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Some Thoughts on Formations, Gameplans and Maximizing Personnel

This is a subject I've been thinking about quite a bit since the closing of the transfer window. I think most Villa supporters were hoping for some offensive help, and when it didn't come I'd be lying if I said I was not a bit disappointed. I want to be clear that the disappointment was not directed towards the club itself; I know nothing of the club's financial situation, I know nothing of the inquires made, I know nothing regarding who might have been available and in comparison to Martin O'Neill where constructing an EPL side is concerned, I just flat out know nothing. My disappointment was a result of the situation in general. I wanted another striker, dammit.

When it became apparent that we were unlikely to make any such moves, I began thinking a lot more about the makeup of the club as it stood. I think that it is apparent that there is some offensive talent on this team, so why is it that scoring goals is so often a struggle? Is Villa's lack of offensive prowess by design, an effort to maximize the advantage the back line provides? Is it an issue of a lack of cohesion between individually talented but incompatible players? Is my perception of Villa's attacking players inaccurate? I don't know the answers to any of these questions definitively, but if I had to guess I'd say it's most likely a systemic problem (if it is even a problem) and that Villa's plan of attack is to shut down the opponent's half and attempt to control the game through possession, ideally leading to a great many crossing opportunities and set pieces. I do not believe it is uncharitable to refer to MON's style of play as conservative, and in many ways it is difficult to argue with this strategy; when Villa are on their game, it is a thing of beauty to hold and a large part of the reason I fell so madly in love with them. With that being said, I likewise do not think it would be especially controversial to suggest that when Villa are not on their game they are incredibly frustrating to watch.

I want to be clear at the outset that this post is an exercise in thinking out loud; I've still got a tremendous amount to learn about this game, and I think an important part of the learning process is to get your thoughts out in the open. It's one thing to make mental observations to oneself while watching a match at 7:00 AM on a Saturday, but it's quite another to record said observations with a clearer head and some distance from whatever frustration caused those observations to be made in the first place. I do not claim to have anything approaching a solution (if one is even required) and I should once again state that Martin O'Neill has forgotten more about the sport while eating his breakfast this morning than I could ever hope to learn. (As an aside, I picture MON eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, with a big glass of chocolate milk to wash it all down. I have no idea why but it makes me happy.) I merely wish to express what I believe Villa would look like if they were to use some different formations and plans of attack. So, onward! To the land of hypothetical and completely non-committal analysis!

I do not think that it would be uncharitable to describe Villa's current style of play as conservative; that's not intended as a slight, just an observation. Clearly the strength of the team is goal prevention, having allowed just 25, fewer than any team not called Manchester United. The back line is clearly incredible, and unless you manage to find a free ball and capitalize on the counter-attack (which has been a problem at times) you're going to find anything approaching a quality chance at goal tough to come by. Clearly though, it's not all them.