By Phil Shaw
It’s time to look back on another week of ups and downs in the Villaverse with the Good, Bad and Ugly.
A double dose of goodness this week with Aston Villa putting in good displays in both the Premier League and League Cup
In the league, a potentially tough evening kick-off against an unbeaten Everton team, represented a fork in the road for Villa’s season.
If Villa had failed to win, at home, against a weakened Everton, there was the scope for another trademark social media meltdown among fans.
However, it was a stylish win, and the season felt like it could finally truly begin.
Certainly, the starting formation, with three at the back, didn’t excite many, but it left Villa with the most expensive bench I can remember.
Buendia, Bailey and Traore were all sitting on the bench despite Aston Villa paying around £75 million for their services.
With 20/20 hindsight, however, this represents the level Villa are trying to get to.
For seasons, top teams have started games with teams who should have enough to get the job done and if they don’t, switch it up from the bench.
It has been evident in Villa defeats against the top teams for decades. Think how many times Manchester United brought on subs against Villa to win the game, or maybe don’t if the scars of goals from Macheda, Javier Hernandez, and others are still too raw.
Aston Villa, haven’t had the luxury of being one of those teams. They have always needed to play their best eleven and ‘go for it’.
While playing your most attacking side is more entertaining, the Premier League has evolved into a competition where the use of squads and impact players, are what wins games.
It may take time for everyone to adjust to Villa playing like one of the big boys.
Villan of the Week — Leon Bailey
In his 20 minutes or so against Everton, Leon Bailey, arrived, changed the game and left the field injured. Box Office Bailey, had the pace and more importantly the intent to win the game.
He looks very much the player that, instead of thinking what needs to be done, just does it.
The third goal in the Everton game was the perfect example. As soon as Danny Ings launched the ball into his zone, Bailey was single-minded. He nodded the ball into his path and smashed it into the net.
If he can only be kept fit…
While the performance was this week’s second dose of goodness, defeat against Chelsea in the League Cup was very much a missed opportunity.
Villa need to avoid the failures of other sides in recent years who have been in the position to kick on and have now fallen.
The way to get to the top is by winning trophies, and the League Cup is the easiest to win.
The Villa starting eleven was stronger than in previous seasons, but against Chelsea you needed to fight fire with fire and have some weapons on the bench.
Chelsea played it correctly, with the looming shadow of Lukaku waiting in the Chelsea subs should he be needed.
As it turned out, the Villa performance meant he was needed, and he took one of the penalties in the shootout.
Villa hadn’t an attacking player of the same importance to bring on and when it came to the shootout, you never really fancied Villa for once.
Danny Ings, off the bench for the final few minutes, would have added another expected penalty scorer after El Ghazi, and it’s small mental margins like this that decide penalty shootouts.
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How on Earth do you restore the prestige of the League Cup?
My abiding memory of that three handled trophy is it sitting on the head of Dalian Atkinson and a couple of years later on Dwight Yorke’s, after the two Villa wins of the 1990’s.
It is an iconic trophy because it was the cup of the underdog.
While the FA Cup and the Premier League held more status, the League Cup, had the weirder sponsors and was usually broadcast on ITV.
It was just different and unique and held a special place in the football calendar.
Jump to present day, and the FA Cup is closer to what the League Cup used to be. It has a sponsor now, and the matches throughout are generally enjoyable to watch.
The League Cup has fallen to the level of a preseason competition, and it’s completely down to money.
Money talks in modern football and despite the Europa League place up for grabs for winning the trophy, the rest of the commercial benefits are less than finishing one place higher in the Premier League.
At last count, it’s estimated that each league position is an increase of £2 Million, whereas the winner of the League Cup reportedly gets just £100,000 in prize money.
You have to agree with the businessmen running clubs that it simply isn’t worth the effort any more.
The only way to fix the League Cup and to stop the FA Cup heading in the same direction is a tangible reward for winning it.
You have to think beyond money here, it needs to be something radical.
The FA Cup could have the last Champions League place. If one of the top three win it, then 4th place in the Premier League can have it.
The League Cup needs something bonkers that befits the entertainment the trophy used to give.
Like a five points bonus in the league and the Europa Spot?
Imagine the advantage five points could give a team at the end of the season?
Worth more than an extra win, the League Cup five point bonus could win you the League, save you from relegation or get you into the Champions League, meaning the European Place goes one further down the list.
I know some people will think this is nonsense (got any ideas yourself?), but I don’t want the memories of the League Cup to ever fade. A football season without domestic cup competitions is potentially an ugly future.