Dean Smith should consider a tactical plan B for games that Aston Villa are struggling in.
Words by Matt Blogg (@Blogg_Matt)
Recent form has left much to be desired at Villa Park, with Dean Smith’s side sitting 12th in the Championship with one win in their last eight matches in all competitions, including back to back 3-0 defeats. Sitting top of the table for points dropped from winning positions, it is clear that Villa let their heads drop drastically when they concede a goal, and the game management needs to change to sort out the awful record.
At the start of Smith’s tenure, everything looked incredibly rosy, with the big win against Blues and two 3-0 victories away at play-off contenders, but ever since that 90th minute Jay Rodriguez equaliser at the Hawthorns, Villa’s football has been far from perfect, and confidence seems shot.
Suddenly finding themselves in 12th in the league, Villa’s fortunes need to change quickly, with more than half of the season having been played already. The Leeds game is a perfect example of the confidence seeming non-existent currently at Villa Park, with a 2-0 half time lead squandered dramatically, but the biggest cry for a Plan B was the recent defeat at the hands of Wigan. At 1-0 down and needing a goal, a triple substitution was made, but nothing was changed. Three like-for-like changes failed to have the desired impact and left Villa, who were consequently thrashed, looking off the pace. With Hogan and Davis both on the bench, it was an eyebrow-raising decision to keep the system the same, but it is what Smith has made a name for himself off of so you can’t be too surprised.
Smith prides his football on not changing for the opposition or the result, which is why Villa ran riot at both Middlesbrough and Derby, but when you find yourself in a two goal defecit, something needs to change.
Switching to a 4-4-2 was briefly tested against Swansea in the FA Cup, and didn’t have a huge impact, but changing the system in order to try and change the outcome of the game is something you’d expect from your manager, so there is an argument that Smith should try switching to 4-4-2 in league games if they aren’t going Villa’s way.
Abraham has obviously been lethal as a lone striker this season, but when the service isn’t coming in for him, it must be worth throwing on one of Hogan or Davis to offer him some support, as both those partnerships could complement the two concerned forwards. This change would mean slightly more reserved duties for the wide men and sacrificing the defensive midfielder, but when going for a goal, having more attackers on the pitch, theoretically, should create more chances. Whelan may have scored at the Riverside, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to score every week, so sacrificing him for a hungry Scott Hogan would never be the worst decision in the world. Hogan will score goals given a run in the team, so chucking him on with a bigger strike partner will create chances and could easily reap plenty of rewards for Villa.
So while Smith has clearly stated he will never stop attacking in his quest for 3 points, maybe he should start thinking about attacking differently, with new formations and ideas. Once teams have figured out how to beat Villa, there isn’t a lot they need to be concerned about at the moment, so changing the system can only be a good thing, especially if maintaining the style of play keeps getting us beaten 3-0.