In reading the reactions following Saturday’s loss, I can’t say I’m much surprised. Most folks are going to see results through the lens of whatever narrative they’re following. Some will see validation of doom and gloom. Some will shake it off and say there are going to be ups and downs.

Some will call for Lerner’s departure or Lambert’s sacking. I can tell you neither of those is imminent, so file that however you like. We’re left with them and the squad as it is. If it’s just unsalvageable already, I would think it might be healthier to tune out and take up fishing. Or spelunking, or heavier drinking. Or all three.

Nobody likes losing. And no one takes it lightly. It certainly didn’t do much for my weekend.

But when I watch a game with an eye toward needing to write a quick match review or a longer article, I try to watch it with a certain perspective in mind. Yes, I support the philosophy, but am also very well aware of the criticisms and doubts. I aim for a degree of remove. But it doesn’t stop me yelling at the telly.

Mainly I’ve seen this approach work many times, which is why I don’t think it’s crazy or evidence of malfeasance or incompetence. And I know no matter what, some days are better than others. I expected a better day Saturday, to be sure.

But I expect ups and downs. I expect some outings will look bad in the way this one did. I’m pretty much expecting a placing somewhere around 12th, and I expect it to be very tight between 12 and 17. I might have expected an AM, but I understand why Kozak was brought in. I also know Newcastle are a better team than they showed last season.

Saturday, Villa just weren’t good enough. The possibility of a result was there, however improbable it might seem to some, but it remained agonizingly out of reach. It was all the more agonizing because at least a point could’ve been salvaged from a bad outing.

Intensity is everything
Saturday, as I said at the time, the takeaway for me was Villa lost the intensity battle. And if you lose that battle, things generally don’t look very good. Intensity is a prerequisite in this league. Newcastle were intense. Villa weren’t. They rallied for a bit, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide and seize the day.

All the other considerations sort of fall off the table at that point as far as I would be looking at it as a coach. We could be brilliant or awful as a side in terms of talent, but if we don’t bring intensity, it generally won’t matter much. Which is true for all but the most talented teams.

When I say that Gabby or Andi doing better with gilt-edge chances could’ve changed the game, that doesn’t mean I’m defending anything.

What it does mean is that games can and do turn on moments like those, and they should’ve done better. Goals change games. And they were as good as any chances Newcastle had. But they converted theirs, and we didn’t. That’s not system, formation or coaching. That’s players. I’ve seen Gabby and Andi do much better, which is why I know I can expect better.

When people talk about the shots on target, that’s part of the same talking point in that both of those should’ve been on target. Ciaran Clark’s side-netting fluff should’ve been on target (though I certainly forgive CBs much more readily).

Is he really blind?
Now, when it comes to other things we all saw, if you don’t think Lambert’s capable of seeing the same things we do, I don’t think you’re being realistic. It’s a common reaction, I’ve said it myself. But the manager does see it. He sees it on film, the training ground. It’s all he sees. What he does about it is the thing, and that’s really where opinions divide.

That’s why, for example, Okore was starting instead of Clark. Why Luna’s been given a shot to take the job from Bennett.

It’s also why we saw the same line-up that gave Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool good fights get the nod again at home. That’s how Lambert does it, lets the form side continue, tries to establish continuity and familiarity.

For me, as I wrote on the day, the big problem beside intensity was down the flanks. Luna was on his own against a very good player with lots of pace and trickery who was very much up for it on the day. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have wanted Luna to do better. I’ve seen him play better. I’ve seen him have more cover.

If I’m looking at a root problem, it’s that Gabby and Andi on their day pose a lot of problems. When they’re off the boil or the other team matches up well with them, they can disappear.

So, that’s where I end up coming from. Not a great day by any means, but one of 38. What you do, instead of throwing players under the bus, or throwing up your hands in despair and giving up, is simply go at it again.

When I hear people now saying this is worse than McLeish, I just have to laugh. I thought that was impossible, McLeish the original sin.

You’re never as good or as bad as you look on any given day. We’ll look for the better performances of which this team has demonstrated it’s capable. (We can talk long balls in the comments, lack of wingers, subs, etc., just trying to keep this under novel length.)

Also a note to Jores Okore. Chin up, lad. Our thoughts are with you for a quick and thorough recovery. We still have high hopes for you, and will anxiously await your return.

Leave a Reply