This season, the defense has been much improved for Aston Villa. The midfield has made strides as well, particularly due to the development of Fabian Delph. Delph has become a box-to-box dynamo, finally showing his potential and justifying the price that was paid to bring him in from Leeds United. The defense has been done by committee, with the unit as a whole consistently having a higher level of performance. The forwards have shown flashes of brilliance. Obviously the loss of Christian Benteke has been monumental. But Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann have been slumping as well. Someone else needs to step up at that position and provide goals, but also the service needs to come from players at other positions. Hopefully Grant Holt doesn't play. I want to see Callum Robinson get a chance, but don't see it happening.
I talked in yesterday's Holteast about the lineup that i would use. However, I have since changed my mind. Last week's 3-5-2 (or 5-3-2) was utterly useless and shouldn't be used again, especially against formations with one striker. The 4-3-3 Lambert usually deploys hasn't worked without Benteke. A 4-4-2 could work and the manager may use that, but I have elected to go for something completely different. After debating to myself a bunch of formations that would possibly work or not work for whatever reasons, I decided to pick a formation that we have never seen and probably will never see Paul Lambert employ; the 4-3-3 with a false 9.
Of course there are reasons this may not work. Teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich use a false 9. Okay, Villa aren't anywhere near those teams in terms of quality, and the reason they have success is because they can pass the ball around for days before finding an opening in the defense. I think that it could be used to effect in a different capacity though.
In the first meeting between these two clubs, Villa enjoyed a peasants share of possession with only 21.9%. Completing a mere 103 passes, more midfielders could help solve this problem. Yes, long ball worked the first time. It will probably not work again. No, I don't expect Villa to win the possession battle. But as Barcelona and Bayern show, when you have the ball, your opponent cannot score. Keeping the ball 40% of the time could be huge, and may be enough to get at least a draw. The Villans could still be dangerous on the counter, which is a major strength of the team. Looking for outlets such as Leandro Bacuna, Marc Albrighton, and Gabby Agbonlahor on the counter could prove effective, while deploying players who are better at passing the ball may also lead to fewer turnovers.
With Bacuna deployed up front, Matt Lowton keeps his spot at right back. The rest of the backline remains the same as what we have seen most of this year with Nathan Baker preferred to Ciaran Clark. A first choice midfield is normal for Villa, and Lambert will choose a decently familiar forward corps with Agbonlahor wide left and Albrighton wide right.
Subs from: Steer, Helenius, Robinson, Weimann, Sylla, Clark, Bennett.
Let me know in the comments what you would have done differently!