ARE we surprised Aston Villa are in the drop zone? Yes and no.
Yes because this is one of the great old English clubs, they're former European champions and while they're not flush with cash it was this time two years ago that they had the wherewithal to splash out £24m on Darren Bent and no because they've been having an absolutely torrid time of it recently.
They played well at Anfield in the middle of December and since then they've been in freefall. They've lost 3-0 to Wigan, 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur, 8-0 to Chelsea, they lost 3-1 to Bradford in the League Cup and at the weekend they lost 1-0 at home to Southhampton. That's the same Southhampton side who everybody agreed were destined for the drop just a few weeks ago, but who now sit two league places ahead of Villa who lie in 18th.
Paul Lambert is suffering from Owen Coyle syndrome it would seem. That can be defined as having performed mircles at a small club and then struggling to cut it at a bigger one having abandoned ship.
Coyle ended up getting relegated with Bolton. The signs aren't encouraging for Lambert. You can talk about bad luck and injuries and having a young squad all you like – the last team to use youth so extensively, by the way, went down and they, Middlesbrough, haven't been seen in the Premier league since – the facts remain the facts: this is relegation form.