Gabby Agbonlahor asks too much of Aston Villa in 48 game season
It’s been a long time since Aston Villa last tasted cup success, their last domestic honour was the League Cup in 1996 and on Wednesday 27 September they start their campaign once again.
Villa did reach the final of the competition in the 2019/20 campaign but were beaten by Manchester City at Wembley and since then, there has been some criticism from supporters and pundits for the manner of the Villains’ exit from cup competitions.
Unai Emery’s side has had a reasonably strong start to the season, beating the likes of Everton and Chelsea, but losing heavily to both Liverpool and Newcastle United. Gabby Agbonlahor has urged the Spanish manager to learn from his mistakes in Europe and field a strong side against Everton on Wednesday.
Speaking on Talk Sport, as quoted by Birmingham Live (26 September) he said: “The fans are really disappointed after the side lost their first game in Europe by changing their team a bit, and I think Emery has learned his lesson.
“He will go really strong against Everton. I think he will try and win a trophy. It’s been too long for Villa fans and I think he will want to win this, definitely.”
While Emery did make changes to his Villa side during their Europa Conference League defeat to Legia Warsaw, the side he picked was by no means weak. With an average of 26.2 and plenty of Premier League experience, six of the players who featured in the European clash then started the win over Chelsea on Sunday.
Although fans will want to see Villa battle for silverware on all fronts, it is never that easy for teams, especially when you add in the extra European fixtures that Emery’s side are having to contend with. Assuming they progress no further in the competitions they’re already in, Aston Villa will have to play 48 games this season, seven more than they played last year.
The issue in Europe was less about team rotation and more about the Villains’ wastefulness on the ball, according to Fotmob they actually had more efforts on goal in Poland, with 19, but only hit the target on six occasions. Whereas at Stamford Bridge they had 15 shots but tested the keeper seven times.
While many will point to the fact that Ollie Watkins lead the line rather than Jhon Duran as the reason for that poor finishing record, Watkins has already missed five big chances in the Premier League this season and has only scored one goal.
Now that Villa have lost in Europe, it going to be harder for Emery to find opportunities to give his younger players some first-team football as he opted to in the second leg of the play-off against Hibernian, so the League Cup may be the best chance.
For example, Omari Kellyman, who impressed in the win over Hibs with an assist on his full debut would benefit from having a runout against Premier League opposition in the first team, if he’s going to struggle to feature in the Conference League group matches.
He could replace a player like John McGinn who has never had the pressure of playing nearly 50 games in a campaign. Last year the Scotsman played 36 matches in all competitions, totalling 2,878 minutes. Should he play every minute of every competition this year, his involvement would total 4,230 minutes.
Allow Kellyman to play in the Carabao Cup and that will take 90 minutes off that impressive total while also helping the 17-year-old develop and come closer to the standard required in the Premier League. With that development, he could play 15 minutes at the end of league games to slowly lessen the strain on the likes of McGinn.
Watkins on the other hand played 40 games last season for Villa but blew incredibly hot and cold throughout the season. Had he been given an occasional rest and time to recover it could have improved his form. Duran is still averaging a goal every 29 minutes in the Premier League this season, so he should be given the chance domestically to deputise for Watkins.
This is a problem that will need solving.
In other Aston Villa news, Emery could have another superstar on his hands after Rory Wilson scored four for Villa’s u18s