Due to injuries to members of the Aston Villa squad, Paul Lambert will not be able to choose the starting eleven he has favored for much of this campaign. Both left backs, Antonia Luna and Joe Bennett, have been ruled out. Forward Gabby Agbonlahor also will not make the trip to West Ham for the Claret and Blue Derby. Most of the shuffling will come in the defense, which means the bench will be particularly thin in that department. Depending on the chosen lineup, an injury to a defender or a sending off in the first half may be the worst case scenario for Lambert.
Lambert has a few options here. The 3-5-2 that we saw against Manchester City could return with a backline of Clark, Vlaar and Baker. Another choice would be to keep the 4-3-3 and to use Bacuna at right back, keeping Vlaar and either Clark or Baker at CB, and either Baker or Clark at the left back spot.
Another option, although this may not be the best game for it since West Ham don't really have a world class left winger, would be to use a double right back in a 4-4-2 type system. This would mean Matt Lowton would return to the squad, playing behind Bacuna. This could work, but might just a tad too defensive, and also there really isn't a left midfielder in the squad. I would prefer not to see Aleksander Tonev deployed on the left, or anywhere for that matter this weekend.
Probably the best choice would be to use a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. Again, the personnel options aren't the best, due to the lack of a true creator, but everywhere else this system is a go for me. Benteke and Weimann up top, a strong midfield with Sylla at the base of the diamond and El Ahmadi and Delph playing as the shuttlers. Another choice would be to play Helenius or Kozák alongside Benteke, with Weimann playing as the CAM. That would just leave the defense, again with Bacuna or Lowton at right back (I don't think either of them are able to play left back), Vlaar and Clark or Baker at center, and the other on the left. Lowton could start on the right which would leave Bacuna to play at CAM, a position he may be capable of playing, but we have not seen Lambert deploy him there yet. This may be the best option as it would be a midfield with four true midfielders who have a lot of stamina and could dictate the game. I have not included Ashley Westwood in the starting lineup here, but he could play as a regista as the deepest player in the midfield, bumping Sylla either to the bench or to play alongside Delph or El Ahmadi. I don't think Delph, El Ahmadi, or Sylla are capable of playing the number 10 role. Prove me wrong, please!
Just to recap, Lambert has quite a few options, despite having a squad that is quite thin on the defensive end. He could stick with his 4-3-3, go back to the 3-5-2, or try out a diamond midfield with two up top.
What would you decide to play if you were Paul Lambert? Let us know in the comments!