Report: Villa (2) v (0) Wycombe – Welcome win, but frailties & limited options all on show. #avfc #chairboys

In typical Villa style, we made a molehill appear like Everest for 70 minutes. A win is naturally welcome, but our lack of quality amongst the squad is striking. 

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It was a freezing evening that barely 20,000 of us mustered the courage and/or resolve to attend. Villa fielded a really mixed bag eleven, with Garde clearly protecting key figures (Ayew aside) ahead of a pretty much a final make or break derby at the Hawthorns this weekend. 

Guzan, Lyden, Grealish & Gestede were given chances to redeem themselves. Richards and Sanchez also featured following recent injury.

The first half was an excruciating experience. Almost the antithesis of football in its purest sense. Wycombe lacked pace and a killer ball, but otherwise untroubled us. We played as though having never met one another. 

Our passing continues to baffle, lacking invention and countless unforced errors.

Wycombe had their moments, Guzan pulled off a decent save following a strike from the edge of the box. He then almost undid this work by flailing at a cross that was miraculously nodded over the gaping goal. A huge let off. 

We also looked weaker at centre half for the absence of Lescott and Okore. Clark battled but repeatedly hoofed the ball into no mans land. Richards worked hard, won most aerial duels but often just straight back to the opposition. Richards crucially remains a puzzle, perhaps solved simply by playing him at right back or from the bench. 

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Lyden was raw and nervous, lacking composure on more than one occasion. Gestede, was predictably ineffective and Guzan just doesn’t inspire confidence at all. 

Special mention for Jack Grealish. How significant is this seasons loss of form? Very. His stock has fallen as much as the FTSE after so much hype. There were stark reminders of a year ago when he was equally as bad in the competition against Blackpool. Jack was similarly hauled off after a truly appalling display. 

Grealish is young, undoubtedly still learning, but he showed nothing which warranted the notion of a recall. 

The second half resumed in similar fashion. Ayew looked the most likely source of a goal, once again single handedly trying to take a game to an opposition team. Sinclair continues to frustrate. Tricky, with all of the talent but showing mere glimpses of reasons to pick him. 

Gil replaced Grealish as Wycombe’s legs went. The Spaniard eased into the game and his natural ability brought a calm and quality to us immediately. 

Clark broke the deadlock and the terrifying prospect of extra time with a header from a Gil cross. Gana, on for the injured Sanchez despatched beyond the keeper into the far right corner minutes later to seal the tie.

The goals were sadly just mere specks of entertainment in any otherwise frustrating, dour evening. 

This could easily be misconstrued as crazy given our progression to the next round in an apparently professional style. However, it was all too familiar for myself and many others. 

There was audible booing as the game stagnated through our repeated inability to show any intention to win. 

Our fringe players were disinterested. Their opportunities to stake a claim to start or indeed attract a transfer wasted. Our £6 million pound striker Gestede looked incapable of threatening a fourth division defence. The midfield was so lacking in creativity and flair even when faced with a side that barely pressed or harried. 

It is not unfair to say that for long periods, as in the first leg, one would be hard pressed to identify the League 2 side.  Perhaps an unsurprising, in unacceptable revelation.  That concerns me greatly but serves to underline Remi Garde’s observations about just how limited we are beyond very few quality players. 

I’d go as far to say that the significant conditioning and fitness work implemented since his arrival saw us over the line. 

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Wycombe will rue their missed chances and regret not pressing Villa earlier. The tie could have been very different indeed, particularly had they had greater mobility or pace up front. For all their earlier endeavour, they were rarely adventurous and may look back with some regret. 

The reward is an unenviable visit from Manchester City in the fourth round. However remote a victory might seem, we somehow managed to hold them to a draw earlier this season at Villa Park and have knocked them out of the cup (on their own pitch albeit) previously.  An improbably cup run anyone?

Villa head to WBA this weekend desperately trying to keep alive the faint hope of survival. A win is the absolute minimum that can be achieved if only to keep the status quo. After this latest showing, Garde can only revert back to the side that featured in our last two league fixtures if we are to have any hope whatsoever.