In a season where there are still technically eleven teams in the Premier League locked in a relegation dogfight, Sunday's match between Aston Villa and Norwich City could be seen as a six-pointer. Granted there are still more than two full months of games to be played, but looking at the recent form of both sides, a win would be a crucial boost for both clubs. Aston Villa sit in 13th position with 28 points. Norwich are also on 28 points, but have a goal difference of -19, compared to Villa's of -10.
Villa have struggled scoring as of late, mostly due to the lack of Christian Benteke to really find any consistent form. The burden cannot completely be shouldered on him however, despite him essentially single-handedly saving the club from relegation last season. Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann have been inconsistent as well, and as Robert and I talked about in yesterday's Holtecast, the part of the team that was very reliable last season has been missing in times when Villa has needed them the most. Obviously the defense has been improved and credit to them, but it is hard to win games when you are scoring zero goals. Futility cannot all be blamed on the forward line, and one of my favorite football clichés to quote is "More strikers does not equal more goals." The midfield has struggled to score goals for Aston Villa, and this has been true for quite some time. Luckily, Fabian Delph has scored a couple absolute belters this season, but as a whole, the midfield needs to step up in that department.
Norwich have also been a side that have struggled to score. Before their most recent match in which they beat Tottenham 1-0 at Carrow Road, the Canaries had scored only five goals in their last 11 Premier League games. Another bright spot for Villa fans may be that Chris Hughton's side aren't very good on the road, picking up only 8 points on their travels this season (W2D2). Aston Villa have only accumulated 11 points at home, winning three and drawing twice, so something will have to give. Under Hughton, Norwich generally line up in something best described as a wide 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1, depending on if the outside midfielders are given more freedom to go forward.
Former Norwich City and current Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has come under a lot of pressure from fans this season, despite the club's board being supportive of him this season. Some of the criticism has been deserved for poor tactics as well as some of the team's performances, but at other times it hasn't. I haven't really been in favor of uprooting Lambert and his "project" because it had looked like he has been moving the club in the right direction while cutting the wage bill and moving on some of the deadweight that was left behind by previous managers. That being said, if Lambert can't get a result this weekend against his former club I may jump ship and get on the #LambertOut train.
So since this is a must-win for the Villans, Lambert should go with a decently attacking lineup. However, it should have some steel defensively so I've chosen a 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield. A system that employs four central midfielders should give Villa a lot of possession, despite the team looking to play on the counter usually. This match is at Villa Park and seeing the players ping the ball around the pitch may get the fans into the match, however Villa haven't really employed it much this year so unless has been practiced in training, I don't want to see it. The only other problem is if an injury were to occur, the team has a limited number of defenders on the bench. So should that happen, tactics may have to change but it wouldn't be hard to revert to Lambert's usually preferred 4-3-3.
Here is the lineup I chose:
Subs from: Steer, Bennett, Helenius, Westwood (if fit), Sylla, Weimann, Albrighton.
Let us know in the comments what you would have chosen and why!