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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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Lambert may bring in experience

Paul Lambert will consider compromising his catch-'em-young buying policy in a desperate attempt to ease the crisis that is engulfing Aston Villa.

• Blog: Villa end 2012 in all kinds of trouble

Lambert took advantage of Randy Lerner's rare weekend visit to Villa Park to hold two rounds of talks with the club's owner.

But the upshot is thought to be that he has no more than £10 million to spend in the January transfer window as Villa face the growing threat of dropping out of the top flight for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.

Lambert, flushed with the success of building a young Norwich who followed two successive promotions by finishing 12th in the Premier League last season, has tried to create a Villa side in the same mould.

But three defeats out of three over the festive period, with an alarming 15 goals conceded and none scored, have left them only one point above 18th-placed Southampton, who also have a game in hand. And that could be the trigger a search for more experience when the window opens.

Boos rang out at the final whistle of Saturday's 3-0 home defeat against fellow strugglers Wigan and Lambert, who also met chief executive Paul Faulkner, said: "This club has been in a survival battle for the past couple of years. We are in a fight, but so are about eight other teams.

"The last three results have hurt us, no doubt about it. But I have a belief that Aston Villa will be fine. I have no regrets about taking this job. I knew it was a huge job when I took it. I can understand the fans booing. I would never criticise the crowd here, they have been fantastic. They are extremely hurt, like everybody at the club."

An experienced centre-half, a left-back, a ball-winning midfielder and a forward are all assumed to be on Lambert's shopping list.

Injury has deprived him of the services of Richard Dunne all season but he has chosen to only occasionally select club record signing Darren Bent, while replacing Shay Given with Brad Guzan in goal and happily putting experienced full-backs Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock out on loan in the Championship.

Lambert's position is not under threat but his reputation is as his £22 million summer outlay on players begins to look flawed. He pinned his hopes on the likes of Ashley Westwood from Crewe, Matt Lowton from Sheffield United, Joe Bennett from Middlesbrough and Jordan Bowery from Chesterfield.

Christian Benteke, who he recruited from Genk, has been an obvious plus and the return of skipper Ron Vlaar from a five-week-old injury will be welcome. But the squad looks thin as well as bereft of confidence as they contemplate the start of 2013 with a tough test at Swansea on Tuesday.

Midfielder Brett Holman said in the wake of the humiliation against Wigan: "My opinion is that if there are one or two additions where you could pull players in who might say: 'Keep the ball, calm down here ...' that wouldn't be a bad thing. It could help if you have a couple of players who have played 200-300 League games.

"We have had some really heavy defeats now. We are in a dip. The good thing is we are in the Christmas period and the games are coming thick and fast."

Villa's forthcoming two-leg Capital One Cup semi-final against Bradford City - eagerly anticipated just over a week ago after high-scoring victories at Norwich and Liverpool - is now much less relevant as the battle for Premier League survival intensifies.

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