Ever since Villa faltered in the FA Cup Final a few years back, there have been next to zero happy memories for AVFC in the FA Cup. A beating by Tottenham a few years ago, a beating by Peterborough last season, a heavy thrashing from Manchester City before that. It’s all been bad. The final itself isn’t at all worth remembering despite fantastic performances in the quarter-final and especially the semi-final. Truth be told, the FA Cup has been nothing but awful to Villa for a number of seasons.
Villa haven’t exactly helped themselves, though. There’s been zero hype for any 3rd round fixtures from the club, there’s next to no serious coverage, Villa haven’t ever seemed to take the fixture seriously and rarely perform. It’s just not a good thing, and it’s usually just demoralising.
That should change under Dean Smith. Aston Villa feel good. Holistically good. The FA Cup is not there for Villa to win, as it’ll likely be used to crown a season for a Premier League hotshot. However, Villa should certainly gun to succeed in the competition, despite the fixtures it will add to a busy schedule.
For one, the FA Cup allows rotation and experimentation. Villa shouldn’t necessarily field a second XI and tank the game. They should swap formations and playing styles and players to see what sticks and what works. Essentially it’s a games worth of data for Villa to digest - away from the crushing pressure of the league. Rotation is a good thing - and putting some fresh faces out during the 3rd round tie is a good idea as it allows the players to keep morale positive. It also gives fringe players an arena to build their case for selection.
What’s more, there’s every chance Villa could progress far in the tournament. Let’s be real - there’s an ocean-wide gap in quality between AVFC and the Premier League’s top-six, but there’s a real case to be made for Villa and how far positivity can take them. Villa shouldn’t just turn up for this tie and take the loss - they should turn up, positive and with a band of second string players mixed in with their quality first-team. Aston Villa need to compete and keep up the competitive focus. Throwing in the towel during a competitive game - even with the focus on the league - will not, and has never done Villa any good at all. Would you want Villa to lose a game? Any game? I’m not so sure there’s many strategic benefits in ensuring that you are battered and beaten well by Swansea City in the FA Cup. Dean Smith is smart enough to rotate the Villa squad well, and he’s smart enough to use these cup games for his own uses - data gathering purposes.
There’ll be a lot of attention on Villa if they go far in the FA Cup and whether they can handle a European campaign if they fail to get promoted and win the thing - but that’s an amazing problem to have. It’s almost certain that Villa won’t face that issue, though. Come on.
That being said - Villa’s upcoming cup clash should excite us all. I think we all want to capitalise on the feel-good nature of the squad right now, and the cup serves as another avenue for the squad to create more memories for us to revel in. Why? Why not!