Dave Woodhall and the latest instalment in the tragi-comedy that is Villa’s 56 year obsession.

Considering Villa were  4/1 or more to win at Arsenal there was a surprising amount of confidence around before the game on Sunday. Perhaps it was because they’re doing badly and Arsene Wenger’s under pressure while we’d put together a useful away run and it’s a ground on which we’ve got a good record. Or maybe everyone was caught up in the euphoria that comes from taking over 5,000 to an away match.

Whatever the reason, kick-off saw those Villa supporters in fine voice, enthusiasm not even dampened by the draw which would see the winners travel to the north-east, possibly to play MartinONeillsSunderland. I could have a moan about the ludicrousness of having the fifth round draw before the fourth round has been completed, but to complain about everything that’s messed around with for the benefit of TV would take all day, and most of tomorrow.

But as the game was televised, even if you weren’t there you presumably saw it. The two against-the-run-of-play goals that put us in control at half-time. The seven minutes of suicidal, kamikaze (do those two mean the same thing?) defending that cost us the match. The sheer bloody annoyance that comes from tossing away the opportunity to grow a bit more confidence and give the manager a bit more respite. And that’s without the annual realisation that another year has gone by and the chances of seeing Villa win the FA Cup again before the next Ice Age grows ever-slimmer.

After the game the recriminations were long and loud. Alex was criticised for not bringing on a defensive substitute at half-time, although had he done so he would no doubt have been slaughtered for giving away the initiative. I’m no great tactical expert but when you go two up in first half stoppage time you don’t immediately start messing around with the team. And in the words of John Gregory, “Hindsight United have never lost a game.”

The problem is obvious – we can’t defend. Carlos Cuellar was brought into the team, and it made no difference. We still couldn’t defend. Much of this difficulty seems to stem from the midfield’s inability to control the tempo of the game and the lack of a player in the centre who can put his foot on the ball. Maybe Ciaran Clark can do that job in the future, but for the present we have to get another win on what promises to be a bitterly cold night on Wednesday at home to QPR.