What Went Wrong for Aston Villa in the FA Cup?

FA Cup Woe – Chelsea at Villa Park

By Rob Carter

In a Word


‘Causing overwhelming disappointment or embarrassment.’

(Oxford Languages)

The Carter Report

Were Aston Villa really even bothered by the FA Cup this season? Despite the encouraging 5-0 away success against Sheffield Utd in the Premier League in the lead up to their FA Cup clash against Chelsea, the game at Villa Park seemed to unfold with a different level of application from the players.

The previous day Unai Emery had downplayed the importance of the FA Cup, pretty much distilling it down to the notion, that since only one team wins it, the odds weren’t good. The Premier League, he stressed, was the priority. Based on these words, if you were expecting wholesale changes in his team sheet though, with a view to the following league clash with Manchester United, you’d be wrong.

Fielding as strong a team against Chelsea as he could play, Emery seemed to be sending out mixed messages.

Amidst a sea of unfamiliar faces in my section of the Holte End, due to some season ticket holders not taking up their seat for the game, Villa did start well, but it was not to last.

The defensive fragility exposed recently by Newcastle United and then Manchester United was apparent, with two goals quickly conceded, their genesis from either flank.  The visitors had clearly targeted the wide areas, perhaps seeing weaknesses in Matty Cash & Alex Moreno.

In truth, Villa were never in this game, but it was more down to the application of Chelsea’s young players rather than the billions they had collectively cost. Villa’s usually steadfast midfield was being dominated, allowing the visitors the freedom to express themselves, get it out wide and create dangerous opportunities at will.

Had Unai Emery’s pre-match words on the league being more important than the cup affected the players?

There was certainly a lack of tenacity in the tackle, and a lack of imagination going forward, with the home side looking slow, ponderous and predictable.

A sublime free-kick made it 3-0 (despite not being a free-kick in the first place), and some Villa fans had seen enough and started to leave the stadium. I was also tempted, particularly given the news that the National Highways agency had decided to close the M42 southbound to coincide with many home (and away) fans making their journey home.

Villa’s injury list has been expanding of late, with Ezri Konsa the latest victim of the B6 curse.  On this showing, the defensive deputies were not up to the task, with Clement Lenglet and Diego Carlos exposed on several occasions (Carlos would soon join the injury list too). Cash also had an off night, adding gravity to those who don’t see him as the future of the right side of defence.

Despite the meagre consolation of a late goal from Moussa Diaby, which will hopefully provide a much needed boost to his confidence, the home fans poured out into the dark Aston night having seen perhaps one of the worst performances under Emery.

So, how deep-rooted are the problems? The performance was improved against Manchester United, but there was still a lack of conviction in their finishing.

It seems like there is a lack of an alternative plan when teams have clearly worked out how to nullify Villa’s threat (which Newcastle & Chelsea clearly had.  In Villa’s three most recent home defeats, it felt inevitable that we would lose once we conceded the first goal.

The return of Pau Torres though seems to have added a missing dimension that provided Villa with more purpose going forward and seemingly quickened the minds of the forward players. The team had transformed with his presence in both the Fulham and Nottingham Forest game.

One thing is for sure – Villa will hope Torres going off at half-time against Forest is nothing major. For them to have a fulfilling end to the season, he’ll certainly needs to play the majority of the remaining games.

Also, fingers crossed that the Chelsea cup loss was the last time Villa lose a cup game for the rest of the season!


Chelsea value rating – £5 (ticket price £20)

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