After a promising early run in the Carabao Cup after wins over Burton (1-3) and Bristol City, this was a decidedly limp way to go out.
Whilst this fixture has no bearing on our excellent start to the Premier League season, it underlines the limitations of Villa’s strength in depth should injuries or suspensions take their toll.
Stoke were cautious but purposeful early on as Villa looked disjointed, as you might expect for a much changed starting XI.
With that said, there was plenty of quality on the pitch, both in terms of experience and value. Rarely though did Villa look cohesive going forward or safe at the back.
It was a night of miss-placed passes, wayward shots and errors strewn performances. Henri Lansbury, woeful. El Ghazi, painfully ineffective.
Guilbert, replaced by the arrival of Matty Cash, did nothing to suggest that the Forest mans acquisition was premature.
Keinan Davis also continues to be a question mark. Relentlessly strong and again showing moments of close control whilst holding the ball, was guilty of a glaring first half miss at the far post.
Stoke’s goal was a flashback to last season’s alarming inability to defend a corner. Three Villa shirts failed to stop a smart Vokes header, despite being crowded around the Stoke man. Neither Nakamba nor Guilbert come out of a rewatch of the goal particularly well.
Stoke were buoyed by the opener and the game was almost decided with a second, but for Jed Steer making a good reaction save onto the cross-bar.
Villa will also be mindful of cover at centre-half with Kortney Hause going off with what looked like a groin injury. Bertrand Traore had a very quiet evening too.
It was, in short, a struggle to watch.
For some, the Carabao Cup is a distraction from the Premier League. However, the League Cup triumphs of the 90’s linger in the minds of many modern fan and last season’s Wembley final serves to illustrate the alluring nature of silverware to a football club.
Overall it was the manner of the exit from the competition that should frustrate us most, but it will a clash against Champions Liverpool this Sunday that now grabs our attention.
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