League, á la Martin O'Neill in 2008. It is, however, a season in which Villa can breach the top half, should they find a rhythm.

And considering a horrific fixture list that's been near impossible, it would be ill-advised to fret.

Lambert is the best manager Villa have had in a long, long time. He's shrewd in the market, a motivator in the dressing room and, crucially, a tactically flexible man who can get the better of others with X's and O's.

Villa's next nine games read: West Ham, Cardiff, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Southampton, Fulham, Manchester United, Stoke City and Crystal Palace.

If Lambert's charges fail to garner more than 10 points from that slate, perhaps then it's time re-evaluate the position.

Until then, it's inexplicable to doubt a man who knows exactly what he's doing.

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