Last Sunday, Aston Villa beat Leicester City in the FA Cup thanks to a determined second-half performance. It was a poor first half, but after new manager Tim Sherwood addressed the team in the dressing room during the break, we saw positive football being played and two goals were scored to produce the necessary result. A win at Villa Park.
They call him "Tactics Tim." He likes to play a 4-2-3-1 formation with no defensive midfielders. The stats show his team draws (18%) less regularly than they lose (24%). In his time at Tottenham, Spurs suffered three four-goal defeats; to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City. However, he beat the teams that he was supposed to. This is important at Villa.
The second half against Leicester showed that this team is capable of scoring goals. After netting last week, Leandro Bacuna could start in the league this week. Scott Sinclair did well to score as well, but I'm not entirely sure he is match-fit yet, so the loanee could come off the bench again. Although Sherwood is known for playing members of the former youth team, it is worth noting that he was the Under 21's manager at Spurs before taking over the first team duty, it could be that he was comfortable with the players and/or trusted them to follow his instructions rather than Sherwood having knowledge that Harry Kane was the next... well, Harry Kane. Therefore, I'm not confident that Jack Grealish gets a ton of playing time, at least right away. Surely the youngster will get a chance, but it may be from the bench initially. Fabian Delph is a player who should thrive in a system where he is allowed to venture forward, but I don't know how it's going to pan out for players like Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sánchez. Tom Cleverley may even start. The only shoo-in in midfield is Carles Gil, and the Spaniard should have a great opportunity to establish a creative presence.
Up front, Christian Benteke will be the man. Andi Weimann wasn't great last week, and even though Gabby Agbonlahor had surgery and is back in training, neither should start. But, one of them might do so on the left wing. Or it could be in a 4-4-2, which suits either of the two better than being pushed out wide. With the injuries that the Potters have, it's important for whomever gets the start to have a good day.
Since Sherwood likes to push the whole team forward and deploy a high defensive line, the back four is very important. Villa's has been good this season, and they will have to continue to do so if this team wants to escape relegation. With the high line, speed is an important attribute. Jores Okore is the fastest central defender on the team, although Ron Vlaar matched Eden Hazard for pace at one point last season, showing he is more than capable. Unfortunately, this could mean we see less of Ciaran Clark. The 25-year old Irishman has been very solid this season, demonstrated by his tackle on Jeff Schlupp where he floored the Leicester midfielder while winning the ball legally. Out wide, Alan Hutton has been very consistent this year, but Sherwood might not like him from their time at Spurs. Plus, he may try Bacuna in defence. Hopefully he sticks with the Scot. On the left, Aly Cissokho looks like he is back to his days at Lyon or Porto rather than Liverpool or Valencia. Hopefully Sherwood isn't playing FIFA and just looking at pace, or he may choose to go with Kieran Richardson.
Whatever the new boss decides, his squad will be going against a Stoke team that is banged up to say the least. Bojan and Peter Odemwinge are both out for the long term with ACL tears. Ryan Shawcross is out for the near future, and Marc Muniesa Muniesa is as well after being hurt in the FA Cup loss to Blackburn last weekend. Manager Mark Hughes said that Stephen Ireland, Jonathan Walters, Erik Pieters, Marc Wilson and Peter Crouch all have been struggling to train. But, Hughes added that they would "go to Aston Villa with all guns blazing."
Possible starting lineups:
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1):
Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, Aly Cissokho; Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Leandro Bacuna, Carles Gil, Scott Sinclair; Christian Benteke.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1):
Jack Butland; Andrew Wilkinson, Philipp Wollscheid, Marc Wilson, Erik Pieters; Steven N'Zonzi, Glenn Whelan; Marko Arnautović, Mame Biram Diouf, Victor Moses; Peter Crouch.
What lineup do you think Sherwood will go with? What would you do if you were in his position? Let us know in the comments!