When Aston Villa avoided being drawn against the Premier League big boys for their semi-final in the Captial One Cup, and instead were drawn against a struggling League 2 side, a place in the final and a trip to Wembley looked almost guaranteed. Phil Parkinson and his Bradford side had obviously not read the script, and instead created their own fairytale story, defeating Villa over two legs and setting them up for a final against high flying Swansea City.
So where did it all go wrong for Aston Villa over the two legs? Defending is the answer to that question, and is the answer to why Villa are placed so lowly in the Premier League as well. Many have said that it is Villa’s midfield that lacks creativity, or Paul Lambert’s tactics for not creating enough opportunities. If you look at the statistics over both legs, Villa created over 40 goal-scoring opportunities, with just below 20 of them on target. That is a quite impressive amount of chances created, and an equally impressive amount of them testing the opposition goalkeeper. It was a terrific performance from experienced Bradford City goalkeeper Matt Duke over the two legs, and no one can deny that he deserved to take his team through to the final.
Luck was also a factor and possibly a lack of composure from the young Villa strikers, but it all comes down to basic defending, which has been a problem for Villa all season long. Paul Lambert alluded to such after the match.
?The poor defending was first thought to be because of a lack of leadership; youth being unable to cope with experienced professionals. The goal that led to Villa’s Capital One cup demise was not due to either of those, as it was captain Ron Vlaar who was marking the goal-scorer James Hanson of Bradford’s crucial second leg goal, the strongest and most experienced of all the current available Villa back four.
The goal was down to a simple lack of desire from the Villa team to get their head on the ball first, and get it away from danger. In the previous few seasons at Aston Villa, Richard Dunne and James Collins were the perfect examples of central defenders with a true desire and personal strength to get to the ball first. At the moment, Villa are lacking considerably in those types of personalities, and it has cost them their place at Wembley, and may lead to their place in the Premier League being taken away from them.
On Friday night Villa travel to Millwall, where Paul Lambert will get his chance to prove to the Villa faithful that he really is the right man for the job. Millwall will know Villa’s weakness, as it has been there for all to see throughout the season, and will look to exploit it as much as possible. It is up to Lambert to correct the deficiencies in this Villa team because if he doesn’t, chairman Randy Lerner may just look to find someone else who can.
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