Aston Villa: How should Villa line up for the opening game of the season?
Aston Villa kick off the 2012/13 season with a visit to newly promoted West Ham United on August 18. It will be the third time in three seasons that Villa have started the new campaign with a new manager, but this time round there seems to be a more positive vibe around Villa Park.
With three new faces to choose from manager Paul Lambert has a few selections headaches, providing everyone stays fit pre-season.
There were a fair few flops last season so there could be a few nervous faces in the dressing room when the new line-up is announced – especially as Lambert doesn’t have to worry about dropping the players who were brought in by previous managers.
Last season I think Villa played their best, attacking football in a 4-3-3 formation, so that’s what this starting line-up will be based on.
The goalkeeper would have to be Shay Given. It was pleasing to see Brad Guzan given a new contract and the fact he has been told he has every chance of becoming number one should keep Given on his toes, especially after his poor showing at the World Cup.
The defence looked very weak last season and there has only been one new face, Matthew Lowton from Sheffield United - who seems more of squad player at the moment. It still looks like Villa’s weakest area, so it’s difficult to see much change at the back.
Both senior full backs, Stephen Warnock and Alan Hutton, performed poorly last season but is Villa’s squad strong enough to drop both players? Eric Lichaj stepped up and it would be good to see him given the chance to keep his place. Enda Stevens and Ciaran Clark can both play there but Clark would be playing out of position and Stevens hasn’t been given a proper run out yet, so they would be both be huge risks.
Centre back could be another selection headache. Collins and Dunne are both class on their day but playing together they seem to switch off, so I would start one or the other. Collins just gets the nod for me, if he stays that is.
Baker played well towards the end of last season after being thrown in at the deep end and Clark looks destined for good things so, again, it would have to be one of the two. I’d stick with Baker and see what happens.
If we’re playing three in the middle we’d need a holding midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder and an attacking midfielder. Chris Herd played well last year but having signed Karim El Ahmadi, I think he has to be given a chance, especially as he was signed by Lambert to play in that role. Attacking options are pretty limited, other than Stephen Ireland – hopefully we’ll see the best of him this season if he’s allowed to roam and play behind the forwards.
He’s still young but I have a lot of faith in Gary Gardner and with Stan Petrov still receiving treatment I believe he could be the running midfielder we’ve been looking for. With El Ahmadi giving him protection, his running and vision should free up Ireland.
Villa seem to have wingers in abundance but four doesn’t go into two. Marc Albrighton, Charles N’Zogbia, Brett Holman and Gabby Agbonlahor could all be fighting to play on either wing. N’Zogbia had too many off games last season and should be made to work his way back into the side. Albrighton could still be a good player but his confidence was completely shot last season and he seemed scared to take players on.
For those reasons I’d start Holman on the left and Gabby on the right. Hopefully Gabby will start the season like he did the last - but keep his good form going for more than five games this time round. Holman, as a new signing, will be looking to impress so it will be interesting to see how he fits in.
That just leaves the lone striker, which has to be Darren Bent.
There could still be a few new faces before the start of the season but as it stands I’d like to see Villa line-up like this:
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: Do you agree? Who would be in your starting XI for the visit to Upton Park? We'd love to hear from you.
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