As I start this, I'm telling myself that I'm not going to be overly sarcastic here. If you follow me on Twitter, you get enough of that already.
I got asked yesterday on that site why I continue to "support" Paul Lambert's position as manager at Aston Villa and it got me to thinking.
I'd like to establish a few of things...
Firstly, not chanting Lambert Out after every performance — irrespective of its quality or result — isn't necessarily a vote of confidence in the man. I don't think he's the best man for the job right now by any means and think there are plenty of managers that could do better with the squad that he's assembled. That said, I don't see many of those people being remotely interested in this job right now. Like it or not, he's providing what the club want out of him; someone to keep the club afloat until a new buyer comes along.
Secondly though, I'm a bit of a contrarian by nature. Perhaps it's my love of game theory but I like to operate with the belief that the world operates in what is generally a rational way. So instead of just jumping on something, I try and see what perhaps other people aren't seeing. And while that can be tough sometimes with Villa, it's the cornerstone of how I operate in regards to my fandom of this club.
Most importantly though? Sports are supposed to be fun. And I specifically got into soccer (sorry, I'm American) because I was looking for a fun outlet from, well, the everyday sports world.
As enough of you probably know, I was born in northeast Ohio and thus, grew up a Cleveland sports fan. It was 2010. LeBron James had just left the Cavs via The Decision, the Indians were drudging through what would ultimately be a 69-win season, and the Browns were still owned by Randy Lerner, so you all know how that was going.
But there was this fun thing, this ray of hope that I had previously looked past. I followed the United States in earnest for the first time at a World Cup and it's still one of the highlights of my life as a sports fan. I'll never forget running around my house like an idiot because Landon Donovan scored the winner against Algeria, nor will I ever forget watching the Round of 16 match with Ghana with tons of people later that tournament. There was this feeling of togetherness, continuity, and something new and fun in my life.
So, naturally, I needed a team and thanks in part to Randy Lerner, I ended up here.
But fundamentally, soccer was this thing that I came to with a fun eye towards, something that would be an escape from everything routine and basic in my life. When Gerard Houllier came to Villa, I was super excited. I had no idea who the hell he was. When Villa got to the FA Cup's round of 16 that year, I got all excited about the potential for glory, despite the fact that it probably wasn't happening.
And for that reason, I completely understand where most Villa fans are coming from. When the Browns showed improvement but didn't win this year, I was irate. They squandered a great shot at the playoffs and after a surprisingly-decent season, I'm still pretty upset about how the team did.
Similarly, I find myself in a constant state of frustration with the Indians' ownership group. They don't spend enough money to make the team a serious contender but the team's good enough that they tease you year after year about how they're almost good enough to actually make the playoffs (in earnest).
So, yeah, I understand where everyone's coming from here and completely get everyone's frustrations.
But at the same point in time, I can't see myself agreeing with everyone after a performance like yesterday's. If Martin Skrtel wasn't up to snuff for the Reds yesterday, Benteke's probably banging in a headed goal or two as the Villa attack kept testing Liverpool for really the entire match. The 20-minute spell we're all talking about came as a direct result of that — once Villa started to get a little more of a grip, the floodgates opened.
They deserved a goal or maybe two as well. I think most of us have forgotten about Simon Mignolet's great save on Christian Benteke's shot in the box. That's happened a few times to Villa recently — the end of the Swansea City game comes to mind — and it's something that happens when you don't have your shooting boots. If things are going well for Villa, that shot probably finds the back of the net.
And then you have where Villa's best chances keep falling. Nathan Baker really should've done better (both on not keeping Fabio Borini onside and actually kicking a ball) with his chance but when it comes down to it, he's the last guy you wanted that chance to fall to. He hadn't played in a while, has probably the worst on-the-ball skills in the side, and it just reflected yet another cruel twist of fate for the Claret and Blues.
But then again? Some of it isn't down to the managerial tactics. Villa outshot Liverpool and had just one fewer shot on target. They pressed for more corners and had similar possession, passing, and final-third passing numbers. By all accounts, most neutral observers would've probably agreed with you if you told them a draw would've been a fair result.
But it's a results business and Villa didn't get it done yesterday. No matter how much better they looked or how good Carles Gil looked, it was yet another match without a goal and another match without a point for Aston Villa. And that's frustrating. Sometimes it's hard to not have that disappointment and then the anger and infighting that comes with it.
Maybe I see Villa differently. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm sure you'll let me know in the comments.
Fundamentally, we all want the same thing. Success for this brilliant club.
Up the Villa.