Aston Villa and concentrating on the league

Villa lose to Chelsea in the FA Cup with Dave Woodhall resigned.

Over the years there’s a few things I’ve grown accustomed to where the Villa are concerned. One of them is that whenever there’s a chance to make real progress in a cup competition – when the top clubs are knocking themselves out and we get what looks to be a straightforward tie, or when there’s a replay with the winners at home to lower division opponents in the next round for example, we always manage to make a mess of it. With Unai Emery being a cup specialist there was always the hope that this might be changing. Yet again, it seems to have been a case of hope over experience.

The stage was set on Wednesday night. Decent prices meant an almost capacity crowd, the manager had put his strongest team out, not that there was much choice given Villa’s injury situation, and the opposition were in trouble after losing at the weekend. All was set for another great Villa Park night under the lights, and it seemed that way for the first three minutes. Then Chelsea got the ball, and kept it for most of the match. There’s not much point in going over what happened – they scored twice in the first half and got a third not long after the restart. This one seemed to come from a dubious free kick but no point in complaining, because Villa wouldn’t have got anything from the game even if it hadn’t been given.

It was one of those performances that we’ve witnessed far too often over the years and which I had hoped we’d seen the last of. When Chelsea had the ball they passed it around quickly and with intent; in the same situation Villa dithered and got closed down. Every time the ball was loose there seemed three blue shirts near it for every claret and blue one. Yes, we’ve got a lot of players out and the absence of Pau Torres and Ezri Konsa is badly affecting the team, but no number of injuries could excuse the lack of urgency throughout. Villa’s midfield, the basis of so much success this season, went missing and the sight of Douglas Luiz having to drop so deep that at times he was almost a third central defender summed up the evening.

Emery could perhaps be criticised for not making the substitutions earlier although they made little difference when they did come on. Moussa Diaby scored in stoppage time but that was little consolation at the end of Villa’s second home defeat in just over a week. With Manchester United coming up at the weekend there have to be some drastic changes, in attitude if not in personnel. The manager has still got a massive amount of credit in the bank and perhaps tonight showed just how well he’s done to have achieved so much this season. So far the team have always managed to come back strongly after a defeat – we can only hope that’s something else that has become a Villa tradition.

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