Aston Villa Focus – Villa outclassed as Albrighton returns

Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa were taught a harsh lesson by Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday evening, as Andre Villas-Boas’ side romped to a 4-0 victory in the Capital One Cup. It was a result that highlighted the true gulf in quality between the two sides, particularly without the injured Christian Benteke. On positive, however, was the return of Marc Albrighton, one of Villa’s better performers on the night.

The Tamworth-born winger has become rather a forgotten man at Villa Park, due to hardly featuring during Lambert’s reign. Between making his debut in August 2009, and the end of Alex McLeish’s season in charge in 2012, Albrighton established himself as a competent winger in the Premier League, gaining notoriety as the scorer of its 20,000th goal in 2011.

After spending long periods of last season sidelined by injury the 23-year-old made his welcome return in the Capital One Cup, and despite Tottenham dominating throughout Albrighton must have been happy just to be on the pitch, and he did at least have one of Villa’s best chances with a first-half shot saved by Brad Friedel.

But Albrighton’s comeback will only represent a small crumb of comfort to Lambert after a defeat which should leave him with plenty to think about. Despite only having played their last Premier League game on Sunday, Tottenham were vibrant throughout and dominant in all departments, with the prospect of an even more emphatic scoreline dampened only by a series of saves from Jed Steer.

It was surprising that Villa managed to hold on until the stroke of half-time, such was Tottenham’s superiority, but all four goals were avoidable in some way. For the first Jermain Defoe’s run was not tracked as he converted Lewis Holtby’s dink, while sloppy passing led to goals three and four.

One of the concerns was that with the exception of a couple of players, the side that Paul Lambert fielded was one of his strongest available starting XIs. Admittedly it would not be the first-choice line-up if there was a fully fit squad available, and the injuries that Villa are having to contend with are clearly not ideal.

That Benteke will be a massive loss goes without saying, and there is a strong chance that the injury will have a bearing on how Villa fare over the next six weeks. Whether Libor Kozak and Nicklas Helenius can efficiently deputise remains to be seen, as they adjust the demands of the Premier League.

It also appears that Villa are less effective without Gabriel Agbonlahor. His performance levels have improved so far this season, and the knock he suffered at Norwich City on Saturday when he was playing so well came at a bad time.

Despite earning a valuable and long overdue clean sheet at Carrow Road, there are still issues to address at the back, problems that Tottenham ruthlessly exposed. And with injuries beginning to set in, Manchester City are unlikely to be more forgiving when they visit Villa Park at the weekend.

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