So, seeing as I was the first to write an article (about a month ago) about team prospects I thought I’d better update readers on the current situation at Villa.
I’m pretty happy with the predicted team/one I’d like to see in my previous article, but we now have a slightly clearer situation than a month ago.
The only thing we know for certain is that we will play four at the back: Lowton’s ‘slight ankle injury’ as described by Mat Kendrick from the Birmingham Mail should not rule him out for the opener at West Ham; and this therefore gives a high chance of the back four from the image below being played. Warnock and Hutton are sure to leave, and as we know, Cuellar is at Sunderland and Collins has gone to Upton Park.
There is still lots of debate about how we will play further up the pitch. In pre-season, we have played two up front, with a narrow diamond in midfield. Defenders have come short to gain possession from the keeper, and two midfielders have come deep to receive the ball (El Ahmadi + one of Bannan/Delph). This gives a dilemma, then, about who will partner Bent up front.
With this formation likely, the full-backs will add the width – this is where Lowton should score well FPL-wise. He scored six goals last season for Sheffield Utd and looks nailed on at 4.5. Alternatively, Clark at LCB has scored two goals in pre-season, and again is nailed on until Richard Dunne returns from injury (4-6 weeks is most likely here).
Alternatively, Delfouneso or Weimann could act as a second striker, with Bannan dropping out. This seems less likely, though, as El Ahmadi has looked comfortable alongside a solid central midfielder (Ireland would not fit into this category).
A second, and more likely possibility is that we play 4-4-1-1. This hasn’t really been tested in pre-season all too much, but does allow more midfield width (with Holman on the left and N’Zogbia on the right) with Stephen Ireland in the hole behind Bent.
If Lowton does not make the first game, we could well see Lichaj at RB and Stevens at LB. This gives Stevens (at 4.0) the possibility of game time throughout the season, then, as any injury to Lichaj or Lowton will promote Stevens to left-back, with the other non-injured player at right-back.
In conclusion, either a narrow 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 will be played, with nine or ten players nailed on. N’Zogbia at 6.5 is the best bet in my opinion. If you have even more faith in Lambert’s attacking style, then Bent will not go far wrong for you – Villa’s style will be to play to his strengths by creating chances for him. He is of course on penalties and although Villa only ‘won’ three penalties last season, an attacking game with emphasis on N’Zogbia, Holman and Ireland will surely result in more chances created this way.
With Villa’s enticing fixtures, Clark or Lowton could score well as they both offer potential attacking returns and come in at 4.5.