The news that had spread around Villa Park before yesterday’s game that Abraham may well have played his last game for Aston Villa deflated our spirits and the game that followed did nothing to lift the gloom.
Dean Smith tasted his second defeat at Villa Park yesterday. Swansea recorded their first ever cup win against us. We produced the sort of shambolic performance that was reminiscent of those that we had grown accustomed to witnessing during our relegation season. We were knocked out of this competition in the 3rd Round for a third consecutive year.
Abraham was the perfect fit for us up front as were we the perfect football club for him. If it turns out that he has played his last game for us, then we will not only have a defence and a midfield to worry about but also a forward line that has been neutered.
The depth and quality of our squad had already been found wanting by the absence through injury of Jack and Axel. It was further put to the test by leaving James Chester, Conor Hourihane, Yannick Bolasie and Jonathan Kodjia out of the starting line-up. Who was to know that among those that were selected there were several players that would choose to take the afternoon off as well?
Our defence once again conceded goals for fun yesterday and our midfield did little to halt the progress of their opponents through it or to create much themselves in and around the penalty box. What was different was the absence of any threat up front from us. With Abraham in the team there is an expectation that we will score goals as freely as we concede them. Without him, that would be highly unlikely to be the case and yesterday was a worrying sign of things that may be to come. Sadly, the strikers we had on the pitch yesterday did nothing to suggest they would be able to score goals with any sort of regularity should Abraham make a move to a football club in the Black County that is suffering from chronic delusions of grandeur.
This sorry capitulation was very hard to endure. We gift wrapped Swansea (who failed to make a similar number of changes to their team in order to try to even things up) a place in the 4th Round and they must have had to pinch themselves to believe how easy we made it for them to score 3 goals without reply yesterday.
We are now free to concentrate on the league and this abject performance, which led to merited boos at the final whistle will also give our players a weekend’s break from the rigours of football on 4th Round weekend!
My player ratings from a game that extended our FA Cup years of hurt into a 62nd year are:
Lovre Kalanic – 6 – Let’s give him a little more than 90 minutes to prove his true worth to us. Peter Shilton would have struggled behind this defence (although he is getting on in years now)! Lovre conceded his first goal 2 minutes into his debut when he blocked a low cross but unluckily the ball rebounded into Baker-Richardson and was deflected in off his shin. Turned a 32nd minute shot from outside of the box from Roberts past the post for a corner. Beaten low to his right for their second and third goals. Made decent saves on 76 and 83 minutes to prevent the score looking even more humiliating.
James Bree – 5 – Will have and has had better games than this one.
Alan Hutton - 4 – He’s not a left back and he’s certainly not a central defender either. Playing him in this position lost us the forward runs that he makes from wide positions and it did nothing to make our already suspect defence look any more solid. Fer ran for and crossed a loose ball following a challenge with him to Fulton to score their third as Alan stood statuesque in the centre of the penalty area.
Tommy Elphick – 6 – Headed a 74th minute Lansbury corner wide of the far post.
Neil Taylor – 4 – Looked far from comfortable on his return to the first team.
Glenn Whelan – 4 – I would have anticipated that Glenn rather than Bjarnason would have been rested for this one.
John McGinn – 7 – MOTM – It was surprising that John played the full 90 minutes yesterday (he was the only player to really do so). He is another player that I think would have benefited from a rest, Dean said post game that he would get one when his next booking presents him with a 2-game suspension and therefore an enforced rest! Showed his usual tenacity and work ethic along with his understandable frustration on 92 minutes when Lansbury played a free kick to him and he blasted it over the bar.
Albert Adomah – 4 – A couple of times early on, I thought that he might just produce something of his old self yesterday, but this ended up being another disappointing afternoon. Curled a 54th minute shot over the bar and Mulder kept out an 80th minute attempt by him.
Callum O’Hare – 6 – Taken out of the firing line on 55 minutes. Like Doyle-Hayes, I think we have a player here, but they both need games and experience. This was an experience that Callum will have been able to take little good from. Showed promise at times along with his inexperience on other occasions. Would benefit from a loan in much the same way that Jack once did in my opinion.
Anwar El Ghazi – 4 – He looked like he really didn’t want to be there most of the time yesterday. Can do and needs to do better than this on a consistent basis. Was ball watching and failed to pick up Dyer who ran behind him onto Fer’s nice through ball before slotting the ball past Kalanic.
Scott Hogan - 5 – Lacking in the confidence that scoring goals would give him, but he is not looking likely to go on a scoring run any time soon, so it is a bit of a Catch 22 situation. Lost possession on the edge of the box which led to their opener. Turned a 1st minute El Ghazi cross wide of the near post and 5 minutes later hit an Adomah cross goalward which hit Mulder on the line rather than the back of the net. Kodjia touched the ball back to him on 62 minutes but his attempt was blocked at the near post by a defender. Had one of these gone in it might have shaken us out of our lethargy.
Jonathan Kodjia - 5 – Replaced O’Hare on 55 minutes and didn’t live up to his nickname in the time he had on the pitch.
Henri Lansbury - 6 – Came on for Whelan on 60 minutes and appeared to want to take the opportunity he was offered to show that he could do a job for us in the future. Hit a 64th minute shot from outside of the box that flew wide of the left post. Did well enough on a day that too many of those around him did not.
Keinan Davis – Replaced Hogan on 72 minutes. Held the ball up well again but he won’t score with the regularity that we need someone to and needs to play alongside another striker. Not on quite long enough to gather a rating.
Up the Villa!