This week, we saw Aston Villa's Belgian striker Christian Benteke get back to playing, and scoring, in the U21 team's win over Bolton. The striker may not be available for Saturday's clash with third placed Manchester City, but for the intention of tactics let's say he will be available. Same for Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar, and fellow central defender Jores Okore. If these players are fully fit, the Claret and Blues stand a chance against the Citizens.
Manuel Pellegrini has employed a 4-4-2 in his time in Manchester. They have two world class strikers in Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko, and Stevan Jovetić is the third option. For that reason, Pellegrini deploys two strikers, opting to shift David Silva out wide to the left opposite Jesús Navas.
Against two strikers, especially ones of this quality, a system with three centre backs is going to give Villa the most defensive stability. Creating a 3v2 in that area of the pitch will be necessary, since the midfield will have to deal with the forward runs of the City players, who will surely be dominant in possession. Having the spare man at the back makes a lot of sense since you are then able to man mark the two strikers while still having a centre back free. Kompany is always an aerial threat on set pieces, and having another big body in there will help in that aspect too.
Ultimately, City will have too much firepower even for an improved Villa deface. There is always the chance to nick one or two on the break, and with Benteke in the lineup anything is possible. Playing Andi Weimann behind the striker would give him a chance to use his energy to press the City defence when in possession, and not having him as the main central forward will allow him to drift, and possibly pop up in the right place at the right time, like against Hull City this year.
What would you do if you were Paul Lambert? Let us know in the comments!