If only Alex McLeish could deliver a defence as strong as captain Stiliyan Petrov’s of the Aston Villa manager.
Petrov has made a mockery of suggestions McLeish is losing the backing of the players with his unequivocal statement of support for the boss.
However, even the claret and blues’ loyal skipper can understand how the team’s indisciplined defending is giving McLeish’s critics ammunition.
Petrov acknowledges the miniscule margins between success and failure in the high pressure Premier League and laments that the fine line normally involves Villa’s goalline.
Yet, ahead of the Villa Park visit of league-leaders and leading scorers Manchester City on Sunday, the experienced midfielder backed McLeish to improve the manager’s and Villa’s defence against those taking shots at them.
“Our manager will get it right,” said Petrov. “We believe in him and we will keep fighting. Managers will always be under pressure when you don’t get results even if you play well.
“Ours is doing well and he’s strong and positive but, unfortunately, we can’t get a result. He’s a strong character, though. He’ll never give up. He’ll keep fighting and driving us forward.We are behind him.”
Manchester City have scored 63 goals in the top flight already this season, 26 of them on their travels and Petrov accepts Villa must rediscover their defensive solidity after their latest lapses resulted in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United last Sunday.
“We’ve been creating chances, but we just can’t keep a clean sheet. We’ve been working really hard but it has not been paying off,” said Petrov. “The margins between winning and losing are very small in the Premier League.
“If you are not careful things can turn against you so I hope we can start getting some points and climbing the table.
“That’s important for us now but we know we have enough quality to pull out of this. We know we will score goals and there will come a time when we will defend better. We will get it right. It seems like we need to score more than two goals to win a game which is not good.
“We used to defend very well and we used to be a very hard team to beat but at the moment it’s just not going for us. We will start picking things up.”
Petrov reckons Villa have forgotten the art of “grinding out results” in recent weeks. While opponents maximise their opportunities, he suggests, the claret and blues lack a clinical edge in both penalty areas.
It is a problem which has denied McLeish’s team the chance to build momentum and produced a record of six victories, 10 draws and eight defeats in the league.
“We were all frustrated and disappointed especially after the performance we put in and the chances we created at Newcastle,” he added. “That’s our luck this season so far.
“We have been playing well, but we haven’t been getting the results. That’s the next step that we need to sort out.
“We are controlling games, the opposition don’t have anything in the game and suddenly we find ourselves one-down.
“It’s really hard at the moment. We have been working on it, we’re trying to be more concentrated but it’s just not happening.
“But we hope our luck will change. We can’t keep going that way because we’ve been putting in some great performances, creating good chances and playing good stuff but unfortunately we can’t grind out the results.”