Aston Villa and another step forward

Villa ease past Bristol City in the Carabao Cup. Dave Woodhall watches.

At six o’clock when the Villa team was announced you could have been forgiven for wondering what was the point of this season’s League Cup. The best things about the competition these days are a chance to see if any of the fringe players might be good enough and if you get that far there’s a trip to Wembley for the final. It’s looking doubtful whether any supporters will be at the final and we should know by now that Villa’s lesser lights invariably fail to take any opportunity that comes their way.

By 7:15 the point had been made twice over. Despite eleven changes from Monday night’s win over Sheffield United, Villa were on top from the start, and within fifteen minutes were two up and the game was effectively done.

The opposition might have been weaker than it could but they still had to be beaten and Villa’s two openers would have been good enough for a much higher stage.

Twelve minutes in, and the oft-maligned Keinan Davis showed great close control to set up a short-range opener for Ahmed El Ghazi, who himself has a lot to prove and coudnt be faulted for effort all night.

Two minutes later and debutant Bertrand Traore hit a perfectly-placed volley after a ball from Jacob Ramsey that was just one of the nineteen year-old’s highlights over the ninety minutes.The young midfielder was later brought down in the box when clean through on goal with a blatant penalty turned down, and looked the part throughout the game.

Into the second half and Ollie Watkins came on then scored within a couple of minutes, finishing off a team move in the same routine manner he did when netting on his debut against Burton Albion. He could have got a hat-trick but 3-0 was how the game finished and Villa eased into the fourth round and a home tie with Stoke.

Without going into the obvious that they were only up against a Championship second string, this was a performance every bit as accomplised, and perhaps as significant, as anything we’ve seen for a long while. Many a time we’e seen the sort of side selected for this one going down to an(other) embarassing defeat, but not only did they win convincingly, there was a style to the play that showed how many of them might fit into the first team.

Traore was the obvious highlight, with both he and Watkins adding movement to their eye for goal. Ramsey was another who shone, his late runs into the box reminiscnt of Ian Taylor at his best, and although he might not be ready for a senior spot just yet, maybe we saw the reason why Dean Smith doesn’t seem particularly anxious to strengthen in this department.

To do well this season squad depth is vital, and tonight showed that perhaps Villa have more of that than we thought. Coming up next is Fulham away, normally one of the highlights of the year and even if our record there isn’t too good there’s no reason why we can’t get a win this time. Three out of three is a good start to the season but four out of four will be even better.