Over the holidays of 2007 and 2008, while on a family trip to Italy, a bird dropped off its business on my head. Taking in an overcast day in northern Italy, enjoying the crisp air, and then what felt like lukewarm, runny yogurt slops down the crown of my head. This was in Lucca, a beautiful old city, but that feeling of the bird letting loose on my head is something I’ll never forget. Last week’s 1-0 loss to Watford felt like that, with ncredible optimism going in, especially given the Newcastle disappointment, and then you find a bird has pooped on your parade. There are a potpourri of reasons for the loss, some obvious and I’m certain some not as much. I’ll leave that to my 7500 compatriots to dive into, but it’s safe to say there are issues with the Villa midfield.
This week finds Aston Villa taking on Brighton & Hove Albion. While named after the bird and not Poseidon’s large adult son, Brighton is capable of giving Villa trouble. They’re also quite capable of losing as well. Over their last three matches, they bested Watford 2-0 at Vicarage Road, lost by two at Manchester United, and were blasted 3-0 at home to Burnley. Albion players to be on the lookout for are Marc Cucurella at left-back, Yves Bissouma in central midfield, and the attacking partnership of Leandro Trossard (four goals on the season) and Neal Maupay (eight goals on the season).
Mystery has seemingly returned to the Aston Villa team sheet, with the word seemingly carrying some weight. Gerrard could go with consistency and keep with the 4-3-2-1, try to compensate for Marvelous Nakamba’s absence with a 4-2-3-1, go 4-4-2, or just get weird and run with a 4-4-2 diamond formation. If this was FIFA, I’d try the latter, but I’m not Steven Gerrard and this isn’t FIFA.
In what is likely to be a variation of 4-3-2-1 and/or 4-2-3-1, Emi Martinez will once again start in goal. Ezri Konza will reprise his role at center-back with Tyrone Mings, while Lucas Digne features at left-back and Matty Cash at right-back. In midfield, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn will partner with either Douglas Luiz, Morgan Sanson, or Calum Chambers. I’d like to see Sanson get his chance against Brighton, and given the poor performance from Luiz against Watford, it wouldn’t be out of the question, but this feels like a want more than an expectation. Pencil in Luiz, but I’m genuinely intrigued to see what Gerrard does. Up front, Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendia will flank either Danny Ings or Ollie Watkins. Expect to see Ings given a bit of a run despite lackluster results last week.
PREDICTION: Villa should win this game, but I don’t feel nearly as confident about it as I should; a skittish 1-0 to the Villa.