Following their 2-0 defeat at Hull City, Paul Lambert has little choice but to concede that Aston Villa are in a relegation fight.
In all honesty the Midlands club have been fighting at the wrong end of the Premier League standings for the past four years, yet they have always managed to escape the drop. This time round, though, confidence is at a low, as they have scored just 12 goals all season and are playing some of the worst football their long-suffering fans can remember.
Their latest defeat, delivered by goals in each half from Nikica Jelavic and Dame N’Doye, has finally seen Villa fall into the bottom three. With just 13 matches of the campaign left to play there can be no denying they are now in the midst of a fight to avoid the drop into the Championship, and Lambert at least admits he is fully aware of the situation.
“We are in a fight,” he told Sky Sports. “I have said it to the lads. They know it. There is still a lot of football to be played. We just have to go out to win the next game. I’ve said to the lads there’s two ways to go – you can meet it head on or you buckle. Make sure you don’t buckle for your own career. It’s the biggest 13 games of their careers coming up.”
The visiting supporters at the KC Stadium chanted for their manager to resign, whilst a ‘Lambert Out’ banner was also displayed to further hammer home their feelings. There will be a change of focus this coming weekend when Villa play Leicester City in the FA Cup fifth round, yet in truth this could be considered their least important remaining fixture.
Because in this day and age Premier League football is the be all and end all for the biggest clubs, something which was demonstrated with the new television deal which will see the bottom-placed side in 2016-17 pick up a cheque for £99million. And looking at Villa’s remaining programme, they will certainly face some testing afternoons.
Lambert still has to take his struggling side to top-four contenders Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City (all in April) and Southampton (penultimate match of the season), whilst visits are scheduled from fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion (March), Queens Park Rangers (April) and Burnley (final game of the campaign).