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Villa embroiled in spying controversy with Crystal Palace

It seems as if Crystal Palace knew Aston Villa's unusual formation before the match at Selhurst Park, but how exactly?

Clive Mason

If you watched Aston Villa play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend, you probably noticed that Tony Pulis' club had an answer for everything that Paul Lambert's side threw at them. Most of us likely chalked that up to the fact that Villa are 1) terrible and 2) fairly predictable.

It seems that Palace had detailed knowledge of precisely how Paul Lambert would line up the squad that day, according to the Mirror. That, in and of itself, wouldn't be too surprising, except for the fact that the Villa squad who took the pitch that day was decidedly different than almost any we've seen this season. If you recall, Villa lined up in a 3-5-2/5-3-2 that looked something like this:

football formations

The exclusion of Andi Weimann and Marc Albrighton came as a bit of a surprise, and no manager in their right mind could predict the use of three center backs against a team with an attack like that of Palace. Worse still is the fact that the Crystal Palace players had this up well before the official lineups were released. The evidence comes because a Mirror photographer was able to capture images of the sheets in the locker room before the match.

So the fact that Palace had this formation perfectly and included some rather good (and damning) scouting reports is fairly strong evidence that they came by the information in an untoward way. If so, it is definitely a breach of the rules of the Premier League, and certainly well outside the bounds of good sportsmanship.

Adding to the problem is the fact that this is the second time Palace have been linked with such accusations. The first coming the week before from Cardiff City who got thumped by the Eagles 0-3 in Wales.

If the accusations are true, there could be major ramifications. Assume that Palace only managed a draw in either match (or lost) and suddenly the table looks entirely different. Villa don't enter this hellish week coming off of four straight losses, and perhaps things at the club don't look so dire. Even one more point at this stage would certainly be enough to assure Aston Villa of safety, and three would mean we could all stop caring until the summer transfer window opens.

Nevertheless, unless the League or the FA plan on doing something about this, Villa will just have to live with their position in the table. In all honesty, they way the club has been playing, it wouldn't have been crazy to see Crystal Palace so thoroughly dominate the match even if they had worn blindfolds. Still, though, these are worrisome accusations, and they could lead to some pretty major consequences. We'll be sure to keep you abreast of any developments.