Just when it seemed as though it couldn't get worse, Aston Villa sent 2012 out with a bang, falling apart yet again en route to a 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic at Villa Park. Ivan Ramis got the game off to the worst possible start, heading home from a corner in the 3rd minute, and it was a minor miracle that the Latics did not extend their lead before Villa settled in and began to press the visitors. As the half wore on Villa found themselves on top, but wastefulness in the final third saw the game go to the half at 1-0. Wigan wasted little time in the second half with Emmerson Boyce slicing through the back line and finishing past Brad Guzan in the 52nd minute, and Arouna Kone finished things off just four minutes later after rounding the keeper and scoring into an empty net.
With this week's three games all wrapped up, the numbers are ugly. Aston Villa was outscored 15-0 by Chelsea, Spurs and Wigan, and that number is all the more shocking when you take into consideration the fact that they have scored just 15 goals in 20 games this season. And in many ways, this performance was the most disappointing; the Chelsea and Spurs results were more lopsided, but those are two very good teams that turned in excellent performances. Wigan is not a good team, and they didn't play especially well. They were just quite simply gifted with three goals and not made to pay for a lackluster defensive effort. This wasn't Wigan at their best or even near it, and they still managed to run rampant at Villa Park.
This isn't an easy fix, and it's going to take more than one single thing to fix it. Some of it will work itself out as players return from injury and these unsustainably bad performances come back towards normal. But the system being used isn't working and needs adjustment, and this squad isn't cutting it and needs to be strengthened. There's never a good time for a run of this kind, but it's far better to have it now, with half the season still to play and the transfer window getting ready to open, than it would be to have it April or May. And it's important to keep in mind that despite looking very much like one of the worst teams in the Premier League, Villa haven't fallen back into the bottom three. It seems bad-it is bad-but it could be worse, and there's still a lot of time for it to get better.
But it has to get better. It's probably not realistic to expect that things will improve all that much by the Villa travel to face Swansea City on Wednesday, but the current situation is untenable. I still believe that Paul Lambert is a good man to have guiding the club through this fairly tumultuous period in its history and he's certainly been dealt a crummy hand where injuries are concerned, but this is the kind of thing he was hired to deal with. After the Swansea game there's a bit of a soft run with Ipswich Town, Bradford City and Southampton on tap before things get tough again. That's a great run of games from which to settle things down and get the team playing confidently once again. But if things aren't sorted out before then, we could be in for yet another long spring.