Will there be a Late Transfer Window Purchase by Villa to Establish a Fantastic Four?

aston villa attacking midfielder

Will Villa’s Attacking Fantastic Three become the Fantastic Four?


If there was a referendum amongst supporters as to what player Aston Villa should bring in before the transfer window closes shut, that’s no doubt the unanimous verdict would be for an attacking-midfielder. We’ve already covered the need and potential improvement such a player would bring to the Villa team from the scientific and Zone 14 point-of-view to the overriding ideology of the player being Villa’s key missing link.

At the moment Villa possess a potent threesome up front in the shape of Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, who are improving with every game that passes. Currently, left in the main, to combine and fashion their own chances, they lack that vital link to truly unlock their true potential and opposition defences.

If Benteke has another decent season and a fabulous World Cup, chances are he’ll try to force a move to play Champion’s League football after this season. So Villa need to take advantage of his presence now. Who knows? Judging by last year’s League Cup run, it could potentially be the difference to winning a trophy.

The consideration of an attacking midfielder to combine, release and maximize Villa’s front three should be a matter for the present and not the future . Just look at River Plate’s ‘Quatro Fantásticos”  aka Fantastic Four,  that former Villa favourite Juan Pablo Angel was a member of, before he came to Villa Park.

Angel, alongside Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega, and Pablo Aimar were a brilliant and clever attacking foursome that set the Argentine Primera Division alight and brought River Plate a long-awaited league title in 1999.


angle aimar river plate
Angel and Aimar, one half of River Plate’s ‘Quatro Fantásticos ‘ celebrate yet another goal


As we saw when Liverpool came to Villa Park, teams are now very wary of the threat of the Villa’s front three and will close down the space and channels by keeping a disciplined shape of two banks across the front of the 18-yard box.  The key to unlock that set-up, would be a talented attacking midfield.

In football, like in the case of Marvel superheroes, there’s a reason it’s not ‘The Fantastic Three’. In a 4-3-3 system and variations of it, four attack-minded heads are better than three when it comes from progressive link-up play from midfield. A midfielder allows the front three to exercise their attacking menace from starting points higher up the pitch, or, for example, if Benteke comes deep to hold the ball up, to create an option with intelligent forward runs to split or draw defenders.

So come on Villa, let’s really go for it this season. Take advantage of Benteke staying and lets give this season, to use a  quote of Paul Lambert, ‘a right good go’. UTV


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  1. Aesorian JoeLarner Ah thanks for the clarification. Now that I re-read what you wrote I see that it was my interpretation that was off, not your wording. I just assumed you were talking about our improvement as the game went on.
    Those stats are really impressive, but Rodgers had clearly set Liverpool up to stifle us. This Villa side are excellent at exploiting space, but not so good at creating it.

  2. Aesorian I’ve just been playing around with the stats for that match on Squawka and I have no idea how you’ve come up with those numbers.
    Are you saying that Villa made 307 attempted passes in the 20 minutes (before Sturridge’s goal) and then 386 passes in the 70 minutes after? That is a huge decrease in passes per minute (15.35 down to 5.5).
    Same with all the other stats you mention (apart from possession, as that is a percentage and therefore adjusted for time).
    Please explain?

  3. Great responses – can’t really disagree with any of them.
    What comes out is that we are all aware we need guile to break stubborn defensive teams down.
    Guile is not pace.  It not passing.  It is based on trickery.  We need a trickster please Mr Lambert.

  4. ScottTrimble SonLyme Yep, it’s normally an older head who pulls the strings. The problem is decent ones are hard to find though, or every team would have such a player!

  5. ChrisJosephHeathy The South Americans have had a few good nicknames for groups of players over the years…I think there was also the ‘Three Witches’, which if memory serves me right, included Diego Forlan.

  6. SonLyme A couple of tremendously talented wingers who could also come back and help on defense (which would not be Robben) would be tremendous, and probably would have been enough to beat Liverpool, but it would be even better to have both of them and Andres Iniesta or Samir Nasri (or some 21 year old with similar, albeit less developed, talent playing for a much lower salary) playing behind Benteke playing balls to spaces, directing their runs instead of waiting for them to be at the spot where they should be getting the ball.
    Honestly, I think Delph and/or Westwood could become that player, but they need a mentor. I know Lambert’s plans seem to revolve around buying youth exclusively and building a long-range plan, but I think when looking at attacking midfielder, the position that I think requires the most refinement of skills and vision, and composure on and off the ball, we cannot expect these guys to develop in that role as quickly as players in other positions, but a more experienced player to guide them along could speed up the process.

  7. @SonLyme Drop El-Ahmadi in a heart beat. No disrespect to him he’s been immense, but at home we’ll have much more possession meaning that a bank of 3 combative players would be, while not over-kill, be less necessary.
    After Liverpool scored we averaged more possession (54% to 46%), More attempted passes (386 to 307), more successful passes (319 to 245) but also more tackles (20 to 10) and interceptions (10 to 9) and forced them to make more clearances (17 for us, 41 for Liverpool)
    The problem is when it comes to “Key Passes” our defenders (Okore – 2, Luna – 1, Lowton – 1) made more than our midfield (Bacuna – 1 & Westwood – 2) and our Midfielders ones were crosses (One of Westwood’s was a corner and the others were from wider areas of the pitch) more than a passes/through balls. Similarly out of the 16 shots we had after the Liverpool goal only 6 were from inside the area.
    When we play at home we need someone who can drift around the area dragging centerbacks out of position to create space for our 3 forwards to drift in behind before playing balls into the danger zones (behind the fullbacks and around the penalty spot).   
    Well that’s my 2p at least [All stats were from http://www.squawka.com]

  8. SonLyme Robben and Ribery have Kroos and Schweinsteiger playing defence-splitting balls in behind the full backs. I’d gladly ditch El Ahmadi for a player with creativity and quality on the ball. Imagine Benteke dropping deep to lay the ball off to the feet of a quality AM, then the ball being curved behind the full backs for Gabby or Andi to run on to.

  9. Interesting article, never knew about the River Plate ‘‘Quatro Fantásticos’. Onto Villa, we need a number 10 type player so desperately, would love if we got any of the following, Tadic, Hughes or 

  10. SonLyme I agree with what you’re saying in terms of the wider attacking area. What we have now with the front three in terms of tenacity, pace and power works well away from home, but at home, where Villa have to dictate play more and break teams down, something extra is needed from midfield. Taking on board your fantasy example of players, imagine the addition of Pirlo to the midfield, pulling the strings for our front three and unpicking the defensive locks of any defence.

  11. It is interesting that many are suggesting we add a ‘number 10’ to our existing attack because for me it raises an uncomfortable question – who from the middle 3 should be dropped then?
    Delph – just as he is finally showing the talent to go with his heart?

    Westwood? – not on fire yet but we know what he can do.

    El Ahmadi ?- who looks a new man so far this season – stronger and quicker – and whose absence was for me the reason we got over run against a very ordinary Liverpool side.

    The issue with Villa is not about a creative midfielder per se – it is about having more creative attacking talent – and for me – that means players with pace who above all else can beat their opponent.
    Let’s try another thought experiment.

    Imagine Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery left Bayern Munich and came to Villa Park.   I know – it’s hard – but imagine Big Ron gets called up to manage England as well, and it becomes easier.  Now imagine our team but with those two alongside Benteke.  Imagine them.  Imagine them running at Liverpool.  Do you think we would have failed to score with this set up?
    I think we would have won.

    We need more competition from the wider attacking areas – not in the middle.  It’s hard because it not like wingers in the normal sense because they need to track and work and tackle like midfielders then break like attackers.  But in essence that is what they are.  Fast, dedicated, skillful footballers.  Ryan Giggs is a prime example.  A balance of tenacious strength to win the ball and fleet footed guile to use it.

    More talent in these areas of the pitch would also allow us to play different formations and systems – to better suit the situation and the opponent – rather than relying on the one set-up fits all approach – because plainly it doesn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am loving Gabby at the moment – and I think Weimann is solid – but neither is Robben or Ribery – they have the pace and heart, but lack the trickery.  If Villa are to move upward we need that sort of guile among our front three as that is were the competition is weakest in our squad – not in the middle.

    Pace tenacity and guile – that is what we should be hoping for as this window finally closes.


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