Unai Emery has explained his thinking behind the rogue decision to play John McGinn at left-back in the first half of the Carabao Cup defeat to Everton on Wednesday.
Aston Villa’s captain played in defence, leaving many confused as the team sheet led to the assumption Pau Torres would take the spot, with Leander Dendoncker at centre-back.
As it was, Pau was in the middle and Dendoncker was placed at the base of midfield, while Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans were out on the flanks. McGinn, therefore, was at left-back.
The Scotsman did a decent job of keeping Jack Harrison at bay before being taken off at half time, with Lucas Digne resuming usual service. Emery has confirmed this was the plan all along.
“We need to give Digne some rest. We did it as well because Alex Moreno was not ready to play,” Emery explained in the post-match press conference.
“Hopefully he [Moreno] is close to coming back but not yet. We had to use different players and McGinn played well there and did good work.
“The plan was always to play 45 minutes with McGinn and 45 with Digne,” Emery continued.
In the end, the decision didn’t have much of a direct impact on the result as it was rather a succession of mistakes that led to Everton’s success on the counter attack.
Emery was let down by a Robin Olsen miskick in the first half as Amadou Onana and James Garner made Villa pay in clinical fashion.
Then, immediately after the break a weak Youri Tielemans pass caught out Ezri Konsa and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was allowed to break free through the centre to score.
“We are disappointed with the result, disappointed with some mistakes we made tonight. We didn’t want this. We are trying to go forward with building the team.” Emery said.
“We have to use some players and getting them chances, opportunities and as well minutes to take confidence. That is the way we have to build trying to get our best performance.
“They [Everton] were strong and were waiting for our mistakes. We had the injury of Leon Bailey which changed it a little bit and when they scored we were nervous,” Emery continued.
There was a decent response in the closing stages from the Villans as urgency was finally restored and Boubacar Kamara netted, but it was too little too late.
“Our reaction and our idea to continue building our style and our combination, we did it. It wasn’t enough to win, but we were close and we have to accept it,” Emery concluded.
Wednesday’s result means Villa are out of the Carabao Cup at the third round stage for a second successive season. There’s a speedy chance to bounce back on Saturday as they play host to Brighton & Hove Albion.