Date: 11th September 2012 at 1:26pm
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Question of Best XI… A Team for ALL Occasions? No thanks…

I`ve seen this article on numerous sites, in this, the dullest international breaks… The Question of Lamberts Strongest Team… People have gone in to great detail explaining formation choices and tactical options. They have put huge thought in to the make up and balance of the team.

But I have news for them… They are all right… but in the same light they are wronger, than wrong could be.

People seem to be accustomed to this “strongest 11” idea, this is through years of watching MoN send out the same 11 no matter the opponents. People are taking a blue print from our most recent success and transposing it on to this new era in the history of Villa.

Much has been made of Lambert and O`Neill`s similarities in career path and the influence MoN may have had over PL. Now whilst there are correlations and I am sure Lambert has learnt from the Media Messiah O`Neill, I am also 100% sure that he has learnt from the other managers he has worked with, as a player, as a coach, as opposition and as a colleague.

So we must stop with this notion that Villa have this “one size fits all” strongest 11.

I have seen formations ranging from 451 to 3313 and everything in between. I have seen arguments about the value of having Gabby in ahead of Bent (now that Benteke has become a Drogba like character without even kicking a ball), the Ireland vs Bannan debate, the Dunne vs Clark question… Guzan vs Given… Lihaj vs Lowton vs Bennett … it goes on…

I have a word of advice to people… there will be very few games this season where Lambert will name the same team in consecutive games. Not due to injuries but due to his choice.

A few years back, we would turn up at games (home or away) and play the same kick and rush football. People knew what to expect from us, and eventually people where coming with game plans that nullified us and even exposed us. The same 11 would be flogged throughout the season as much as possible and by March the first team where out of form, and out on their feet.

This season we`re going to be seeing something at the opposite end of that spectrum. Not a team for all occasions, but a team for THE occasion.

Imagine a team set up to deal with opponent`s strengths and a attack their weaknesses… and this is where this “squad” Lambert has began to build comes in to it. Benteke, Gabby, Weimann and Bent, 4 very different strikers, who at different times this season will come together depending on opponent and of course form of the player. Benteke and Bent looks potent, but so does Benteke and Weimann… Yet Gabby and Weimann would pose teams serious questions too with Gabs pace and clever movement from the Austrian.

At times we`ll see a fairly defensive 451 designed to play on the break, at other times Lambert will see a chance to attack and will pick a team to do just that…

The team will be rotated, depending on opposition and form… depending and tactics and systems… depending on freshness and fitness…

What Lambert has managed to do, and I understand the scepticism of this, is actually build a squad that has cover and pressure coming from all areas in the team. I can`t remember the last time this was the case… can you remember a time when everyone in the first team squad see`s a chance of getting in the team? I remember interviews with Albrighton and Clark who talked about “knowing” no matter how hard they trained they wouldn`t get picked… I remember in Houllier era clashes of personalities getting in the way of the the better players being picked.


Guzan or Given

Lichaj, Lowton, Stevens, Bennett

Clark, Vlaar, Dunne, Baker

Westwood, Dutch, Herd, Delph

Ireland, Bannan, Holman, N`Zogbia, Albrighton

Gabby, Benteke, Bent, Weimann

Add Gards, Carruthers, Williams, Johnson, Grealish, Drennan, Burke etc to that and you also have some youngsters eyeing up a chance too… although I do expect Lambert to now start exposing our youth to lower league football at an early age to get them game hardened… I have often said it our youths are technically proficient but naive and under experienced in pressure game situations.

The squad doesn`t look as strong as it has in the past, but the competition for places, I would hope, will bring extra out of the players who will all be looking to improve and keep the place or win their place in the team. There will be no room for resting on your laurels here, something that we have seen in the past… as well as exhaustion.

So I wouldn`t go trying to second guess Lambert this season, he`ll have his own ideas about breaking teams down, and while some selections will look odd there will always be a reason behind them, just take a leap of faith and trust the man. Some times he`ll get it wrong, some times steams will be just too strong for us, some times the luck just won`t be with us. But I bet he gets it right more often than not.

As an example… take a look at these teams and pick the “strongest”


Lowton Vlaar Clark Baker

Dutch Westwood

Holman Ireland Bannan




Lichaj Vlaar Clark Bennett


Dutch Delph


Benteke Bent



Lowton Vlaar Clark

Lichaj Dutch Bennett


Gabby Benteke N`Zogbia


You imagine the first team would do quite well against a stronger team like United, whilst the second team would be more effective away from home against a team we`re closer matched to… whilst the 3 line up would hopefully tear a new back side for a weaker team… it`s all about who we`re playing and how we`re going to play… no such thing as “Best Team” in this the Lambert Era.. we`re all in it together and every one has a part to play… So what will the formation and line up be on Saturday? I`ll bet you Lambert looks to expose Southampton down the flanks, it is their weakest area. So it wouldn`t surprise me to see Lichaj and Bennett at the back with Benteke and Bent upfront , but what his formation will be and how we’ll look to play the game who knows?