It all started so well. For the first 30 minutes of their EFL Cup match against Leage Two’s Luton Town, Aston Villa looked exactly as good as they should. The lineup was eager to attack, the defense was doing its job, and Micah Richards was playing right-back and actually being useful.
It was glorious and it resulted in a 0-1 lead that came after Jordan Ayew slotted home a ball that had escaped wide after a corner in the 13th minute. For 30 minutes football was fun again.
And then Luton Town started pressing, and managed to capitalize on a rash of stupid mistakes in the 35th minute for an equalizing goal. Those stupid mistakes? Gary Gardner getting made to look the fool and blown right past and Jordan Amavi letting his man get WELL behind him where he could get the ball easily into the goal.
From there, Villa looked absolutely shattered, confused, and broken. It was a repeat of what we saw so much last season, Villa looking alright until something happened and then looking like a team who have no clue how to play. It was alright, though, as the sides got to halftime level and that would surely settle things.
Except when the teams came back out, two changes had been made. Rudy Gestede had replaced Ross McCormack who had a yellow card, so fair play. But at the back of the pitch something far more nefarious had occurred. Micah Richards had been doing well at right back. The centre backs needed some support. So bring in Tommy Elphick from the bench. But NO. Alan Hutton came on for Nathan Baker and took over at RB while Richards went to the middle. So instead of keeping one player in a good spot and replacing an underperformer with a solid option, Roberto Di Matteo brought on a wildly ineffective Scot and screwed over TWO positions.
And within seconds, it had already hurt Villa. Luton town made a run up Hutton’s side, blew past him, and sent a ball into the box where the CBs were nowhere to be found. The crisis was averted, but it only took until the 53rd minute for Luton Town to actually find the back of the net on some uninspired defending and shoddy goalkeeping.
Then it all got worse a few minutes later. In the 66th, with the ball clattering around the Villa box, Micah Richards tried to take a diving header to clear the ball. Shockingly, it didn’t work. And the ball dropped to Jores Okore, who was half-turned towards the Villa goal. He swung his leg, the one nearest the goal, and scored the easiest and dumbest own-goal I can remember seeing.
And from there the team was never able to pull its collective head from its collective rear end. Losing in the League Cup doesn’t really mean much. Whatever. The goal this year is promotion. But play like this and promotion will never be a possibility. This team is not good enough to never face adversity, and if they crumble every time they do, we’re doomed. And while losing in a Cup may not matter, doing so every year in nut-kicking fashion is beginning to wear a little thin.
Sunday featured a Villa squad playing against a tough Sheffield Wednesday team and fighting tough and barely losing. Today featured an arguably better starting lineup against a trash Luton Town side and being made to look like garbage. Sunday was no time to panic, and today might have been. But for me, the overwhelming emotion is rage. What an absolute waste of our time.