By Jonathan Parkin
Aston Villa vs Liverpool – League Cup 1/4 Final
The League Cup quarter-final provided Villa with a welcome break from Premier League football, in which for the first time in years, the Villans went into a game against Liverpool expected to win it. The reason being the majority of Liverpool’s playing squad were in Qatar for the Club World Cup.
The side Liverpool therefore fielded was essentially their U-23s team, and thus contained little to no Premier League experience. The only player with any notable Premier League experience was right-winger Harvey Elliott, who had a grand total of 18 minutes playing time for Fulham last season. While the Liverpool front three were 16, 17 and 18 years old.
The team put out by Dean Smith however had within it a number of experienced heads, although ultimately it was akin to the second string he fielded in the previous round against Wolves. This was a perfect opportunity for the Claret and Blue to shake off their league form malaise, and thankfully they made no mistake and put in a professional performance to beat Liverpool 5-0.
The match didn’t prove to be the banana skin that it potentially looked like it could be during the opening 10 minutes, with Nyland needing to make some smart saves. While Villa were sloppy at times, they were content to let the young visitors have the ball in what was a largely controlled performance. Liverpool’s kids put in an admirable performance, but ultimately the game was how it looked – men against boys.
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Aston Villa Player Ratings
Orjan Nyland- 8 (MOTM)
Despite a shaky start to the game where Nyland’s passing out from the back left a lot to be desired, the Norwegian put in a very good performance. He pulled off some brilliant saves, eight in total, and kept out a Liverpool side that at times looked very sharp on the front foot. His smart double save at the 85 minute mark really highlighted his shot stopping abilities. What Nyland lacked in ability with his feet, he made up for with his hands.
Ahmed Elmohamady- 7
A solid game for Elmo saw the full-back get forward well when he was needed, and do a decent enough job at the back. He obviously got a bit lucky with a deflection for the second goal, that has now gone down as an own goal, but he got himself into a good position to cause the defence problems and he did. It was the experience of players like Elmohamady, that made sure a professional performance was maintained throughout.
Ezri Konsa- 7.5
Konsa looked the more solid of the centre halves. His play out from the back is a strength of his game, and didn’t contain some of the sloppy errors and passes that came from the rest of the back line. This was emphasised by Konsa having the highest pass completion of any of the defenders at 95%. He also did a good job of marshalling an inexperienced striker, and so most of the Liverpool threat was forced to come from out wide.
James Chester ©- 6.5
It was good to see Chester make his first start after 11 months out with injury, and even better to see him have the armband. His play on the ball and passing looked rather rusty at times, but this is to be expected after such an absence. He did well to cut out a few dangerous moves from Liverpool in the final third. It’ll be good for Dean Smith to have Chester back as an option in defence.
Neil Taylor- 6
Taylor showed many of the same problems in his game that he has shown throughout his Villa career. His passing was at times very loose, He had the lowest passing completion of any of the defence, and Harvey Elliott caused him trouble time after time in the first half. Against stronger opposition, his mistakes may have been punished.
Douglas Luiz- 7
Luiz was somewhat anonymous in the first half. But once Liverpool reduced their press in the second, the Brazilian came to life. He showed a handful of good touches, and drove the attack forward from midfield when he could. On top of this, his through balls were accurate and led to a great deal of the Villans’ second half chances.
Conor Hourihane- 7.5
Hourihane did what he’s in the team to do, deliver good set pieces. His goal to break the deadlock certainly wasn’t his best while wearing the Claret and Blue, but it had enough power to beat an inexperienced goalkeeper, who had one eye on Kodjia. He drifted out to the left well to create overloads, and his passing was the most accurate of any player in the team.
Henri Lansbury- 7
Lansbury looked full of energy. He burst sprung forward from midfield time after time, and essentially led the Villa press, while Kodjia stood and watched. It’s a shame he couldn’t have used the same energy against Sheffield United last weekend.
Jota is clearly a very technically gifted player. He shows very flashy touches and made some of the Liverpool players look silly at times. He is lacking in the pace department however, and this often limits how involved in the game he can be, as well as slowing up the Villa attack. He picked up an assist with a nice little ball through to Kodjia to make it 3-0. He adds a different attacking option to the Villa ranks when fit.
Trezeguet once again put in a shift. He always seems to run his socks off no matter the opposition. He could’ve and probably should’ve scored at least a brace, and did well to play in Wesley for the fifth. It was his darting run down the left that was the first sign of any quality from the Villa and sparked the rest of the team into life in the first half.
Jonathan Kodjia- 7
Kodjia looked very lethargic for great swathes of this time on the pitch. Luckily for the Villa however, he sprung into life when the opportunities arose. His goals were taken well and his finishing ability is unquestionable, it’d just be nice to see him pressing with a bit more urgency, and throw his weight around a bit more.
Off the Bench
Wesley (73)- 7
Probably the biggest moment of the game, certainly in terms of the rest of the season, was Wesley scoring. The big man desperately needed a goal for his confidence, as in the last few games he has looked unwilling to shoot. He registered a single off target shot against Sheffield United. He was clinical when he needed to be, and this should give him a boost looking forward to Saturday.
Kortney Hause (77)- 6
The game was well and truly over by the time Hause came onto the field, and he didn’t really have a lot to do. His passing was decent, though he had a lot more time on the ball thanks to the opposition tiring.
Dean Smith- 8
Smith ensured that the team didn’t take this game lightly, and the performance was thoroughly professional. After the game he said his key word for the evening was ‘attitude’ and he believed his team had shown a great attitude throughout. Smith’s conduct was also very admirable as he went into the Liverpool dressing room after the game to speak with the young players and tell them to not let their heads drop. As a testament to this Liverpool’s stand in manager, Neil Critchley, stated that the conduct of the players and staff at the Villa was ‘great’.
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Good shout Andrew. Maybe Hause at left back. But targett does get forward. Connor has to start. He scored and set up several chances. I’d definatley drop McGinn injury or not. The midfield has not performed since Norwich. They are all guilty of lack of work and poor decisions. Makimba in first few games was in space for a pass all the time. Who’s told him to stop? The players and manager and our defensive expert Teryy, need a good look at themselves. They need to step up and quick or its championship and FFP fines or points deduction.
Villa have 3 main problems in my opinion;
1/ We can’t defend set pieces conceding the most goals I think at the time of writing in the prem. For all Mings ability (and height!!) he isn’t good in the air. I would still play him when fit but with Hause in front of him who is colossal in the air and will deal more with the set pieces. I think this would help this aspect of our game.
2/ Wesley looks a forlorn figure up front which is no surprise as he has little or no support. His hold up play can be excellent and I genuinely believe with support just behind him (maybe Grealish) so keeping two up top Wesley will become a very good player, score goals ……If we score more goals it takes pressure of the defence.
3/ I am not sure how fit as a team we are. We concede so many more goals in the second half and we are so slow to press the opposition throughout matches sufficiently (with the exception of the Norwich game where we pressed really high and maybe Newcastle) press higher, defend from the front I think would see us secure enough points to avoid the drop.
Other thoughts – Trézéguet for me should start, he is a willing hard working skilful player who does score and create goals. Targett worries me although I believe he is a good player but you just know he is going to go down injured every game and more than likely want to come off. The same can be said of Al Ghazi. We need discipline (which was awful against Leicester) belief, more confidence on the ball especially in tight spaces and a slight change of system to stay up.
Kodjia deserves a start after that performance . He’s the opposite in style to Wesley. Wesley works hard for the team and will drop back and help out. Kodjia will work hard for himself, but if he can score goals, in our position we shouldn’t complain.
Regards the system, almost anything but our present way of playing that leaves a striker up front (if he stays up front) on his own.
In terms of personnel, in addition to letting Kodjia start, I felt that Jota played very intelligent football. He covers a lot of ground and made some great passes. He’s not the quickest, but he’s clever a bit like Gil. Give him a start and maybe Trez too. McGinn’s obviously injured, he just isn’t the same player as earlier in the season. As he needs to be rested Lansbury can fit right in there. Lansbury isn’t as good as a fit McGinn, but we don’t have a fit McGinn. What I like about Lansbury is he moves forward and creates chances. Hourihane should start, as he can get goals out of dead ball situations and we are desperate for goals. Maybe he should be our penalty taker.
We are spoilt for options in defense, which is good to see. Nyland should get some games after that display. He may not have the experience, hence his distribution, but he’s one hell of a shot stopper.
Jinksy makes a few good points. Saw Juan Pablo Angel last week and he agrees with me that no Villa striker is gonna bag goals unless he gets support and service. DS should consider a 3-5-1-1 formation. We’ve loads of great center-backs, and McGinn could play in the middle w/ Luiz and Nakamba either side of him; Hourihane and Gilbert out wide. Wes up front and Captain Jack in a free “#10” role to pull the strings. After 17 games DS’s 4-3-3 just isn’t working. Trez and El Gazi are luxurious players (but could come in on a plan B – where a 4-3-3 would be good if chasing a game)- right now Villa need to be more pragmatic and be really hard to beat. We’ve so much talent in the squad- DS has to be less stubborn and switch things around. A 3-5-1-1 really gets our best players on the field and tactically allows Captain Jack to flourish. Our goal difference is in the negative, so concentrating on keeping clean sheets provides more chances to win low scoring games. We MUST get 10 points from the next 4 games! UTV
Liverpool were unlucky to have faced our second string who looked better than our first. Considering we had fewer corners worse passing, less possession less shots yet won 5..0 is refreshing. Nayland made fantastic saves. Any starters for Saturday there? Anyone for Wesley would be good. Lansbury and Louis looked flat. Trezerget looked lively but as potential replacement for Wesley he missed 3 good chances! Kodja can finish and runs into space something that no one seem to have told Wesley to do!! Proof again that Connor is always going to hurt you. Only grealish can you say the same about.. Play him!! McGinn needs a rest. We need change now!!
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