After Aston Villa's disappointing 2-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers, here are five things which became clearer about Paul Lambert's side.
Aston Villa suffered a fifth-consecutive league defeat at Queens Park Rangers on Monday night, as goals from Charlie Austin either side of half-time saw the Hoops claim a 2-0 win.
After a solid start to the season, Villa have now failed to find the back of the net in almost nine hours of football and conceded 13 goals over the last five games, leaving a few serious issues to ponder ahead of a tough home fixture against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Christian Benteke is well off the pace
While some fans no doubt hoped that Benteke’s recent return after six months out with a ruptured Achilles would provide Villa with an immediate boost, it’s clear that the star striker is still dealing with a lot of rust.
He didn’t have much service at Loftus Road, but neither did he look sharp or confident in the final third, with manager Paul Lambert admitting after the match that it’s going to take six or seven games before he’s back to his best.
With Villa scoring just four times over the first nine league games, the claret and blue faithful have to be worried about where the goals are going to come from over the next few weeks.
Ron Vlaar’s World Cup form is disappearing
Vlaar’s reputation seems to have reached untold heights since his showing at the World Cup this summer, but his performance against QPR was far from that of an elite Premier League defender.
Having returned to the line-up last week following six weeks out with a calf strain, it’s possible that the Dutchman was still not quite 100%, but that shouldn’t excuse what might have been one of his worst 90 minutes in a Villa shirt.
Not only was he culpable for the 17th-minute opener, after allowing Bobby Zamora to stand him up and cushion the ball into Austin’s path, but he also let the latter striker get in front of him for the second 20 minutes before the end.
With rumours of a £12 million departure to Manchester United in the winter transfer window, fans might not be so disappointed to see him leave after all.
Joe Cole might be finished
After a poor 18-month spell at West Ham United, expectations weren’t too high for Cole upon his summer arrival on a free transfer, but supporters were still hoping for a bit more than what’s been offered so far.
With hip and thigh problems bothering him since the club’s pre-season tour of Texas, the ex-England international was making just his second league appearance of the 2014-15 campaign on Monday night, but a couple of misplaced passes was largely all he had to show from his 20-minute cameo.
Looking a shadow of his former creative-self, it’s questionable how much he can help Villa moving forward.
Carlos Sanchez is coming good
In contrast to Cole, while Sanchez endured a slow start to life at Villa, the £4.7 million summer signing showed enough in his second league start to suggest that he can be the club’s midfield enforcer for the long-term.
While he was culpable for the second goal after gifting the ball to the opposition, the 27-year-old Colombian was easily the visitor’s standout performer, completing more passes than anyone on the pitch, while also making the most tackles and winning the most duels.
With Fabian Delph expected to be sidelined for up to eight weeks after a shoulder operation, the 50-times capped international while have a prime opportunity to establish himself in the starting line-up for good over the next couple of months.
Lambert’s contract extension looks even more ill-advised
Having entered the final season of his deal following a summer of uncertainty, Lambert’s future at Villa seemed far from clear in August, but a successful start which saw the club take 10 points from their opening four games, including a 1-0 win at Anfield, prompted want-away owner Randy Lerner to hand him a new four-year deal.
A number of fans questioned the move at the time, and their reservations have certainly been proven astute since, with the team failing to score a single goal over their five-game losing streak.
Monday’s game was supposed to be the turnaround, but instead it’s simply raised even more doubt about whether the Scot is the man to guide Villa back to a top-half finish. Relegation looks more likely at this rate.