If I called myself the 7500 to Holte optimist, I don't think I'd get any arguments. But that's not what you're going to get today. Not even my silver-lining-in-everything self can get much out of the dismal 90 minutes that Aston Villa just put in. Let's get the details out of the way, first. In terms of the final score, things don't look too bad. Newcastle United predictably got their first from Hatem Ben Arfa, who exploited a miserable Villa defense in the 18th minute. Aston Villa nabbed their only goal on a Christian Benteke header from a corner kick in the 67th minute. Scoring from a corner! Neat! But then, a mere 6 minutes later, Newcastle sub Yoan Gouffron found the back of the next when Brad Guzan couldn't control a Ben Arfa shot. So yeah, 1-2.
But the score doesn't tell the real story. It very well could have been 1-4 (though since Gabby Agbonlahor missed a sitter, it could have also been 2-4, but whatever). Twice Newcastle were able to send a ball across the face of the Villa goal while two of their players stood unmarked. Had the ball had a little less pace each time, it surely would have been a goal. For some reason, once the Villa defense lets players behind them, they never seem to catch up again. It's a maddening problem that could cost the team a number of games, especially with all of the defenders who get injured. Such as Jores Okore, who today came off in the 30th minute limping heavily.
But as much as the defense worries me - and the poor showing from the offense and no showing from the midfielders - what irritates me even more is the way that Paul Lambert handled the match. He's made it clear that he's got a knack for finding undervalued, young players in the transfer market. And he seems to get some good results from his team when things work as he planned them. The biggest gripe I have with him though is one that's becoming increasingly problematic: he doesn't adapt well. If the gameplan you devised isn't working, you're going to have to change things. It was readily obvious early on in the match that Andi Weimann was not going to have a great day. Since Villa acquired something like 42,000 strikers this summer, that shouldn't be a huge problem. Andi will figure it out eventually, but in the meantime, keep him on a short leash. We've got the players available to make those substitutions. But Lambert didn't bring the Austrian off until the 88th minute, at which point Aleksandar Tonev had absolutely no chance of getting into the rhythm of the match.
The reluctance to break from the plan he began with could be something that Lambert just needs to get over. But we already know he's a stubborn manager (look, for instance, at his [generally correctly] freezing out players and not budging). If that trait carries over to the pitch, it could be a pretty major flaw.
This was one of the worst-played matches I can remember from Villa in a while. If you didn't get to see it, don't bother trying to find a replay. Let's just hope we can get a win at Norwich next week.
If you did get to watch, let us know what you thought in the comments. We're all here for each other.