Pre-match, Unai Emery spoke of the importance of consistency if Villa are to progress not just in competitions such as the FA Cup, but the Premier League too. Indeed, consistency is a mantra that the manager has been underlining as a key ingredient since his first days at the football club. It has been an attribute somewhat lacking of late, with the comprehensive defeat to Chelsea seeing Villa crash out of the FA Cup.
VILLA 1-3 CHELSEA
Villa started relatively brightly, but the 40,000 who had turned out on an icy night in B6, could only watch on as Villa’s defence went AWOL after a misplaced Kamara pass on 11 minutes. Chelsea broke forward and Conor Gallagher couldn’t believe his luck, side-footing a precise effort high into the net beyond a helpless Martinez.
Buoyed by this early goal, Chelsea’s tails were up and they surely smelt an unease in Villa’s disjointed play. The visitor’s second came just ten minutes later, as we were carved open again on our left for Jackson to head home from the resulting cross. It was pretty much a free header. The away support reminded us of their struggles; “How sh!t must you be? We’re winning away!”Embed from Getty Images
It was a mistake-strewn first half, with unforced errors repeatedly resulting in Villa conceding possession. Emery’s seething face, rigid within the dugout, was projected on the big screens within the ground. It perfectly reflected both the performance and the mood.
It was a surprise, therefore, to see Villa emerge unchanged after the break and there seemed nothing different about our approach. There were similarities here to both the Newcastle performance and the tactical paralysis if comparisons are to be drawn.
Villa continued to lose the physical battles across the pitch and were completely bullied by Madueke. The striker, just 21, made any number of dangerous drives forward that caused disarray in our final third. It was an impressive display of flair and physicality that caught the eye.
The game was put to bed on 53 minutes after Tieleman’s was judged to have fouled on the edge of the Villa area. It must count as one of a number of very soft decisions that the referee made throughout the game. The result was Fernandez curling an effort into the top corner and with it ensuring that we wouldn’t be in the hat for the fifth round.
The game took on a training game feel from this point and whilst a late consolation was scored by Diaby, many supporters will feel rightly disappointed by this meagre showing. It was really quite poor.Embed from Getty Images
The FA Cup remains for many, and certainly this blog, an important competition. It’s also a piece of domestic silverware that if approached with the right mentality can be within our reach. Few fans can remember last winning it in 1957, but many can recall how close we came in both 2000 and 2015. This does feel like a missed opportunity for a football club whose last major honour was in the previous century
This is a low-point, that must be learned from, but it equally must not detract from our focus now shifting back to the league campaign. Emery has the task of lifting a group that has all of the talent, but is struggling for individual form and the crucial consistency he so craves. We must also navigate a testing fixture list with a squad that looks thin and continues to nurse a raft of injury problems.
It’s not our season for the FA Cup again. Attention now turns to this Saturday and the arrival of Manchester United to Villa Park.