Without getting into too much detail, last week was rough. Bournemouth weren’t supposed to be good, they, in fact, are not good, and Villa have no business losing to them. Toss in a controversy, be it imagined, real, or somewhere in-between, with Tyrone Mings and Steven Gerrard and you’ve got some “Sunderland ‘Till I Die” style drama. It really wasn’t supposed to go this way after what felt like a rock solid pre-season. It’s only one game and given that, there’s no reason to panic, but woof.
FLASHBACK: During Everton’s trip to Villa Park last season, The Toffees unbeaten run was ended in the span of nine minutes thanks to goals from Matty Cash, Lucas Digne (OG), and Leon Bailey.
On to Everton, this week’s opponent, and my younger brother’s team of choice. Add in that they’re nicknamed after candy and they’re one of the most historically likable non-Villa teams around. Players to look out for from the good blue team include defenders James Tarkowski and Mason Holgate, keeper Jordan Pickford, and midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure.
For Villa this week, one can only hope there are changes in play and depending on your point of view, formation and team selection. What I’d like to see is a slightly narrow 4-2-3-1 with Emi Martinez in goal, a back four of Lucas Digne at left-back, Tyrone Mings and Diego Carlos partnering at center-back, and Matty Cash at right-back. Whatever the cause for sitting Mings last week, it’s become a distraction and it needs to be dealt with and put to bed. In the midfield, my choice would be Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara for the deeper two of the three and John McGinn playing in the number 10 position. To McGinn’s left would be Philippe Coutinho and to his right, Emi Buendia (I’d be equally happy with Leon Bailey, but like everyone else I want to see Emi play more). Ollie Watkins would start at striker.
This is all well and good, but this is probably not what Gerrard’s going with. We’re likely to get a Christmas tree 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 or, my preference between the two, a 4-4-2 diamond. The back four will likely be the same as last week, though there’s a chance Mings comes on for Konsa. In the midfield, we’ll see Kamara holding with Douglas Luiz and John McGinn. The number 10 position will go to Coutinho, though I’d love to see Emi, and Ollie Watkins partnering with Danny Ings in attack. If Gerrard opts for the 4-3-3 over the diamond with little changes, well that would be the pits. Swap out Leon Bailey with Ings and put him on the right and Coutinho on the left.
PREDICTION: Given last week’s results, it’s hard to see Villa trouncing Everton. Last year’s relegation bridesmaids are improved and are a better side than Bournemouth, but I’m inclined to see the Cherries match as an aberration more than a sign of things to come. It’s wishful, but not unrealistic thinking and with that it’s a 2-1 win for Aston Villa.