The look of resignation was palpable. After watching his side's 5-0 annihilation at the hands of Arsenal on Sunday, Paul Lambert wore the look of a dejected and lost soul as he trudged towards the tunnel at the Emirates Stadium.
A look to the stands wouldn't have offered him much solace as he would have been greeted by a collection of deeply disenchanted away fans, portraying little sympathy towards their under-fire boss.
There are times when it is difficult to watch as a manager drives a club closer and closer towards the ignominy of relegation, displaying minimal signs of progression as he puts on a brave face for press conferences and interviews while deep down knowing that he doesn't stand a chance of fully recovering the situation.
After their latest dismal display on Sunday in North London, the beleaguered Scot offered a brutal and damning assessment of his side's performance and made no excuses for their lack of imagination or inspiration.
"I thought for 60 minutes of that game we were well in it, the disappointing thing for me was the acceptance to lose more goals. That was the disappointment," he said during his post-match press conference. Lambert blatantly accused his players of throwing the towel in long before the match was finished.
Maybe he should follow suit and tender his resignation before matters really spiral out of control.
To put it into context, Villa have now gone 10 hours of football without scoring a goal and have set a club record by failing to register on the score-sheet for six consecutive league games- unprecedented in their 141-year history. In the wider sphere of the season, Villa have managed a measly eleven strikes in 23 games. No club in the entire four-tier English league structure has scored fewer than the Birmingham club.
Their most recent defeat at the weekend was a further indication of how confidence levels have plummeted to new lows under Lambert. Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann looked a shadow of their former selves as Villa's attacks consistently floundered. The service to Benteke was exceptionally poor while Carlos Sanchez and Tom Cleverley continue to bemuse fans and pundits as to how they are consistently starting Premier League games.
While there were promising flashes of threat from debutants Carles Gil and Scott Sinclair, their relative productivity was comfortably eclipsed by half-hearted midfield displays and remarkably slack defending which made Arsenal look effortlessly brilliant when in fact they had just come up against a fatally demoralized side who are tumbling closer and closer towards relegation.
Are the players at fault? Of course they are. Ultimately, it is down to the men on the pitch to give it their all and produce results. However, how can a squad conjure the inspiration when their manager has shown a frightening lack of aptitude following an initially promising start to lie at Villa Park in 2012.
Lambert's 15th-placed finish in his first season in charge was deemed a success due to the lack of funds made available to him in the summer and January transfer windows and the fact that the average age of his starting eleven throughout the season was the youngest in the league.
However, in the following season, Lambert replaced a bold and enterprising style for a safe counter-attacking strategy which contributed to a dramatic downturn in results. Between February and April 2014, Villa won just two of their twelve league games as they continued to descend to the lower echelons of the Premier League. In a season which started with a mightily impressive 3-1 victory of Arsenal at the Emirates, Villa's season had collapsed recklessly and Lambert's lack of tactical boldness was accountable.
Furthermore, the former Norwich City boss made himself no friends when he described the FA Cup as a "distraction," a comment which appears profoundly misguided as domestic competitions so often offer a window to better things for struggling clubs. Lambert subsequently lost at home to League 1 side Sheffield United- the fourth season in a row he had been eliminated by lower league opposition.
This season has only plunged Lambert into further darkness after making questionable signings in the summer with Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson. Now, with the astonishing dearth of goals that is looming over Villa Park like a shadowy spectre, Lambert must do the club a favour and tender his resignation.
At 45, there is still plenty of time to rebuild his reputation, but it needs to be done elsewhere. His reign now carries an air of inevitability and an inescapable sense that his continuation as manager will only bring further heartache to the fans and the club.
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