Paul Lambert Tactics – Time for a fresh approach at Villa Park?
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein’s famous quote was most certainly apocryphal, but if the genius physicist had actually uttered those immortal words, then I’m pretty sure he had Paul Lambert’s tactics at Villa Park in mind.
Attending Villa Park at the moment has something of a ground-hog day feel to it, in that the same frustrations build up as Lambert’s men huff and puff to break opposition teams down. Is it time for something, or perhaps even someone new? Could Paul Lambert give Niklas Helenius and Alex Tonev the opportunity to provide much-needed creativity against Everton this weekend?
In respect of Tonev, it was a brief, ten minute cameo against Spurs, but there were signs that the young winger might be the man to feature more regularly if he can add a creative spark to Villa’s home performances. Tonev had one shot, one shot on target, a successful dribble and a threatening cross during his cameo appearance and he looked eager to get on the ball and add momentum to the team.
Tonev’s manager, Paul Lambert, certainly needs a new plan as the players themselves are beginning to become frustrated. Fabian Delph lamented,
“We will go back to the drawing board and look at what we’ve done wrong and we’ll come back next week hopefully a bit stronger.”
Aston Villa have now won 3, drawn 1 and lost 4, and whilst Lambert’s team have accumulated a respectable amount of points against the likes of Arsenal, Man City and Norwich, the manager needs to ensure that Villa become a more effective team at home against smaller clubs.
Villa’s lack of attacking threat is clear as the team averages three shots on target per game, whilst enjoying a diminished share of possession with 41%. Fans frustrations contain the nagging annoyance that Villa failed to buy an attacking midfielder in the summer, exacerbated by the fact that Tonev is sitting on the sidelines, and Grealish and Carruthers are farmed out on loan.
In terms of tactics, Villa are desperately in need of new ideas.
Mourinho’s Villa-stopping Blueprint
Premier League managers Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rogers have identified a tactic to stifle Aston Villa’s counter attacks in both home and away matches. Mourinho set out to play with relatively withdrawn fullbacks at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea were in attack. Chelsea nullified Villa’s counter-attacking threat reasonably well in transition as Mourinho’s full backs didn’t over-commit offensively. It was a simple and effective tactic, and one which Brendan Rogers then copied.
The tactic worked for Brendan Rogers at Villa Park where Villa routinely struggle, but the tactics success in an away match is perhaps more worrying. Villa have picked up more wins in away matches under Lambert than they have at home, and the team rely heavily on the effectiveness of their counter attacks in away games (such as in the matches away to Liverpool and Everton last season for example).
Jose Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best, but you don’t have to be the best coach in the world to work out how to put the brakes on Villa’s attacking play at the moment. In any event, Villa’s counter attacks were something that Mourinho focused on prior to the game at Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea manager gave the impression that he had taken a cursory glance at Villa’s tactics but hadn’t seen much in them to worry him,
“Last season they had more points away from home than at Villa Park. They are a team with qualities to play away, to play the counter-attack game they played at the Emirates.”
After the match, Mourinho congratulated himself on his simple but effective tactic of stifling Villa’s main weapon of attack, “We killed their counter attacks because we played with great balance between the lines – we were very good.”
Mourinho abstractly added, “I thought I might need Azpilicueta as he is very fast for Villa’s counter-attack situations,” but Mourinho didn’t need Azpilicueta.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers likewise set out his game plan well in advance of the match at Villa Park and he also came away with three points. “It’s just about trying to control the counter-attack, they have got fast and energetic players,” said Rogers.
What is kind of frustrating about Mourinho’s and Roger’s comments (other than having your team’s short-comings listed in public), is that Villa did not adapt or modify their game plan sufficiently in response. Arsenal, for example, were an easier opponent for Villa as Arsenal leave a lot of space in behind when they have possession. Click here for Page Two