Looking Forward: Lambert's Lions
First up I'd like to apologise for my not-so-brief hiatus as designated Villa blogger for The Post. As you will all know by now I didn't get the job and I've just about come to terms with that. Apparently some chap called Lambert was the young manager the club were after, so I thought I'd have a little look at how the manager who many feel is merely a MON mark 2 might tick the boxes.
A popular choice amongst the fans, when Lambert's name was mentioned in regards to the vacant Villa post I had few doubts that he'd be interested. A renowned careerist, the Scot has never hesitated when offered jobs at a higher level and he wasn't about to stop now.
The former Celtic man left Colchester United for Norwich just weeks after thumping the Canaries 7-1 on the opening day of the League One season in 2009, knowing that the fellow East Anglian's had a greater chance of promotion. Lambert achieved said promotion in his first season, and more impressively again in his second, before undeniably his greatest achievement with Delia "Let's be 'Avin' You" Smith's side.
A 12th placed finish in Norwich's first season back in the Premier League was nothing short of a remarkable feat, ending up in the shadows of fellow newcomers Swansea despite finishing with the same points tally after a victory over yours truly on the final day of the season. The fact that many backed Swansea to continue their schexy football in the top-flight and surprise a few teams seems to have been forgotten, where as Norwich were doomed, surely.
Well, it turns out surely not. A number of astute signings from the football league and a philosophy of playing to a side's strengths helped Norwich effectively secure safety months before the campaign was out. Lambert rewarded winning sides, as he has throughout his career, but more importantly tinkered with losing ones, showing very little sentiment to his so-called star players, with captain, top scorer and now-Villa target Grant Holt dropped from the XI as many as 16 times.
Norwich averaged 13.5 shots per game, refusing to be cannon fodder for a number of the league's elite, with the figure placing them 12th in the league compared to McLeish's Villa, back in 19th with a dismal average of 11.5. The Canaries figures of 46.3% for possession and 76% for pass accuracy weren't particularly great but remain significantly better than Villa's averages of 43.4% and 73% respectively, so one can't complain.
The most encouraging thing to remember as Lambert's tenure begins is that Villa have what most would agree are better players at their disposal than Norwich. Combine this with a decent transfer budget and some freedom to bring in targets (though personally I hope Holt is not one of them) and things appear to be looking up for the club at long last. However, if things are looking too rosy, don't expect Lambert's loyalties to put up too much resistance should the brighter lights come calling once again. UTV!
*Figures courtesy of football statistics site WhoScored.com