Different competition. Different team. Same problems for Aston Villa and the same problems on the road.
It seems as though a large section of Aston Villa fans, even Dean Smith himself, weren’t too fussed that they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship Fulham.
After all, Villa are in a relegation battle, they have a League Cup semi-final to look forward to and they have just lost two key players for the rest of the season.
But this Fulham game was a brilliant opportunity for certain individuals within the Villa team to prove themselves, and truth be told, not many came out of the clash at Craven Cottage in a good light.
Here are the three things we learnt from Villa’s 2-1 FA Cup defeat against Fulham:
Time to wave goodbye
As mentioned above, certain players had a chance to change Smith’s mind, push themselves into his first-team thoughts ahead of Villa’s tie against Leicester and Manchester City next week. But not many, if any, hardly did.
Many Villa fans wouldn’t disagree, but it is perhaps time to wave goodbye to the likes of Henri Lansbury, Neil Taylor and Jonathan Kodjia this month. They aren’t impressing when given the chance, and during a time when Smith needs defenders to step up, a midfielder to replace McGinn and now a striker to replace Wesley, it seems as though those answers will not come from within.
But Are Villa fans being harsh on the back-up brigade?
Someone like Lansbury had a very strong pre-season, but he wasn’t selected from the off from Smith. Instead, he was proving his worth during the League Cup matches. Could it be argued that if players such as Lansbury were provided with a better run of games, i.e. 5-6 on the bounce, rather than a cup game here and a substitute appearance there then they would perhaps produce better than they are showcasing at the moment?
But someone like Conor Hourihane, who has been in and out of the starting XI this term, has taken his chances when previously dropped. Burnley and Newcastle at home are prime examples. Either way, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Villa fans side with wanting these players to be sold or loaned out this month.
Villa have bigger fish to fry
Smith made a number of changes for this game and he also reverted back to his 4-3-3 formation because he clearly didn’t want to play any of his first-team defenders given the spate of injuries that have hit the club. Not only that, the hectic festive period and the two games coming up are, in truth, bigger than an FA Cup trip to Craven Cottage.
It is a crying shame that this is what the FA Cup has become because staying in the Premier League, finishing in the top-four if you are a Tottenham, for instance, is more important than winning the FA Cup. The reason is simple, and that’s money. Football clubs are way too reliant on money today and it is hurting the game.
Teams don’t just want to play Premier League football or Champions League football, but in some cases, they NEED to because if they don’t then financially they would take a whack they would struggle to get back up from.
Either way, Smith proved with his selection that Villa’s League Cup first-leg semi-final tie at the King Power Stadium and their Premier League home clash against Manchester City next Sunday is far more important than Saturday’s game.