Dilemmas of the Aston Villa Starting XI
With the six signings so far giving Paul Lambert the makings of a proper Aston Villa squad, two key decisions for the Villa boss await. The first, what will be his preferred centre-back partnership and also, who will fill the attacking-midfield berth – the ‘No.10’ slot.
Initially, the Aston Villa PR machine was quick to promote Ron Vlaar’s Dutch nickname ‘Concrete Ron’ to fans, giving supporters the belieF that we had solved the sieve-like nature of Villa’s back four. An injury to Vlaar mid-season, didn’t help matters, but at times, especially at set pieces, the Dutch centre-back has been found wanting.
With the signing of Jores Okore, the initial consensus was it would be Okore and Vlaar making up Villa’s starting centre-back partnership, but the impressive performances of Nathan Baker in pre-season has complicated matters some what.
The press have hinted that Lambert will go with Okore and Baker as his starting pair against Malaga. If so, it maybe just to give Okore a proper run out in the Villa back four, having missed several preseason games. Vlaar has fitness and games under his belt, although at the same time, the press reports hint at Lambert having no room for sentimentality in choosing his best pairing.
While Vlaar brings rare experience to the Villa team, the all-action dynamic pairing of Okore and Baker could be the way forward and definitely worth a trial.
Last season, the front three apart from the odd assist from Lowton and Westwood, largely had to fashion their own chances with little attacking support from the Villa midfield. It suited the team’s attacking prowess on the counter-attack in away games, but the team’s woeful home form, suggests an extra dimension is needed from midfield to unlock the door at times.
The transfer rumour mill has suggested that Hiroshi Kiyotake could be that man, but until now, Villa haven’t made a public bid for the midfielder’s services and the fact remains, he currently doesn’t wear the Villa shirt.
When asked about the Kiyotake situation at the recent Villa fan forum, Lambert, after explaining only an inquiry has been made, name-checked Andreas Weimann and Aleksandar Tonev, as potentially playing the role.
Weimann’s endeavour is mainly suited to his forward-play; finding space and running the channels, rather than being a deeper midfield influence that unlocks opposition’s defences with an array of passing.
Certainly for our money, Aleksandar Tonev, at the moment, would be the man most likely for the job with his alertness and skill set.
When you hear what Stilyian Petrov had to say when discussing his Bulgarian counterpart in a recent interview, the 23-year-old Bulgarian sounds like he could do the job.
“I think the fans will fall in love with him the way he plays,” Petrov told the Daily Mirror. “Tonev is really exciting…he plays with his heart and works for the team. He is two-footed and has something to offer to this team.”
While classed as a winger, as he’s showed already in pre-season, he has an eye for a pass and also isn’t afraid to have a shot, so would suit a more forward midfield position well.
Gary Gardner may be another option, although you’d fancy him to have a more central midfield berth.
The Malaga game will certainly go along way to helping Lambert make these two decisions. As a Villa supporter, it’s finally nice to have a squad, where there are actual options. UTV
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