Villa Selection Crisis?
‘Aston Villa facing selection crisis as Manchester United head to Villa Park’ read the headline in the Birmingham Mail of the latest article penned by Gregg Evans (who is swiftly becoming known as a Lambert apologist).
Evans opening line claimed Villa boss had a ‘selection crisis’ ahead of the Manchester United game. How so?
First things first, Tom Cleverley was not eligible to play against his parent club United, so listing him amongst the suspended is an empty gesture.
Of the two players who will actually miss the game through suspension, only Alan Hutton would be considered a miss. Kieran Richardson is a Villa bench-warmer at best.
So, who else is missing?
Jole Cole. Well, considering he’s only ever started two Villa league games, he’s hardly a big miss.
The injury prone Phillip Senderos and Nathan Baker absences only affect the strength on the bench with the Okore and Clark combination at centre-back rapidly becoming a fan’s favourite. A lot of supporters when asked on MOMS suggested that the young defensive combo should start ahead of Ron Vlaar against United. Thus, even on the bench Senderos and Baker’s absence wouldn’t be missed if Villa’s captain is sitting in for them.
Also injured is Libor Kozak, but he’s been injured for a year, so most fans have forgotten who he is, never mind missing him. Plus, he’s Benteke’s back-up man anyway.
That just leaves Ashley Westwood. With the return of Depth, Westwood is pretty much in a two-man fight with Carlos Sanchez for the final midfield berth, if Lambert plays any variation of his favoured 4-3-3.
Lambert would have a selection headache on his hands if Delph hadn’t come back ahead of schedule last week, as missing Westwood, Cleverley and Delph would have given the Villa midfield problems with a capital ‘P’.
If the alarm bells were really ringing, you’d think Lambert would have brought back Gary Gardner back from loan from Brighton. Certainly if Gardener is to have a Villa future, now would be a great opportunity to get involved and force his way into the reckoning. [MOMS Story on Gardner’s Villa Future post Brighton]
Formation Against United
The lazy selection decision against United would be to just play Bacuna in Westwood’s place in midfield in the typical Lambert line-up:
But both the return of Vlaar and Delph, as well as bringing relief, also gives the Villa boss real options against United.
He could push Ciaran Clark up into a defensive midfield berth with Vlaar at the back alongside Okore. This would mean Sanchez moving into the middle of the park next to Delph to give Villa more solidity in the middle of the park.
Still though, this may be a missed opportunity. United’s weakness is their defence and Lambert should focus on that.
Attack the Red Devils
There is an opportunity to have a go at United. A deeper sitting Delph and Sanchez would provide a foundation for playing two up top or someone like Weimann or N’Zogbia playing just off Benteke in the number 10 role.
Personally, I would give Grealish the start on the left. With a full house roaring him on, it could be an inspirational choice. Remember Bannan and Hogg in the centre of the park with Albrighton on the wing against United under Houllier in the 2-2 draw? It was proof that young players can rise to the occasion. As Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game, Villa should have been six or seven up.
Just Grealish’s presence would lift the home faithful and he would be a surprise package for United.
In a line behind Benteke, a trio of Gabby, Grealish and Weimann/N’Zogbia could also be given license to swap around throughout the game to keep the United backline on its toes.
Paul Lambert Tactics
One thing is for sure, Villa will lose against United if Lambert doesn’t come up with a plan beyond the usual inviting pressure for the counter.
Selections forced on Lambert this season have occasionally bore fruit, especially in the case of both Okore and Clark, hopefully this game will provide more enlightenment for the Villa boss.
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