Aston Villa have used three tactical formations in their 15 games, but which one suits the squad more?
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
Throughout this Sky Bet Championship season, Aston Villa have used three formations across their 15 games.
These include the most common 4-4-1-1, which has been used in the vast majority of games, at 11. The other four games are spread evenly between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1.
In the 11 times that Aston Villa have donned a 4-4-1-1 on the pitch, a formation that adopts an almost shadow striker role for talisman Jack Grealish, the side have won three, drawn four, and lost four.
The formation has seen Orjan Nyland predominantly take the goalkeeper role, and a back four of Alan Hutton, Axel Tuanzebe, James Chester and Neil Taylor. Pair this with a midfield four of Ahmed Elmohamady, Birkir Bjarnason, John McGinn and Albert Adomah, with Jack Grealish playing just in front of them and either Jonathan Kodjia or Tammy Abraham leading the line.
Interestingly, this formation has been used by both current manager Dean Smith and former manager Steve Bruce – but evidently with differing footballing philosophies.
With the 4-4-1-1, Aston Villa have scored 15 goals – with at least two thirds of these coming from set pieces – but have conceded 17.
During the Steve Bruce era of this season, there were two occasions where Aston Villa lined up with a 4-4-2, where Jack Grealish moved out to the left wing, allowing Jonathan Kodjia and Tammy Abraham to link up with each other up front.
These games also saw Mile Jedinak playing at centre-back ahead of Axel Tuanzebe, who more often played at right-back, whilst Alan Hutton played at left-back.
These two occasions saw Aston Villa win one and lose one, and score three goals whilst conceding two. This formation allowed players like Jonathan Kodjia, Ahmed Elmohamady, John McGinn and Mile Jedinak to perform well – with the four aforementioned rated the most highly during the games.
And finally, the 4-2-3-1, which has seen Aston Villa draw both of the games in which they used this formation.
This formation provides three players behind the striker in an often narrower formation which sees full-backs bombing forward and wingers cutting onto the inside.
In these two drawn games, the side have scored four goals, and conceded the same amount.
Realistically, it’s incredibly hard to compare the three formations due to the number of games that the 4-4-1-1 has been used compared to the 4-4-2 and the 4-2-3-1, but the 4-4-2 has allowed more Aston Villa players to perform to the best of their ability, whereas the 4-4-1-1 seems to rely more on individual flair from players like Albert Adomah, Jack Grealish and Jonathan Kodjia.
Looking at the 4-4-1-1, it’s not worked entirely as well as those employing it would have hoped – but is still better than the twice-used 4-2-3-1.
If the players can cut out individual error and lapses of concentration, the 4-4-1-1 suits the depth of Aston Villa’s squad perfectly – with a number of replacement players in each position other than centre-back – but a simple 4-4-2 could always be relied on to provide support for striker that isn’t flourishing playing on their own.