By Jonty Banks

28th Jan, 2023 | 7:30am

View: Rachel Daly importance highlighted by blunt Aston Villa Women attack in loss to Arsenal

Aston Villa Women’s run in the Conti Cup was brought to a sharp end with a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, and the lack of a clinical edge in attack blighted Carla Ward’s side all night long.

Although engaging in a tightly contested affair early on, the Gunners took the lead on the half-hour mark, with Frida Maanum opening the scoring. Further goals from Maanum and Caitlin Foord after the break ensured Ward’s side travelled back to the West Midlands with their tails between their legs.

It certainly wasn’t a poor performance from Ward’s side, and they were just beaten by a clinical Arsenal side who were at the top of their game. However, if the club are going to make strides, Ward will need to come up with a contingency plan for when Rachel Daly isn’t starting up front.

Due to the absences of regular centre-backs Dan Turner and Anna Patten, the Villa manager was forced to shuffle her troops quite drastically, with Sarah Mayling sliding to centre-back and Daly dropping back to right-back in her stead – a position she featured in for the Lionesses in Euro 2022.

The move to play the WSL’s top-scorer back in defence was the only logical option Ward had, with Emily Gielnik coming into the side in attack alongside Alisha Lehmann and Kirsty Hanson.

However, the move, unfortunately, didn’t pay off, with Villa still vulnerable to Arsenal’s attacking brilliance, but more importantly, not being able to offer a serious threat in the final themselves.

Throughout the night, Villa managed to hit just two shots on goal out of a total of seven, compared to their opponent’s eight strikes which found Hannah Hampton’s goal.

Now, Gielnik cannot be blamed for Villa’s shortcomings in attack on Thursday night (26 January), as the former Liverpool forward has only played 252 minutes of football this season and was a little undercooked for a match of this magnitude.

But if Villa are going to keep making steps forward this season, the likes of Lehmann and Hanson must be able to step up and take on the goalscoring burden if Daly is absent from the side.

So far this season, Villa have been lucky that Daly has not fallen foul to an injury, but this could change at any given moment, and Ward must be ready to counter this potential nightmare scenario.

In other Aston Villa news, James Maddison is one to watch for the Villans in their next game.