1. Lambert gets the axe after another listless loss
Eventually, Paul Lambert was going to get fired if Aston Villa kept losing. He finally was let go after two and a half years at the Birmingham club on Wednesday, a day after a 2-0 defeat to Hull City. Villa’s loss, combined with wins from Hull and QPR, dropped them into the bottom three. It was the seventh time they’ve been shut out in eight league matches, and they have a measly two points over that span. Villa have scored just 12 league goals this year, and Lambert’s been in a precarious position all year. His squad had already slipped down the table, and Hull simply helped him out the door. Villa again struggled to create chances Tuesday, and they need to find a new manager soon who can find a way to do so. Both of us predicted Villa to go down, and if they continue to fail so spectacularly at generating an attack, it would seem like they are unlikely to escape the drop. It seems shocking for a team with Christian
2. Brown and Berahino boost the Baggies
West Brom were in need of a jolt, and Tony Pulis has unsurprisingly provided one. Since the long time Stoke boss took over on New Year’s Day, the Baggies have lost just once. The man with a knack for saving teams from relegation has seemingly made quick work of doing so this season. But what has been surprising about West Brom’s semi-resurgence is record-signing Brown Ideye finally coming good in the past two games. He scored the equalizer in a 2-2 tie with Burnley on Sunday before nabbing a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Swansea. Against the Swans, he worked brilliantly with young English striker Saido Berahino, as the pair linked up on both goals. The first was a terrific finish on a bouncing ball from Ideye, who turned and fired past Lukas Fabianski into the bottom corner for a 60th-minute lead. The second was perhaps more impressive, with Berahino putting Ideye into the box and the Nigerian laying it back for Berahino to finish fantastically. West Brom have a lot of work to go to secure safety, as they still sit just four points clear of the drop zone, but they are trending in a positive direction, and that will continue if Ideye and Berahino can keep scoring goals.
3. Stone-cold Super Mario steals a win
It was the epitome of Mario Balotelli. The sometimes excellent, often insane, always entertaining Italian striker scored his first league goal for Liverpool on Tuesday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as it gave the Reds a 3-2 victory over Tottenham, a top-four rival in good form. So, how did Super Mario celebrate? Well, he didn’t, really. It was kind of weird. It was like he was furious at himself for taking so long and wouldn’t take any praise for what was a very simple close-range finish. This signifies that he’s not enjoying playing at the moment, which is a major issue for any player. More importantly, it’s a problem for the team. One negative persona can change the entire atmosphere of a locker room. As all of his teammates and Reds fans deliriously celebrated a winning-goal in a massive game, Balotelli looked like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world. After the win, Liverpool are still in seventh, but they’re now just four points behind fourth-place Southampton. Balotelli will be an important player for Liverpool down the stretch, that much is certain. Whether it’s as a positive influence on the pitch or as a negative one in the locker room remains to be seen. Whichever of those roles Balotelli chooses to take on will play a major part in where Liverpool finish in a top four fight that is getting better by the day.