Aston Villa are now five games into our return to the Premier League and we sit in 17th place in the table, with four points returned so far. Monday evening’s clash against West Ham United at Villa Park was a mixed bag with positives and negatives for fans to take, but Vital Villa forum member crimsondonkey had their own thoughts on the game, and they felt that we could already see some trends in how we are trying to approach matches.
Those trends have varying degrees of success though.
Not a bad game, but a disappointing and frustrating performance.
Here are the problems that are beginning to become themes across the few games we’ve seen so far:
1. We are playing two wingers, and neither of them are producing enough of a consistent threat to warrant being on the pitch. El Ghazi doesn’t get the ball in the box, and Jota is a clever player more suited to being an inside forward rather than an actual winger (again, no crossing product).
2. Wesley is isolated. Like any striker, he needs both a steady supply of chances and support around him in play to ensure that he’s able to get involved properly and contribute to the game. Having El Ghazi as his nearest teammate when the ball goes up is not going to cut it. He’s also a bit box shy from what I’ve seen – maybe because the balls he wants are not being played so he’s not making the runs.
3. Jack is frequently in the wrong areas of the pitch to hurt the opposition. He has a lot of possession but a lot of it is in his own half and taking the ball off the back four and then ball carrying. He’s trying too hard and more importantly, I don’t feel he trusts his teammates enough to let them do their jobs and take up his proper position which is to link between the midfield and Wesley.
So here’s what I would do about it if I were Deano –
A. Don’t play a formation with two out and out wingers if we don’t have them. Either go 4231 with Luiz and Marvelous as the two, with SJM, JG and Jota as the 3. The width and crosses can them come form Freddie overlapping on the right and SJM on the left. This formation also facilitates playing Hourihane and getting his dead ball and shooting skills on the pitch (vs Jota).
B. In attacking possession, the three need to be within 10 yards of Wesley at all times to help retain possession and give him the chance to get in the box. Wesley seems to prefer running onto things and movement with the ball to feet as against being a heading the ball monster, so play the ball like that to encourage precisely that kind of movement.
C. Now, this is a tough one. I’m sure Deano already shows Jack the videos of when Villa look threatening – ie when they’re playing with tempo and when Jack is in the final third running at the opposition defenders; and when they’re not – with him taking the ball off Mings/Engels. Somehow Deano has got to get Jack to trust his teammates, and they also have to be vocal and send him further up when he drifts back. Having energy and strength in possession to carry the ball forward is key to this which is why I’d have Luiz and Marvelous in the same midfield and use their legs and athleticism to run things in that department and keep Jack forward and always with one eye on Wesley and trying to release him.
As a few others have said earlier, if you really want to play two out and out wingers then you need the quality of the personnel to enable you to do that and that would be the instruction to Jesus to go find them. What I don’t think we can afford to do in the meantime is try to play a system that we don’t have the players for. You’re asking too much of them and their teammates like Jack to compensate for flawed tactical thinking.