Aston Villa must atone for humiliation, says Paul Lambert
Paul Lambert will have had a difficult Christmas. The Aston Villa manager has had to re-focus his young team after the humiliation they received at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening.
After losing 8-0 to Chelsea, Villa have had just two days – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – to reflect and regroup ahead of this evening's home game with Tottenham Hotspur. But with 18 points from their 18 league games so far, Villa are just three clear of 18th place Wigan Athletic. They do not have the time to feel sorry for themselves, as Lambert pointed out, nor do they have they the chance to ease their way back into form.
"They know my feelings on it. I don't think you don't need to be Einstein to tell them what's went wrong," said Lambert.
"But we told them they've got a few days to get over it and then get going again on Wednesday. I don't think it will affect them long-term. It's up to myself and my back-room staff to ensure they don't."
Intensity and application are central to Lambert's view of the game and he is sure that his players will play with the right tempo. "They'll come out of the traps on Wednesday, I know," he said.
"I expect a reaction. Whoever's playing, we have to atone for that. We've been on a good bit of form, so I won't make excuses. Chelsea played exceptionally well, so credit to them."
Lambert is working hard to instil the right mentality at a club that was too soft for too long. He pointed to how his players responded to a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City last month with a five-match unbeaten run which ended on Sunday. Now they need to do it again.
"They've done it before" Lambert said. "They were beat heavy at Man City and then went on that little run. You take the criticism and you bounce back. You have to bounce back. There's no point feeling sorry for yourself. There are too many people coming to watch us on Wednesday, so we have to bounce back.
"I've experienced that a few times. I've been absolutely tonked before. As player and manager, absolutely. You just try and win the next game. It's how they react now, that's the mark of good players and a good team. It's up to me to get the players up for Wednesday. I won't have a problem doing that, because they're really hurt by that. None of them will be feeling great after that."
After losing so badly Lambert may move away from the 5-3-2 system which had been working so well up until then. But whichever formation he uses he will not be able to add more experience instantly. Villa's centre backs on Sunday were Chris Herd, Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark, a three-man line with a combined age of just 67. Wing-backs Matthew Lowton and Eric Lichaj are 23 and 24 respectively.
Villa could bring the slightly older midfielders Karim el Ahmadi or Stephen Ireland into the starting XI but that would not in itself solve the issues of Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur will have good memories of this fixture, having won 2-1 at Villa Park on Boxing Day 2010. Rafael van der Vaart, now at Hamburg, scored twice that night and Luka Modric, who signed for Real Madrid this summer, was excellent. While Spurs are performing well enough this season, currently out of the Champions League places only on goal difference, they have not adequately replaced those two creative players they sold in the last transfer window.
After some poor games with 4-4-2 recently, the manager, Andre Villas-Boas, may choose to drop one of his strikers in favour of an extra midfielder to get some of that creativity back.
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