It really cannot be overstated; without Christian Benteke, Aston Villa are a shell of their former selves. By no means was this a team of world beaters, but at least they had recorded wins against sides like Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Now, they look more likely to lose eight of their final nine games than to take a point at home from (just promoted last year) Hull City. Since losing star striker Benteke, Villa have struggled to score, only netting two in four games without the Belgian.
Paul Lambert has gotten his tactics wrong in recent weeks. His preferred 4-3-3 formation works when he has a dynamic forward like Benteke up top, but not so much when a player like Grant Holt fills in. Something that hasn't helped the Villans lately either has been the play of the back four. Earlier in the season, the defense was a point of pride for the team, looking very organized and disciplined at times. However, they have conceded four goals on three of the last six games, and have looked anything but reliable. Nathan Baker has been error-prone. Even the usual rock at the back Ron Vlaar has made mistakes. Brad Guzan probably made the worst error of his career last week, but as I said in yesterday's Holtecast, it is the exception rather than the rule. We know that the midfield needs help and hopefully that will addressed in the summer, but for now Lambert has to play the hand he has been dealt.
The 4-3-3 doesn't work as well without Benteke as the focal point. For this reason, I feel that the team should rely more on the midfield. Matt Lowton has been a good crosser of the ball and should be included in the squad for this reason, along with the fact that he is more reliable defensively than Leandro Bacuna. Marc Albrighton has been very positive recently as well. Hopefully we won't be seeing much of Baker for the rest of the year, but honestly who knows with Lambert.
I picked a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield this time. Albrighton starts up top at right forward alongside Gabby Agbonlahor. Bacuna should play at the top of the diamond, his energy as well as attacking talents could be better utilized there compared to at right back. Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi, and Ashley Westwood all keep their places in the midfield. Ciaran Clark is in for Baker.
Subs from: Steer, Baker, Tonev, Weimann, Robinson, Luna, Holt.
Who would you trust to score these vital goals to save Villa's season? Let us know in the comments!
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