Flashback to the match against Leicester City last Sunday. It's the 66th minute. Carles Gil has just scored a fantastic goal, giving Aston Villa a deserved 2 goal lead over the Foxes. He is promptly substituted off for Jordan Ayew. Gil looked tired, so I'm ok with the mercurial Spaniard leaving the pitch, at least at first. But for a striker? Tim Sherwood continues to make puzzling substitutions.
Thanks to FourFourTwo's Statszone, we can see how the match changed after Gil's untimely departure.
First, here are Leicester City's passes:
Next, here are Villa's:
In addition to having a much lower rate of success than their opponents, it's easy to see that many of the passes played were long, and from the defensive areas of the pitch.
Finally, here are the team stats from the final 25 minutes or so. Ignore the possession, as it wasn't calculated for some reason. I've calculated what it would be (team passes complete ÷ total completed passes). Leicester had 59.6 percent possession, leaving just 40.4 percent for Aston Villa. Also, I'm not sure there were that many tackles in this portion of the game.
Nine shots to one. That basically tells the story of what happened in the final stages of that match. Of course we know Leicester scored three goals, and walked away with all three points. Coming into the match, most Villans would have been happy with a point, myself included. But up two, that's a match you need to be winning.
Back to what I was saying about Gil. He totally dictated play, and it's something we've seen from him in almost every match he's been used. What it means is that he needs to start against West Bromwich Albion, as this West Midlands Derby is crucial. Elis Sandford dubbed it "Win or die." I completely agree.
Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sánchez worked well in central midfield, but the absence of Idrissa Gana left a considerable hole. Provided he is fit, he should start with those two. Defensively, Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott were also mostly good, but like Sánchez, tired late in the day due to the hectic pace of play. This takes me to my point about bringing on Ayew. I wasn't upset about him coming on (although his performance was once again subpar), but more so that it wasn't Ciaran Clark. Just park the bus and the Claret and Blues at least come away with a point.
Jordan Veretout is an interesting situation. We haven't seen a lot of him so far, but theoretically he should be one of the first players to come off the bench when a central midfield presence is needed. He should be on the bench again, as should Leandro Bacuna. Alan Hutton replaced the Dutchman when the score was level at two goals apiece. That's when you use an attacking sub, Timmy. Neither of the right backs were particularly effective. Can we try an experiment? Let's shift Richards to right back and put Clark in central defence.
Up top, it was a great game to use Gabby Agbonlahor as a lone striker, due to the slow central defenders employed by Leicester City. Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans are slightly more mobile than Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, but it should still be Agbonlahor or Ayew in there rather than Gestede. Only one striker can be afforded, because Villa have better attacking threats that must be played in the midfield. However, I'd use Scott Sinclair up top.
Jack Grealish scored last time out, but it wasn't necessarily one of his better performances. Even so, he starts. Unless Adama Traoré is fully fit, it's hard to see him cracking the eleven. Therefore, I'd pair Grealish and Gil behind the lone striker, allowing for more steel in midfield.
The only player that really concerns me in attack for the Baggies is Salomón Rondón. If you don't know him, he was just bought from Zenit St. Petersburg over the summer, and is an absolute tank. He will be a physical test for any central defenders Villa throw out there. Well, there's also Saido Berahino, depending on how much he hates West Brom.
Aston Villa (4-3-2-1): Brad Guzan; Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Ciaran Clark, Jordan Amavi; Carlos Sánchez, Ashley Westwood, Idrissa Gana; Carles Gil, Jack Grealish; Scott Sinclair.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Boaz Myhill; Craig Dawson, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt; Callum McManaman, Claudio Yacob, James Morrison, Craig Gardner; Salomón Rondón, Saido Berahino.
Here's a visual representation, via lineupbuilder.com.
Who would you start if you were Tim Sherwood? Let us know in the comments! And hit us up on Twitter!