What Tactical Changes did Gerrard Make Against Southampton
Back-to-back wins and clean sheets for Aston Villa… what happened?
As Aston Villa’s form faltered at the start of the season, one question fast became apparent among the Villa fanbase – can Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings play together?
With Emi Buendia one of Villa’s better performers during the poor run of form, the finger was pointing at the striking duo in terms of who would make way for the arriving Philippe Coutinho.
Some Villa supporters felt that ditching one of out of their two most expensive signings was going to lead to improvement. Was it just Twitter fantasy, or did they have a point?
Initially it had been Ings, with Villa playing a front three of Buendia, Watkins and Coutinho.
While it had crackled into life at times, especially in the 3-3 draw with Leeds United, it was noticeable that the midfield behind it struggled to find true balance and often left space for the opposition to exploit.
Watkins was then dropped for Ings, but that didn’t work.
It’s alright trying to find the latest scapegoat, but Villa now have a decent squad of players and the key is to utilise them to create a well balanced team across all areas of the pitch. Villa have certainly lacked balance in recent months. It’s no good demonstrating exciting attacking play, if it’s soon going to be undone by poor shape and a midfield that gifts teams space (again, see the 3-3 Leeds game for the example of that).
The secret of Villa’s recent back-to-back wins has actually been the return of the striking pair, with a diamond midfield shape behind them, with Coutinho at its tip in a free role.
It’s tough on the benched Buendia, but Gerrard’s solution to Villa underperforming has been what had initially been perceived as the problem.
With the talent of both Watkins and Ings, surely they just needed games together to forge their striking relationship? Of course, more thought had to go into the midfield set-up around them. Having one of them shoe-horned in out wider wasn’t ideal, so Villa needed a midfield structure to allow them to operate more centrally as a pair.
With Douglas Luiz centre of a base three of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsay, rather than an out-and-out DM, and with McGinn and Ramsay covering the runs of Villa’s full-backs and exercising more restraint with a stronger focus on the defensive side of their game, Villa now seem to have found a more solid midfield foundation.
Coutinho also has the freedom at the tip of the diamond to drop deeper into the midfield to pick up the ball, as he demonstrated a couple of times in the first 10 minutes against Southampton, including initially instigating Villa’s opener.
He also has the licence to scheme behind, around and in-between Villa’s front pair, which should cause opponents serious headaches.
On the latest podcast show, we look back at the 4-0 win over Southampton to find out how all the tweaks played out.
There’s also all the latest Villa news, Three Points, Media Muppets and the usual fun.
Listen to the Latest Show Below
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