At first glance, Aston Villa's 4-0 defeat to Arsenal was pretty terrible. At second glance, it looks even worse. But despite this, we look at the positives that can be taken away from the game.
The start of a new era
Post match, a rightfully disappointed and frustrated Tim Sherwood announced his plans to get rid of several members of the first team squad. He said:
"There will be a few changes, as many as we can possibly do, we know we need to improve.
"Some of the boys have been told already they won't be here next year or they can go and find other clubs."
Change can only be a good thing, and at Aston Villa, it is long overdue. The trouble with having so many managers in recent years is that players from previous regimes have been frozen out, or are unsuitable for the tactics of new managers. As a result, players such as Charles N'Zogbia and Yacouba Sylla are floating around, costing the club money with no real contribution. The FA Cup Final was a reality check for everyone, and if upheaval is a direct consequence, who is to say that defeat wasn't the best thing to happen in the long run?
There's no question about it, Arsenal were on a completely different level to Aston Villa on Saturday, and that shows that many of the senior players in the Villa side are not up to the standard of playing in the first team of a Premier League side. I'm not questioning the talent of the likes of Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia, but there is no way that they should be a starting for a team such as Villa. The FA Cup highlighted this, and gives us a chance to resolve the problem before the new season starts.
The doubtful stepped up
All season long, Kieran Richardson received criticism from almost everyone, myself included. But when he was absent in recent weeks, he was missed, as Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia proved to be terrible replacements. As for Saturday, despite being up against the insanely good Alexis Sanchez, Richardson was solid, and certainly earned my respect for his effort and commitment. Things could have been a lot worse for Villa, had Richardson not made his stunning block in the first half, the second goal saving act of his in this years' FA Cup for the club. In the long term he is not the left back of choice for Aston Villa, but on Saturday he silenced many a doubter.
In recent weeks, Ron Vlaar has been awful. In fact, his entire season has been below par compared to his World Cup performances last summer. Sadio Mane made him look like a non-league centre back two weeks ago, and he didn't have a great game against Burnley last week. But he turned up when it mattered, and, although he was part of a defence that leaked four goals, he looked like the Ron Vlaar that we know and love.
Quick footnote in this section goes to Gabby Agbonlahor. Not the greatest season for everyone's favourite local lad (until Jack Grealish came along), but his workrate and desire when he came of the bench was admirable. He should have earned Villa a free-kick/penalty, and that could have changed the game.
The departure of Benteke
Controversial sub heading yes, but also some rationale. Aston Villa were probably the most one dimensional side in the league all year. Constantly passing the ball around the opposition half pretty aimlessly before hitting a diagonal ball to Christian Benteke. It worked against QPR, it worked against Sunderland, and it worked against Spurs' Federico Fazio, but the elite defenders of the division, such as Arsenal's Per Mertesacker had no trouble in stopping the big Belgian. And when the big Belgian stops firing, Villa look like a side with no clue what to do, hence why they only registered two shots on goal all game on Saturday.
If Liverpool, Dortmund or any of the other teams linked with Benteke decide to match his £32 million release clause, Villa will be forced to change their whole match strategy. Obviously losing Benteke would be a blow, but again, in the long run, a side capable of more than one tired tactic might be more beneficial.
The Aston Villa fans
I could not write this piece without giving a nod to the Villa faithful. Despite the outcome of the game, the Villa fans never stopped singing. There was cause to kick up a fuss at referee Jon Moss' second half decision making, but despite the obvious frustration, every single Villa fan displayed an incredible attitude, both inside Wembley, around the City of Birmingham, and around the world. Kudos to everyone.
Please do comment if you agree, disagree or have any positives of your own that you would like to share. It's been a tough couple of days for everyone involved with Aston Villa, but onwards and upwards. VTID.