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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Aston Villa: How do you solve a problem like Villa's home form?

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Two home games in and it’s so far so bad down at Villa Park. The performance against Liverpool was poor, but at least it was against a descent side. To perform like we did against Newcastle last weekend has really got the alarm bells ringing.

It wasn’t just the fact we lost – it was the manner in which we lost. When the away keeper doesn’t even have to make a save it’s worrying.

Benteke got on the score sheet again to make it five-in-five, but did very little else. Some may argue that’s his job, but I’m not convinced. I really believed 4-3-3 was our best formation and away from home it still is, but when a team comes to defend – and not even go for all out defence – we cannot break them down.

It’s been going on for about six years now because even when we were flying high under O’Neill we still struggled to create chances at home. It was better, but it wasn’t great.

Villa ron vlaarThe simple fact is our players aren’t good enough. It may sound harsh, but we’re absolutely clueless at home. When a good side comes to attack we can put in a good performance and compete, but then our other huge issue comes back to bite us.

Has a Villa side ever conceded so many weak goals on such a regular basis? What is it now – 28 games without keeping a clean sheet in the league? That’s pathetic.

There’s still plenty of time to change things round and the team is definitely stronger, but we need to do it quickly before we find ourselves in yet another relegation battle.

If we can’t play 4-3-3 what about 4-4-2? I’m not convinced with that because we have sold all our wingers, and Gabby and Weimann clearly are not suited to running the flanks.

Even with three upfront they both tend to drift inside – why, I don’t know because there’s always acres of space behind the full backs, and on the rare occasion they exploit that space we look dangerous.

The formation would also leave just two in the middle and whatever combination of Delph, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Sylla or Tonev we go for, it’s going to be far too weak.

How about 5-3-2? Well, Villa tried that around Christmas time last year and we all know what happened then. If the full backs push on it can still be an effective system, but they don’t.

Former manager John Gregory pioneered the 3-4-3 formation when he arrived in late 1990s, to varying degrees of success. Attacking-wise it looks brilliant, but three at the back with our defence? Maybe not.

There’s always the Christmas tree formation, mocked when Terry Venables tried it for England. It looks nice with its 4-3-2-1 appearance, but it’s pretty much how we play anyway.

We should play 4-3-3, but as we play so narrow, it soon becomes a Christmas tree – at home anyway. The 5-4-1 formation would flood the midfield and leave Benteke alone upfront, which definitely would not work.

That’s all the formations that wouldn’t work, so what would? It’s certainly a dilemma and perhaps the answer is not in the formation but the style of play.

Whatever happened to good football, played the English way? Not just hit and hope, but attacking football by hitting the wings, turning and running at defenders, and looking for the through ball when the striker turns and runs passed the last man.

Why does everyone want to play like Spain? We aren’t good enough so why bother playing the ball across the back for an hour before hoofing it upfront anyway? No-one’s knocking keeping possession, but doing absolutely nothing with it is mind-numbingly boring.

If we can play a little more direct it could make all the difference because passing the ball from side-to-side isn’t working, trying to hit teams on the break at home isn’t working and throwing on four strikers on with 10 minutes to go - and having no-one capable of getting the ball anywhere the danger zone - is not working.

I’m not trying to be too pessimistic and it’s better to make mistakes at this early stage of the season, but let’s see some urgency and passion at home before the crowds start to drift away again.

There were 37,000 at the Newcastle who watched another lacklustre performance. Give the fans something to cheer and they will roar the side to victory.

Article by Squarefootball's Villa reporter James Fisher

Calling all Aston Villa fans: Do you agree with James? Should Villa try an alternative style at home? What system do you believe would most suit Lambert's team? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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