Well, what more can we say? Sure, we could outline and break down each and every mistake that Paul Lambert and Aston Villa made on Tuesday night, mistakes that practically handed Tottenham Hotspur the League Cup victory. But when it all comes down to it, the match can be summed up in one word: Pants.
Right from the beginning, Lambert himself suggested the game was pants, putting out a lineup that would strike fear into the hearts of...absolutely no one. He put untested Jed Steer in goal. Yacouba Sylla and Karim El Ahmadi made up the defensive midfield, which at least had the potential to close down Spurs attacks. Marc Albrighton, who last started in the FA Cup match against Ipswich last January, got the nod alongside Leandro Bacuna and Aleksandar "blast it to the moon" Tonev. Libor Kozak was up front.
A strange lineup for a man who regretted not making it to the League Cup final last year, no? Sure, Villa must face Manchester City at the weekend, but with really no hope of getting three points there, might as well run out a strong lineup and have a good cup run. Alas, that's not what Paul was thinking. Sure, injuries to the squad, including to Christian Benteke, sure didn't help. But it was still odd that, after Jermain Defoe made it 1-0 just before the break, Lambert made a double switch at halftime. His tactic was on target: add an extra attacker, just how Lambert likes it. But it was Kozak that came off, replaced by Nicklas Helenius and Jordan Bowery. Andi Weimann stayed on the bench. Gabby Agbonlahor was...where, exactly? Apparently, he had a slight knock and was left out as a precaution.
Now, we could put this loss down to a spot of bad luck. After all, it was only 1-0 at the half. Then Helenius got pants all. Villa should've had a penalty. The players were still standing around, gaping, when Paulinho put in the second. If we'd just had that call...
No. No, no and no. Villa were downright poor in the first half, with the only real chance coming from Albrighton after Spurs gifted him possession. It was clear that the home side were attempting to hunker down and wait for the chance to hit on the counter, but...well, you gotta be good at defense for that strategy to really work. Or, at least, be decent at providing service to the target man up front.
Instead it was the visitors that had chance after chance, springing the offside trap and easily getting behind the defense. Nathan Baker did well to make a couple of essential blocks, but really, it could've been 4-0 before the half. The defense fell apart for Defoe's first goal, with Matthew Lowton running to stop Lewis Holtby and Defoe slipping past El Ahmadi and finding himself alone near the post.
Now, I'm not the world's biggest Kozak fan -- and I'm still doubting his ability to produce more than a few goals for this team -- but I'm still confused as to why he came off and not, say, Tonev. Sure, by the end of the match the Bulgarian had a shot on target, but that still doesn't explain what he's doing on the pitch. And where was Weimann? If Andi is to regain his confidence, throw him on for 45 in a Cup match that's already being lost -- don't save him to go up against Manchester City.
The fact is, this Villa side is falling to pieces, and we have a lot more to worry about than we thought we would at the start of the season. The defense is still an utter disaster, and easily folds in a set piece situation, as evidenced by the corner that lead to the Paulinho goal. In this match, there was a disconnect in the middle of the pitch, resulting in the lack of service to the front. How many times did Kozak actually touch the ball in the first half? It was Albrighton that was trying the most to create something, but his desperate need to draw attention to himself often resulted in trickery gone wrong.
Yes, the injuries have hurt. And, perhaps, Villa could've brought in a defender rather than a seventh striker before the transfer window closed. But the squad and its injuries are now realities for Paul Lambert. He should have worked out a way to place a squad on the field that appeared to have met one another before kickoff. And he best be spending the next few days figuring out how to do exactly that, before yet another downward spiral begins.
But hey, at least we have this moment.
More from 7500 To Holte:
- Kickin' It: Suárez "Champing at the Bit" to get back, Klopp may face further discipline, and Belgian midfielder bicycle kicks his own rebound
- Christian Benteke injury worse than we thought
- Instant reaction: Aston Villa fall from League Cup in punchless in 0-4 loss to Spurs
- Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Open match thread and lineups
- Depleted Aston Villa hoping for more League Cup magic against Tottenham Hotspur