In what is a slight variation of five reasons to be cheerful, we look at the benefits of Aston Villa’s run in the League Cup this season.
Establishing Our Centre-backs
It was inevitable that Björn Engels and Tyrone Mings, with their all-action performances, weren’t going to get through the season injury or suspension free. So, an extended run in the cup has been crucial to give both Ezri Konsa and Kortney Haus a handful of tune-up games to make them battle-ready, when they were eventually called up for league duty.
While Haus only recently started his first Premier League game due to Mings injury, Konsa was able to come into the team and keep Engels out for a few games.
While Villa’s centre-back quartet is inexperienced at Premier League level, they are a potentially talented bunch, so the cup run has helped the progress of them as a collective.
Speaking of Centre-backs…
The Liverpool game saw the return of the long-term absentee from Villa’s set-up, James Chester, who hasn’t played for the best part of a year. The Liverpool game maybe his swan song appearance for Villa, so wearing the captain’s armband for the match could be a fitting farewell.
If Chester is looking to get his career back on track, surely it will be away from Villa Park, after the club invested in four centre-backs last summer? If he has designs on getting into the Wales squad for the Euros next year, he could be seeking a move in January to aid his chances.
If he did stay, then perhaps only the early rounds of the FA Cup this season offer him a chance of game time for Villa again.
Wesley Confidence Booster
There were calls for Wesley to start the game against Liverpool’s young boys, in the hope he would finally get amongst the goals to boost his confidence going into the vital Christmas triple relegation zone fixtures.
In the end, Dean Smith perhaps got it the right way round, with Jonathan Kodjia getting a valuable run out and a scent of goals again, while Wes came on to put away a tidy finish to hopefully wet his goal appetite once again.
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In reality, Villa have enjoyed a rather easy route into the final four of the League Cup. All their opponents – Crewe, Brighton, Wolves and Liverpool – fielded much changed teams, with the three Premier League teams fielding decidingly youthful looking starting XI’s.
You can only beat the teams in front of you, the saying goes, but now Villa will have to beat a team who are currently second in the Premier League and defeated them convincingly 4-1 at Villa Park.
We’ll get to see if Smith can tactically mastermind an unlikely victory, and if the players have the heart to win what will be a toughly contested Midland’s battle.
Return to the Big Time
Last season, it took a 10-game winning streak to trigger an unexpected promotion, but while Villa are very much in transition this season, it’s already great to be in the mix for silverware by getting to the semi-final stage of a cup.
This is where Villa needs to be, so it’s good to get a head start.
Hopefully, like the FA Cup run of 2015, it can also inspire Villa’s form in the league to avoid relegation.
Dean Smith’s men may be the underdogs going into the tie, but weren’t Bradford City, when Villa were last in the competition’s semi-final stage?
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