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Tactical Thoughts from Aston Villa's Pre-Season

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It is of course far too early to start drawing tactical conclusions, with pre-season friendlies being primarily about fitness, many first-team players still out of the side and moves yet to be made on the transfer market.

On the other hand the season starts in two weeks. So even if it is too early, Tim Sherwood must already be thinking about how he intends to start the season. So here's a few conclusions...

A move away from the striker pair?

With Christian Benteke's move, it seems like Villa might be moving away from the forward duo that Sherwood favoured towards the end of the season. The pre-season has seen experiments with a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, with a variety of players such as Scott Sinclair and Callum Robinson flanking Libor Kozak, who seems happy to swap positions within the front line.

Of course this all depends on what happens with a new striker and Gabriel Abgonlahor, especially considering that Gabby's most productive time in a Villa shirt has always been as part of a front two, preferably with a big target man. However a Gabby-Kozak partnership seems unlikely, nor are there any rumours of another big target man striker on the way. This may be the year that our longest-serving player drops to the bench.

Gueye is Delph's replacement, not Cleverley's

When Idrissa Gueye came in, it initially looked like he was replacing Tom Cleverley after he went to Everton, but it seems clear now that he will slot perfectly into the gap left by Fabian Delph. A left-sided box to box midfielder who loves bringing the ball from deep and linking up with the attack, his performance against Walsall looked like Delph at his best.

As for Cleverley's replacement, it seems more likely that his all-rounder role will be split. Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sánchez will be looking to secure a role at the base of midfield, while Jack Grealish, Carles Gil, Joe Cole or even Charles N'Zogbia are all options as creative attackers. Gary Gardner will also hopefully be in the mix at some point - injuries permitting.

With Amavi, the attack goes down the left-side

Watching Jordan Amavi play at left-back after Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson is like seeing a Lamborghini replace your family sedan. He's a natural at taking players on, overlapping and overloading the defence.

Sherwood forged a dangerous triangle of Delph-Grealish-Benteke down the left and there are encouraging signs that Amavi-Gueye-Sinclair/Grealish or another striker could be a similarly lethal combination.

Bacuna is a not a full-back OR a winger - he's a wing-back

Many fans have clamoured for Leandro Bacuna to be pushed forward from his full-back position to a midfield position and Sherwood has tried him out there during this pre-season, but he simply doesn't have the touch or composure to work in tight spaces, beat his man and get the ball across the box like a winger.

Bacuna is good when he has the time and space to either run or whip a ball in like a free-kick from deep. He would be perfect if Villa are playing a 3-5-2 (see my analysis of the formation here) when he has cover behind him and space in front of him. Otherwise he has to be a squad player, perhaps used as a full-back when the other side are playing a narrow midfield with little threat on the wings.

But if Sherwood wants real attacking width on the right, he'll have to venture onto the transfer market again this summer, because Alan Hutton probably isn't the answer.

So what do you guys think we can conclude from Villa's pre-season? Is it time to drop Gabby? How good can Amavi be? And what should we do about Hutton and Bacuna? Let me know in the comments!