“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
Last weekend, Villa toiled away against Spurs but again failed to create any tangible goal scoring opportunities. As a fan, you could not really criticise the work ethic of the team, but Villa were effectively contained by Andres Villas-Boas side throughout most of the match and didn’t look much like scoring.
Villa Park Variety
The drawing board that Fabian Delph referred to is hopefully bulging with ideas this week as Villa prepare for the next match against Everton. Top of the agenda should be producing more creativity through the middle and in wide areas. Lambert could add more variety to the associative play of the team by bringing in Matthew Lowton, Alex Tonev and Niklas Helenius for Gabby, Weimann and El Ahmadi.
Lowton was arguably Villa’s main playmaker last season, and he had a positive influence on the performances of Ashley Westwood and Andreas Weimann in particular. Lowton is a pass and move style full back who enjoys playing his way out of defence with clever triangles, rather than kicking the ball long.
Lowton’s pass and move style last season helped develop a growing partnership with Ashley Westwood and the team looked very attractive playing this way. It is perhaps not surprising that Westwood and Weimann’s performances have dropped as a result of Lowton being out of the team.
Keeping hold of possession and playing your way up the pitch, rather than kicking the ball forward as quickly as Villa did against Tottenham, would enable Villa to create opportunities of an overlap in attack. Should Lambert play with Bacuna on the right-wing and Lowton as a right full back, then there would be more opportunities to play in a patient way and create two on one situations in attack. Bacuna and Lowton have shown that they are better when the game slows down, and Weimann is in poor form right now.
Time for Tonev?
In addition, Alex Tonev may have frustrated Villa fans with his desire to shoot at goal at every available opportunity, but Tonev has a tidy technique, his first touch is pretty good and he has one of the best pass success rates at Villa with 84%. Tonev therefore has the basics.
What he lacks is discipline both offensively and in defence. The 23-year-old has played on the right-wing in a 4-4-2 formation against Norwich and on the left-wing against Tottenham. It might be time for Tonev to play in the free role behind Benteke where he can find pockets of space and link up with Benteke, or shift his position in order to have a shot.
Chelsea’s Oscar has scored many goals this season through picking up the ball and having shots from centre midfield, but Villa do not have anyone in the midfield three (as they are all defensively minded) who like to do that. In addition, Villa have played almost zero through balls this season, and Tonev showed against Malaga in pre season that he had this skill in his locker.
Alex Tonev reminds me a little of Alexis Sanchez in his first season at Barcelona. Alexis possessed the basic skills, but his brain didn’t seem to be linked to his feet. Alexis would frequently fail to link up with team mates, or made the wrong decision in the final third of the pitch. This season Alexis is much improved.
Tonev appears to be a player who Lambert could work with as Tonev has the basic skills in addition to being quick, keen and two footed. Lambert should relish working with a player like Tonev and knocking him into shape in terms of tactical discipline.
The Helenius Factor
In respect of Helenius, the tall striker has frequently played in the position Gabby currently occupies in Villa’s line-up. It is time for Lambert to give Helenius a go in my opinion. I appreciate Gabby’s hard work, pace and strength but all players need to fear for their places, especially when Aston Villa have failed to score in their last two consecutive games. Having the opportunity to bring on Gabby and Weimann as impact subs may be no bad thing either.
Helenius is a very intelligent player, he is deceptively quick and has the finesse to form a good partnership with Benteke. I am very keen to see how they play together in fact. Helenius has skill to beat players in the wide positions, and works hard to track back. He is also a goal scorer, and Villa need to score goals as they have now scored only 9 goals in 8 games. No goals, no fun.
Helenius has also shown in his performances that he has the ability to make quick decisions, flick the ball around the corner and create opportunities. Helenius has a 87% pass success rate and he may be able to bring Antonio Luna more into the game, if he uses his intelligence in a positive way for the team. When Helenius joined the club he confidently told the official website, “Assisting for me is as good as a goal. A good pass is sometimes the best thing in football.”
The tall striker’s comments will certainly be music to the ears of Villa fans who are desperate to see a good pass or two. Helenius notched up seven assists last year in Denmark, and he is very eager to show what he can do. I really hope Lambert gives him a chance sooner rather than later.
Whatever Lambert decides to does do at the weekend, I hope we see some changes and new ideas in Villa’s game plan.