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Can we take anything from the Spurs match?

Here - take some straws for grasping

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

So Villa's FA Cup run goes no further as we went to a Premier League club, looked every inch a Championship side and were dispatched with little fuss. On the other hand, at least this year we actually are a second-tier side so it's not as embarassing.

I don't think anyone really expected much more, but we can at least take a few pointers:

Tactics - Shoring up the wings undermines attacking potential

Tactically, Steve Bruce set Villa up almost entirely reactively. Despite their line-up changes, Spurs stuck with a back three to release their attacking wing-backs in Davies and Trippier. In response Villa were notionally playing a 4-3-3 but it was really more of a 6-3-1 as Grealish and Adomah were told to stuck tightly with the attacking wing-backs, often ending up flanking the back four.

Defensively this made Villa pretty solid for 70 minutes, but utterly toothless in attack. With the central midfielders offering very little on the attack and Gabby Agbonlahor a long time past being an attacking threat on his own, Villa's wide men were the only attacking outlet. But since they spent most of the game near their own box, when they did get the ball there was far too much distance to cover to set up an attack.

Villa were therefore set to try and get the draw, or nick a goal from a set-piece and duly their best chance came when Chester headed down a free-kick which Gabby latched onto. Spurs defended well and that was that.

In the meantime, Spurs got more ambitious, especially with the introduction of Dele Alli for the ineffective Janssen. Eventually it was the confidence of the Spurs wing-backs to roam freely with no fear of a Villa counter which led to the deadlock-breaking goal, as Davies continued into the box and headed home a very-well taken stooping header.

That was the end of the game really, with a triple substitution for Villa having no real impact before Son delivered the final blow.

Bruce clearly set up for the draw, but if there's any lesson for the future it's that the Villa full-backs and central midfield must be strong enough to provide both attack and defence without pinning the wide men back as well.

Players - Johnstone starts encouragingly, Villa's striking options looks thin

Sam Johnstone

If there was one glaring positive for Aston Villa, it was the debut performance of Manchester United loanee Sam Johnstone. He commanded his box well, made good saves and distributed sensibly.

Before going overboard, let's note this was 90 minutes in a match not being taken particularly seriously by the opposition. Pierluigi Gollini and Mark Bunn have both had good matches, before making mistakes. Villa's goalkeeping issues are not necessarily solved. Johnstone also seemed to pick up a few niggles in the match that might reflect his lack of match fitness.

However, it was an encouraging performance and much as I feel Gollini has been harshly treated, there's no real reason why Bruce shouldn't start playing Johnstone regularly in the Championship.


Unfortunately it was another story up top, where Agbonlahor was pushed into a familiar and thankless role as the lone forward in a team which was never likely to support him well.

However, even accepting the job was a tough one which few forwards would relish, Gabby really did not trouble the Spurs defenders even for a second. He doesn't have the pace, strength or trickery which might allow him to snatch a goal from the teeth of an organised defence without the work being done with teammates. And in that case, why did Bruce even bother trying with him?

Ross McCormack at least has recent experience of scoring goals and offers a set-piece option. Or one of Villa's youngsters - Hepburn-Murphy was seemingly punished by being left out of the squad, but winger Andre Green might have appreciated the opportunity.

If Bruce genuinely believes Gabby is an acceptable first-choice while Jonathan Kodjia and Jordan Ayew are away on international duty, Villa may find play-off hopes drifting away sooner rather than later.

Fans - Premier League quality

If there was one aspect of Aston Villa that was clearly top tier during the match, it was the travelling support, which outsung the White Hart Lane crowd throughout.

As "Champions of Europe, you'll never sing that" echoed round North London, it was clear Villa still retain an incredible away following, which does the club proud.

Now attention turns back to the Championship, with a short trip to Paul Lambert's Wolves on Saturday. The need to kick-start the play-off push is pressing and Villa may press to try and bring Henri Lansbury in from Nottingham Forest before the weekend.