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Aston Villa U21s start Grealish, N'Zogbia and Lowton, still suffer embarrassing loss

Aston Villa's U21 team started with a few notable names but still suffered another bad defeat in the second tier of the Barclays U21 Premier League on Monday night, losing 3-0 to Derby County at home. But there may be an understandable reason why they're so bad.

Jack Grealish couldn't make an impact as the Villa U21s lost to Derby County 3-0 on Monday.
Jack Grealish couldn't make an impact as the Villa U21s lost to Derby County 3-0 on Monday.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Like the senior squad, the Aston Villa U21 team hasn't been good this season. The Villa reserves entered a match with Derby County on Monday evening with the worst goal difference in Division 2 of the Barclays U21 Premier League.

And starting with the likes of well-known players such as Jack Grealish, Charles N'Zogbia and Matthew Lowton didn't help the Young Lions, who lost to Derby 3-0 at the Pirelli Stadium.

N'Zogbia and Lowton were both subbed off at halftime with Villa already down 2-0, suggesting that the match was more to keep them fit than to actually judge their performances. Meanwhile, Grealish sounded lively - drawing some fouls and having a few half-chances - but he couldn't prevent the Villa U21s from suffering a fifth loss in seven matches.

With new manager Tim Sherwood looking on at his reserves, it could've been a chance for any of the trio to show why they should see more playing time in the first team than they did under Paul Lambert.

Sticking with the U21s' struggles, awhile ago, I asked what is wrong with the Villa youth teams. The U21s have been one of the worst teams in the second tier of the new Barclays U21 Premier League system, and the U18s have been entertaining but inconsistent, beating Norwich 6-0 before losing to Chelsea 8-3 in January.

But perhaps the lackluster play and underwhelming lineups from the U21 team at least can be explained by a strategy being implemented by those in charge of the Villa youth: send promising players on loan rather than play them in the reserves.

For instance, arguably Villa's brightest forward prospect, Callum Robinson, was in FA Cup action on Monday - coming off the bench for Preston North End in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United - rather than playing in the U21 match against Derby.

Instead of having top prospects play in youth teams wearing Villa kits, the club is sending these players out on loan to learn at other clubs - call it the "Chelsea strategy", if you will.

This seems to be a strategy that the club has committed to, as the loan moves this season of Robinson, Gary Gardner, Jed Steer and others have shown.

All of these players would undoubtedly make the Villa U21 team better, but the club is entrusting their development with other clubs, hoping that first team action with experienced professionals in lower leagues will be of more benefit to them.

So while results like a 3-0 defeat to Derby may suggest that - like the first team - the Villa reserves have slipped into the realm of worrying mediocrity, it shouldn't worry fans too much.

If any of the Villa players currently out on loan make an impact in the first team in the future, or if any of the younger players currently seeing time in the U21 team improve significantly because of that experience, then the strategy will have paid off.