Two seasons ago, Aston Villa Football Club was knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford City. It was a two leg affair and defeat was hard to take in a tie that most Villa fans were expecting the team to win comfortably.
Since that day, every cup game has seemed like a mountain to climb and that was proven yet again last night with a 0-1 loss to League One side Leyton Orient. This was not just any cup loss: it was yet another loss at Villa Park, when fans were hopeful that maybe this season could be the one that would see our fortunes change on home turf.
In three seasons, we have crashed out of cup competitions to Leyton Orient, Sheffield United, Milwall and, of course, Bradford City. I would expect most Premier League sides to win three, if not all, of those games comfortably but the confidence was knocked out of our side after the loss to Bradford City and it seems to me that we have never recovered from such a shock defeat.
This season, we were off to a relative flyer in the Premier League, having picked up four points in the opening two games of the season without conceding a single goal. It is obvious that Lambert has sorted out the defence by bringing in Aly Cissokho and revitalising Alan Hutton but where on earth has our attack gone?
Last season we couldn’t stop scoring goals and this season our players seem to get a nose bleed any time they are within five yards of the penalty area. What has happened?
Yes, we are missing Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak, who will return and bolster our attacking options, but we have players such as Gabby Agbonlahor, Andi Weimann and Darren Bent, who are all capable of finding the back of the net – and should be doing so. When our target men return, I expect a lot more crosses to be played into the box as it will suit our height and power in the air but this won’t solve the problems of scoring goals from football being played along the deck.
One thing that I didn’t need reminding of is that when Nathan Baker plays the Villans will more than likely lose. I don’t often like to criticise players who put the shirt on for the team I support but Baker is one of those players who I can’t bear to watch in defence. Even when playing well, he is always far too committed when going for the ball, often mistiming a tackle and finding himself out of shape, only for the opposition to punish us.
I am hopeful that the return of Benteke and Kozak will play some part in fixing our attacking problems; the more options we have going forward the merrier. I have no problems with the back four that featured against Stoke City and Newcastle United. Long may our defensive strength in the Premier League continue – and here’s to scoring more goals!