Aston Villa’s Best First XI
MOMS has never been in favour of the transfer window closing after the season starts. It actually doesn’t make sense, teams should start a season with all there players in place and not be distracted by the wheeling and dealing during the start of the season.
Certainly this has disrupted the focus at Villa Park, as August became more about getting players in than points on the board.
Di Matteo is now eight league games deep into the Championship season and he still arguably hasn’t actually been able to play what in MOMS opinion would be his most balanced and effective first XI.
Injuries have played their part, but the late arrivals in the window coupled with an international break hasn’t helped the likes of Mile Jedinak and Albert Adomah settle in.
So far, trying to shoe horn in four strikers because they are perhaps the more talented of the players available, isn’t necessarily the best policy. The best players, playing out of position, will not necessarily be as effective as a team of 11 that know their specific roles and specialise in them.
However, with Albert Adomah, Aaron Tshibola, Mile Jedinak, Ross McCormack, Jack Grealish and Rudy Gestede all missing at least one game in recent fixtures, it’s been hard for the Villa boss to play a settled team.
While a better points return was to be expected regardless, as that’s what squads are for, with the new Villa team still in its infancy an easing in period was to be expected.
So, what is Di Matteo’s best team?
For MOMS money, the below line-up would be Di Matteo’s best starting line-up. While it’s not necessarily the formation MOMS would choose, it’s more a reflection of the players that Villa currently have in the squad.
It’s pretty much the only option – Gollini. MOMS has already stated that Villa should have brought in another keeper to either be number 1 or perhaps a better backup and more competition for Gollini.
After their first few games for Villa it’s understandable why James Chester and Tommy Elphick were perhaps surplus to requirements at their Premier League clubs. That’s not a criticism, more a reflections on the mixed reviews on them being a centre-back pairing. Do they lack a physicality when Villa are under the cosh? Although, there’s enough promise there to suggest given a few more games, the partnership will be nothing to worry about.
If Nathan Baker wasn’t his own worst enemy when it came to injuries (how many times is it now that he hasn’t made it to half-time?), then he would still be in with a shout of starting. Certainly now that Di Matteo experimented with three centre-backs against Ipswich. If Baker is fit for the Newcastle game, it will be interesting to see if he goes for the same formation again.
Ritchie De Laet’s injury is an obvious blow, as Villa now have to face their recent right-back issue once again, which he was meant to be the solution to. If only Leandro Bacuna’s delivery was better (terrible again against Ipswich), he would probably be the best option.
There’s still a question mark over Villa having depth in the middle and having a real driving force or creative spark. Having watched Mile Jedinak in the last two games, he seems content to tick by in a defensive midfield position rarely venturing over the half-way line. Still, you would expect him to be the foil for any other centre midfielder in there.
Aaron Tshibola potentially could and should be that man, but will he shake off his ‘sicknote’ reputation? He’s worryingly already carried over his injury curse at Reading last season into his Villa career. Hopefully giving him an extra weeks rest, after he was reported to be fit this week, will mean he’s back for real this time.
He’s been tidy from what he’s demonstrated so far, offering up clues that he can become more of a box-to-box force in the middle of the park.
Jack Grealish has been making positive steps knowing there is more responsibility on his shoulders. His goals already will help his confidence, but he still needs to impose himself more on games. He is vital at the moment, as he helps to link up play further up the field, which only Ross McCormack seems to be able to do at the moment.
Albert Adomah hopefully will be the right-sided player that we’ve desperately needed to balance things up and give the team more threat down the right flank. Even in his cameo against Ipswich, he also showed a willingness to track back, which is a criticism he faced at boro. Also, Grealish tracked back and got stuck in against Forest, which was pleasing to see.
Ashley Westwood started off the game promisingly against Ipswich before returning to his own tricks. If Jedinak plays as a DM, Westwood just can’t impose himself on the midfield enough and his default setting is too cautious.
Villa need someone to drive the team forward and be an inspiration from the middle of the park. We might not have got such a player yet…
Villa have options up front, but that shouldn’t mean playing them all at the same time, as we’ve already mentioned.
Jordan Ayew is frustrating maverick rather than a player that fuses and adds to the team. He can make things happen and is hard to shake off the ball, but he’s often left casting a frustrated figure, as he’s often a victim of his own single-mindedness.
At the moment, I’d use him as an impact player off the bench or when the team wants to go more 4-3-3.
Gestede is another option that has potential to switch Villa’s style, if plan A isn’t working. He needs to be sharper and get into the box quicker for crosses, but he’s a potential starter option like Ayew, depending on the opposition.
Jonathan Kodjia has already demonstrated that he is top dog in terms of being the all-action centre forward. Surely it’s better to have him down the middle than coming in off the right-flank.
I think Ross McCormack playing behind him in the hole to link up the likes of Grealish and Adomah coming forward and also to act as a foil for Kodjia would be idea. Allowing him more of a free role to orchestrate attacks would potentially help Villa break teams down at home too.
Hopefully, starting from the upcoming fixture against Newcastle, Di Matteo will be able to pick from a fuller selection of players, so supporters can finally see what he actually thinks is his best first team.
What do you think? Drop your first XI in the comment section below.