Chris Baird's 84th minute goal was the difference between the sides, as a spirited Aston Villa performance was not enough to best Fulham at Craven Cottage. The story for Villa was a familiar one; lots of possession and some very nice build-up play were undone in the end by the lack of a final product and a late defensive let-down. It was a harsh result for Villa, but a team so seemingly incapable of scoring goals is going to be on the receiving end of more than a few like this one.
Both halves were roughly even, with the home side edging a bit more of the possession but struggling to finish the few chances they were able to create. Aston Villa were organized at the back and comfortable on the ball in the middle of the park, but with no service for Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor and substitute Christian Benteke there was very rarely a palpable threat at goal. Benteke came closest for Villa, his volleyed effort just one minute after Baird's goal going frustratingly wide in a situation where the big striker really needed o do better.
Aston Villa showed a fair bit of quality, but once again it just wasn't good enough. Paul Lambert must find a way to get the ball to his strikers (or get goals from somewhere else,) because all the possession and decent defending in the world matters for nothing if your team isn't scoring goals. Whether it's a creative central midfielder, a winger, or a playmaking forward, this club needs a spark from somewhere; if that player isn't in the squad right now, then they need to be added come January.
Is anyone expecting three points from Villa in this match against Fulham? I should probably be more optimistic, but today, I'm just looking to see our squad perform well, not expecting them to come away from Craven Cottage with all three points. Then again, I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than overwhelmingly disappointed.
Aston Villa are all but certain to use yet another defensive combination for this match. Given the importance of the ability of the defense to function as a unit, that's got to be a concern.
The central midfield is going to be key in this game. When Villa can't hold their own in the possession game, they tend to get smoked pretty thoroughly. Even in their lone win against Swansea, where the visitors held a hefty edge in terms of possession, Aston Villa were fairly dominant in the midfield and limited Swans to a lot of control of the ball that didn't go much of anywhere. Quantity of possession is important, but if you can't do anything with it the impact is diminished; if Villa find themselves unable to take the ball from Fulham, they need to crank up the pressure and push that possession into their attacking third.
Keep an eye on Dimitar Berbatov. He's speaking to your daughter.
Heading into this afternoon's clash at Craven Cottage, Fulham will be rightly favored to take all three points. With the odds of success and embarrassment both fairly low, is it time for Paul Lambert to try something different?