In the past week, we've seen Aston Villa put forth a great performance against Blackburn Rovers and a nail-biting but successful showing against Hereford United in the Carling Cup. But another thing that occurred was a couple of (apparently) minor injuries in the Blackburn match. As the season goes on, and Aston Villa hopefully advance in the Carling Cups, injuries will surely occur and choices will have to be made. Should the team push for a chance at a trophy through the cups, or should they focus on league play and a chance at Europe?
That's what we take a look at in this week's Friday Feedback. Where would you prioritize Aston Villa's resources? Do injuries - or the chance thereof - change your answer? You'll find our answers below the jump. Hopefully we'll get yours in the comments below.
This Week's Question: Given the constraints of multiple competitions, what would you like to see Alex McLeish prioritize for Aston Villa this year?
Aaron: As much as I'd like to make a run at a trophy, I think that for the long-term health of the club league play needs to always be the number one priority. That means the Carling Cup is going to be the biggest casualty, as the mid-week games make it a lot harder to play a lineup heavy on first-choice players. The FA Cup is a bit easier to deal with since so many of the games are on the weekend, but if Villa can get deep enough in the tournament things might get trickier to finagle. I understand the desire to push for trophies, but let's be honest; an FA Cup win is exceedingly unlikely, and while I have more affection for the Carling Cup than a lot of people I also recognize that it's not really a major indicator of a team's quality; Alex McLeish's last managerial stop should serve as proof of that.
Still, I'm not entirely convinced Villa can't make a run at one of the cups without putting league fixtures in any real danger. The Carling Cup has just seven rounds, remember, and given that most of the biggest teams are likely to start less than full-strength sides even through the final it's not crazy to think that a Villa team featuring a mixture of first-teamers and youth players could make a run at the thing. And I think the equation has to change the deeper Villa push into the tournament; if you find yourself in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and feel like you've got a legitimate shot at winning, you've got to go for it. Of all the things Gerard Houllier took flak for last season, I think his decision to effectively punt against Manchester City was the most legitimate cause for complaint.
Like most things of this nature, it's all about timing. Carling Cup quarter-final against Bolton with Norwich City that weekend? Put out the A-Team. FA Cup Fifth Round Proper at Old Trafford with a makeup game against Arsenal that Tuesday? Your time to shine, kiddos. Ultimately, I think I feel a lot better about this season if Villa finishes 7th with early-ish exits from both cups than I do if they're mired in another relegation battle and slide into bottom half with a pair of semi-final appearances. But obviously, it's not a zero-sum game.
Gareth: Well, staying in the league is far and away the top priority. However, I have no cause to believe that there will be any problems with that this year. So, if we're to believe that Villa will easily remain in the league, it seems logical to prioritise the cups. They have long since missed their chance to get anywhere near the Champions League places, and the Europa League is a joke. So with the cups in mind, I would lean towards the FA Cup (aka, the "real" cup competition) as opposed to the Carling Cup, which means less than nothing. But I'll take all that back if we win it.
Kirsten: I'm thinking they should prioritize Europa League. Just once, I'd like to beat Rapid Vienna.
Robert: I don't see any way Aston Villa get relegated this year, so I think putting some emphasis on the cups would make for a fun ride. For some reason, I look forward to cup matches even more than I do regular league meetings. Maybe it's the drama of potential elimination. Maybe it's the lure of actually having a shot at a trophy. But Villa are 100% capable of winning either cup this year, and I think I'd take 15th in league for that. Is it the most pragmatic approach? Certainly not. But I watch to be entertained, and nothing would entertain me more than watching Marc, Bazza, and Eric celebrate with silverware.
Slaky: I think Aaron's pretty much the voice of reason as always here. Obviously, the team can't afford to put their spot in the Premier League in any kind of danger and I don't think they would even entertain such notions. No one would argue that the Carling Cup has as much prestige as the FA Cup and it doesn't. However, a trophy is a trophy and it's a nifty little back door into European competition, even if it is the Europa League.