Pre-season has thrown some surprises at us so far, but these are the things we’ve learned from Aston Villa’s games against Telford, Kidderminster, Walsall, Burton and West Ham.
Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand) // Follow us on Twitter (@claretandview)
Ritchie De Laet Puts Himself in the Picture
As mentioned in a previous article, if Bruce perseveres with a 3-5-2 system, De Laet is the perfect wing-back. Fast, defensively capable and possessing a good delivery, the Belgian ticks a lot of boxes to play the position.
In pre-season so far, the former Middlesbrough man has assisted three goals and scored one. Admittedly, his goal against Burton was made easier after the Brewers left a gaping hole in midfield for him to run into, but De Laet still had to go past three players before finding a finish with his weaker foot.
4-4-2 or 3-5-2, it looks like it will be a straight shoot out between De Laet and Ahmed Elmohamady for that spot on the right side of defence.
Conor Hourihane Could Fill that Attacking Midfield Berth
It’s not definite yet, but if Jack Grealish does leave, Conor Hourihane could be the man to fill that attacking midfield spot. The Irishman scored both a tap in and a long ranger against Walsall while on the path to completing his hattrick.
That’s the great thing about Hourihane, as well as an accurate strike from range, the midfielder has that knack of being in the right place at the right time in the six-yard box.
And Hourihane scored a variation of goals when he got his eleven last season, and that was when the shackles were on in defensive midfield. Just imagine what he could do with those shackles off.
Aston Villa’s 3-5-2 will Get Found out Against Better Teams
Aston Villa may have looked like world beaters playing the 3-5-2 in wins against Kidderminster Harriers and Walsall, but the side struggled initially against Burton then were overrun by the West Ham midfield on Wednesday.
One of the problem is the personnel. In a back three you need pacey players on each side, and assuming Chester plays in the centre it’s unlikely that Steve Bruce would want to deploy Tommy Elphick and Mile Jedinak to fill those positions. Bruce would have to bring in a specialist at left wing-back too.
With five at the back it’s easy to fall into an overly defensive shape. Against West Ham a 3-5-1-1 with Grealish as a shadow striker turned into an overly negative 5-4-1. That’s not what we want to be doing if we aspire to go up.
Andre Green can Play a Key Role this Season
This is a point in general, not just a pre-season one, but Andre Green should be a regular in the team next season which would then allow Albert Adomah to play on the right side.
The 20-year-old lashed a finish past Adrian in the West Ham goal in our most recent friendly and was one of few players to come out with praise from the game.
Green has played at the highest level before, and always adds a bit of pace and flair to Villa’s attack. Plus, Aston Villa aren’t really stacked in the left midfield department as it is.
Another Striker is Needed
With Lewis Grabban (and Gabby) gone, Scott Hogan, Rushian Hepburn Murphy and Harry McKirdy all injured, Villa are seriously lacking striking options.
Although it would be refreshing to see all of Villa’s youngsters get a crack at the Championship, the likes of McKirdy and Hepburn-Murphy will get loaned out if they struggle to get into Bruce’s first team plans.
Aston Villa wouldn’t have made the play-off final if Grabban wasn’t there last season, granted Jonathan Kodjia has shown he can plough the furrow by himself, but an experienced head, possibly a target man, wouldn’t go amiss.