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Tactics Talk: Man City 4-0 Aston Villa

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Disclaimer: This Tactics Talk column only covers the match up until 60 minutes at which point Villa were losing 3-0. I stopped watching on the basis that there is very rarely anything tactically important happening after that point in a game and there's only so much time you can plough into a trainwreck of a side like this one.

First-half: Villa can just about defend if they have five defenders

Rémi Garde stuck with the 5-3-2, a formation that technically should have matched quite well against Manchester City's 4-4-2, by putting three central defenders against two strikers, allowing for some control of the wings and also maintaining an attacking threat.

In the first-half the defensive side of that proved just about true as the three centre-backs did just about enough to keep Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero from scoring, though Bony's poor finishing had a lot to do with it.

However that was about the only aspect that worked. Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho clearly aren't comfortable as wing-backs, constantly dropping too deep. This was just about OK for Cissokho who was up against Jesus Navas and could guide him inside, but Hutton was lost as to whether he was controlling Aguero or Silva and got nowhere near either of them.

Meanwhile the midfield and strikers were dragged deeper and deeper, though partly through their own fault. Gabriel Agbonlahor was particularly poor, doing nothing to pressure the City defence and constantly allowing them outballs into the defence, while Jordan Ayew at least pushed them back a little.

The midfield was little better. Idrissa Gana was typically active in winning the ball but then hurried and careless in giving it back while Ashley Westwood and Jordan Veretout were simply ineffective. Villa managed a single shot on target via Jordan Ayew who did well to shift the ball onto his right foot, but apart from that there was nothing to stop City sweeping forward again and again.

Second-half: Villa can't defend with five defenders if two of them are Richards and Hutton

Less than five minutes into the second-half Villa conceded twice, both times due to a complete lack of defensive co-ordination.

First Navas sucked the entire Villa backline to within a yard of the touchline, leaving Silva with space behind. He was calm enough to wait for players to come towards him and square the ball to Yaya Toure who placed it home.

The problems of the first-half when Hutton didn't know whether he was against Aguero or Silva then repeated themselves for the second and third goals.

For the second goal, a through-ball towards Aguero, who snuck in ahead of Hutton, caused Richards to panic and lunge at the ball but he only managed to let it bounce off the Argentine striker and in. Had Hutton spotted the danger, or Richards left it to Guzan, it could easily have been cleared.

The third goal came from exactly the same place when clever interplay between Aguero and Silva saw Richards and Hutton both fail to track the return chip which let Aguero volley the ball past Guzan at his near post.


I then stopped watching because there was simply no point. Alan Hutton and Micah Richards are terrible defenders even when part of a five-man defence. The side was set up to get dragged deeper and deeper before conceding, which duly happened.

Garde must either reset the side, start playing some of the younger players and drop whoever is a problem in the backroom, or walk away and allow someone else to come in and do it before the summer.