An unexpected twist

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Christopher Lee/Getty ImagesAston Villa boss Paul Lambert, left, will no longer have assistant Gary Karsa, right, at his side for the rest of the season.

It's not too late in the season for a dose of drama. The breaking news emanating from Villa Park delivered an unexpected twist: two of the first team coaching staff, Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa, have been suspended pending an internal investigation. A twist, most definitely; a twist of the knife, for Paul Lambert, quite possibly.

- Report: Villa axe Lambert assistants

Villa confirmed the situation in an official club statement, but kept the details as brief as possible. Continue Reading...

Villa in free fall

Posted by Kevin Hughes

It's all turning very ugly at Villa. Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace not only continued a worrying tailspin in form, it betrayed a team lacking confidence and ability, a manager seemingly at a dead end, a club in chaos.

- Report: Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa

Defeat to Palace -- who, like Fulham, Stoke and Newcastle, have now done the double over Villa -- is bad enough, but the rumours and conjecture floating around, emanating from social media gossip, input from pundits, and from manager Paul Lambert himself, is even more concerning. Continue Reading...

Selhurst Park and the curse of the Villa manager

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Paul LambertGettyImagesVilla manager Paul Lambert's standing among the club's support is dwindling.

Aston Villa prepare to face Crystal Palace on Saturday amid a season that threatens to implode.

Palace's home, Selhurst Park, has been an unhappy stadium for Villa managers past. Two of the club's former coaches, who both could rightfully claim to be among the best managers Villa have ever had -- certainly in the last 40 years or so -- oversaw their final games in charge in this south London ground.

Wimbledon, who were joint tenants for a time before relocating to Milton Keynes in 2003, were Villa's opponents on each of these occasions, so the ill-fated history is with the stadium itself rather than Crystal Palace the team. Continue Reading...

Season's end can't come soon enough for Villa

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Hugo Rodallega celeb Aston Villa FulhamPA PhotosHugo Rodallega won it for Fulham with four minutes left on the clock.

That feeling is back. It could be April 2012 all over again, those torturous last few weeks of the season in which Villa, under the stewardship of Alex McLeish, ground out insipid performance after insipid performance, limping, painfully and pathetically, towards the finish line.

There was anger then, too, and frustration, and disappointment, but most of all apathy. The end of that season couldn't have come quickly enough. When it did, it felt like a huge release. McLeish was swiftly on his way, and Villa fans were assured by the club's senior management that they would never have to experience that crushing sense of disappointment, week in, week out, again. Continue Reading...

Benteke's injury a massive blow for Villa

Posted by Kevin Hughes

This should have been a routine preview of Villa's next match, against Fulham, on Saturday. Instead, the news of Christian Benteke's Achilles tendon injury, broken -- as many football stories are these days -- by Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur on Twitter. It has thrown a dark shadow over not only the weekend, but the remainder of Villa's season. The striker will also miss Belgium's World Cup campaign.

- Report: Benteke out of World Cup

Gossip flies around the Twittersphere with little regard for the truth at the best of times, but when it comes to Belgian football, however, Terreur is rarely, if ever, off target. Continue Reading...

Does Gabby Agbonlahor deserve a new contract?

Posted by Kevin Hughes

AllsportGabriel Agbonlahor has been loyal, but that may not be enough to earn him a new contract at Villa Park.

Without doubt, Gabriel Agbonlahor is one of the first names on the team sheet, still, and the club's leading goalscorer in Premier League history -- but is he worthy of the reward of another four-year contract? An agreement which, should he stay for its duration, will surely see the striker finish his career -- or certainly the top-class element of it -- at Villa Park.

Villa supporters have had to adjust their thinking over player signings, salaries and contracts in recent years. Continue Reading...

Villa press the self-destruct button again

Posted by Kevin Hughes

The joke has worn thin now. Villa's obliging nature when against out of form opponents has been an unwelcome feature of the season, and so it was that manager Paul Lambert's side contrived to give Manchester United a huge helping hand in Saturday's defeat.

For the second time in less than a week, Villa opened the scoring and ended up 4-1 losers. Come the end of season review, there will be a handful of games on which Lambert will look back ruefully and ask himself: "How did that happen? Continue Reading...

Fortress Old Trafford is still Villa's biggest challenge

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Brad Guzan PA PhotosBrad Guzan and Villa will be hard-pressed to keep United off the scoresheet.

Fortress Old Trafford isn't quite so impenetrable these days but the odds are against Villa becoming the team to inflict a seventh home defeat this season on an out-of-sorts Manchester United.

Why? Because history says as much -- United have long had an iron grip of a hold over Villa.

The Red Devils will finish the season with their lowest points total in over 20 years; falling short of defending the league title they won by some distance in 2012-13 is only the half of it. Continue Reading...

Aston Villa stunned by Stoke's comeback

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Steven Nzonzi fires home to give Stoke a 3-1 advantage.GettyImagesSteven Nzonzi fires home to give Stoke a 3-1 advantage.

A chastening experience for Aston Villa, and a painful reminder that this is a team still prone to lapses in concentration, individual errors, and mixed levels of performance, even in the same afternoon. Villa 1-4 Stoke: a final score few would have predicted before kick-off and even less after 20 minutes, with the hosts a goal up and playing with confidence and poise.

Villa continued where they left off just over a week ago, against Chelsea. The slick, quick-passing move which culminated with Christian Benteke thumping the ball past Amir Begovic -- Ryan Bertrand and Fabian Delph combining well for the latter to skip to the byline and cut back for the Belgian, lurking with menace -- wasn't the only example of well constructed early play. Continue Reading...

Villa go for three in a row

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC/Getty ImagesAston Villa forward Christian Benteke hopes break through Stoke's bruising back line on Sunday.

After the euphoria of victory over Chelsea, Villa resume Premier League action against Stoke on Sunday.

The game may not fire as much enthusiasm as when Jose Mourinho's squad came to Villa Park, but there should be no sense of ant-climax around the stadium. This is an opportunity for a third consecutive win, and a third consecutive at home; it's also a means of measuring whether Villa have finally found a quality which has eluded them for the majority of the season: consistency. Continue Reading...

Delph is Villa's driving force

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Regular watchers of Aston Villa were not at all surprised to see Fabian Delph emerge as the match winner in Saturday evening's dramatic 1-0 victory over Chelsea. The midfielder has, pound for pound, been Villa's most consistent performer of the season and his second-half display against the title-chasing Blues was both decisive and a demonstration of how much his game has developed over the last 18 months.

- Report: Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea
- Delaney: Three things: Aston Villa vs. Continue Reading...

Villa looking to protect unbeaten home record vs. Mourinho

Posted by Kevin Hughes

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Special One's last visit to Villa Park as Chelsea boss ended in a 2-0 defeat in September 2007.

He's won league championships in England, Spain, Italy and Portugal, led two different clubs to Champions League glory, and coached some of the most technically gifted footballers in the world. But there's something missing from Jose Mourinho's glittering managerial CV: He's never won at Villa Park.

That's right; Mourinho is zero from four when it comes to visits to Villa's home ground. In his first spell as Chelsea manager, he was unable to guide the Blues to victory on all four occasions; indeed, his final attempt was shortly before his shock departure from Stamford Bridge. Continue Reading...