By Richard Wakefield
Jonathan Kodjia continued his inspired form on Tuesday as his fifth minute strike was enough to topple a tough QPR team. The 1-0 has drawn Villa one point closer to the play-offs, but with only six games remaining, promotion is still a long-shot dream for next season.
This weekend’s opponents Burton Albion, weren’t given much chance of staying up at the start of the campaign. Despite the critics, the Brewers have defied the odds and have nearly done enough to secure their place in next year’s Championship season.
The fixture doesn’t promise to be a high scoring thriller as both teams will come in to this game expecting to keep a clean sheet. Burton have kept three clean sheets in eight games whilst Villa have only conceded once in eight games. The tight affair may suit Burton more than Villa, so it’s time that Bruce dips in to a new bag of tricks and pulls out a new way to get the three points the fans have come to expect.
Here’s three ways of making it happen…
Despite the points flooding in, the major criticism of Bruce is his style of play. He’s made Villa in to a dogged side which is incredibly tough to break down who are also effective and clinical in front of goal. This tactic has worked against the Rotherham’s and Wigan’s of the league, as they didn’t pose much of a threat at either side of the pitch, but it may not work against a well-drilled defensive machine like Burton.
Long balls in to the box and shooting from long range is Burton’s bread and butter when it comes to defending. Quick pressing and closing down any potential threat is hard wired in to the Burton players and will make it incredibly difficult for Villa to find a breakthrough.
Burton’s previous match in mid-week was against Newcastle United, arguably the best team in the league, and they could only manage to score once from a superb individual long shot by Matt Ritchie. This shows that in order to break this stubborn Burton defence Bruce has got to allow Villa’s more creative players like Adomah, Hourihane and Kodjia to express themselves. Giving these players room to breathe outside of the tactical set up will surely see Villa reap the rewards of three points.
The approach of taking each match as they come is a philosophy many managers take in football. The thought process is evident in Bruce’s style as he changes the formation of the team based on whether or not he expects Villa to dominate possession or dig their heels in.
However this may be fatal error on Saturday as Burton have a really bad habit of changing their formation on a regular basis. After 40 games in the Championship, Burton have played eight different formations making it a change of shape every five games on average.
To counter this, Bruce needs to ignore any temptation to change the formation that has been working over the last eight games and stick to his guns. Standing firm and resisting deviation should restore some consistency back in to this match. The familiarity in approach that Villa’s players have in comparison to their opponents should give them a distinct advantage.
Although a home win to nil against QPR was welcomed by every Villa fan, the victory was far from convincing; the Hoops threatened on multiple occasions and as against Norwich, Villa looked out of ideas going forward.
Villa need to change up their attacking style if they are to break Burton down and although allowing more individual expression will be a key component in success, it will not be the biggest factor.
Against QPR, 50% of Villa’s attacks were committed down the right flank. Alan Hutton and Leandro Bacuna were seen as Villa’s more creative players on Tuesday, despite the squad containing Lansbury in the middle, Amavi on the left-wing and Hourihane on the bench.
The Frenchman hardly saw the ball in the last fixture and has consistently received the ball less than his counterparts on the other flank all season. This statistic is surprising given the attacking deficiencies Alan Hutton possesses. Whether Hutton has improved or not over the last few week, Villa’s build-up play must be split evenly across both flanks and even directly through the middle.
Amavi though must commit defenders more and try to get round the back of them, but more importantly improve his delivery.
With Villa varying their attacking play, keeping Burton guessing will undoubtedly see Villa extend their run of form to eight wins in nine games.
Follow Richard on Twitter at @_RichardAVFC
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