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As I write my personal blog http://www.garydaviswrites.com I will add my posts in here that are in reference to the Villa.


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Formation and Players

Aston Villa -  Formations and Players - Part 1                  I would like to start with this blog, with these words, "The Numbers Don't Lie." Steve Bruce has used five formations this season, with varying amounts of success. He has used 26 different players with varying success. This blog will look at which formations and player selection work.

The formations used are 4411, 3421, 433, 442, and 4231. The table below looks at the formations and Points per game, Average Passing Percentage, Average Possession Percentage, Total Number of Shots, Total Number of Shot on Target, Average of Shot on Target versus Total Shots, Total Goals Scored, and finally Average Goal Conversion versus Total Shots.
Bruce has persisted with the 4411 for most of the season, and as the stats show it hasn't been overly successful. The most successful formation has been 442 after Kodjia returned from injury. The formation often seen outdated was also very successful Leicester in the Champions season in the Premier League. 

     Fans may ask how a small alteration can affect the results so drastically. The average passing and possession percentages are very similar, but that is where the similarities end. The two important stats are the conversion of shots to goals and the number of points per game. At the present rate, the 4411 formation will have the team ending the season with 66 points that would leave the club in 10th place in last years standings. The 442 formation would have the club finish on 92 points that would have been an automatic promotion spot.

      The formation has had an effect but so have players. Much as been mentioned about the numbers of Aston Villa have had this season, especially to key players. The table below shows the effect that Terry, Kodjia, and Grealish have had on results.
         Captain Marvel John Terry has been missing for the last eight games, and during that time points per game have dropped from 1.63 to 1.50. Even though it isn't a massive difference, it is the difference between 7th and 9th in last years standing. 

     The clubs star forward from last season as missed all but six games this season due to injuries. The introduction to him into the team this season alongside Keinan Davis in a 442 formation took our average points per game to 2.13 versus 1.31 when he hasn't played. This is a difference between champions form or mid-table obscurity. Much as been said about Kodjai this season, he is selfish, and he hasn't been missed, the stats don't support that and he will continue to be missed until he returns from ankle surgery. Bruce has only tried the formation once since Kodija was injured against Fulham, and that was in a 2-1 defeat at home to Sheff Wed. This was the same game where Villa was stunned by a goal wonder goal in the first minute, and Terry left the field after 20 minutes through injury. With the shortage of forwards due to further injuries to Gabby and Hogan, Bruce has resorted to his less successful 4411 formation.

     Before the season started, Bruce said he wanted to build the team around Grealish. An unfortunate kidney injury kept Grealish out of the first fifteen games. Since then, he has played six games as a substitute, and two games where he has started. Since is return to the team, Villa's points per game have dropped from 1.73 to 1.33. Bruce may need to rethink how he uses Grealish and see if he can use him in a 442 formation.

The most successful team (442)this season has been, Johnstone, Hutton, Taylor, Chester, Terry, Snodgrass, Adomah, Whelan, Hourihane, Kodija, and Davis. With a number of the players out injured, and some needing a rest maybe Bruce can use players such as Elphick, Jedinak, Grealish, Omonah, Elmo, and Hogan to fill some of the holes and move back to the succesful formation.

Injuries have played their part and seen a drop in points when key players are out. This may make Bruce look at his recruitment because no team is going to go through a season with just eleven players. He needs to make sure he has ready-made replacements.

In part 2 of this blog, I will the difference between the 4411 and 442 formations.




In Villa's Defense

There's no Defense!                Nobody will deny, the goals against Villa this season are going to send us down, but who is to blame? We can look around the Villa team and see areas with a lack of experience in their positions. Villa have Gana, Veretout, Ayew, Amavi, Okore, and more, but one area we have experience is defense. We look at Guzan, Hutton, Richards, Lescott, Clark, and Richardson, and we have 1490 games at a Premier or Championship level. If that is the case, then why are conceding 2 goals per game in the Premier League?            Over the years, through my coaching experience, to have a strong defense, you need a decent and vocal goalkeeper, and two well organized central defenders. One of those defenders, needs to be able read the game extremely well, and take charge of the defense. Have Villa got that?   I think Guzan has shown enough in the past, he is a very good keeper. He has made a few mistakes this year, but with such a lack of confidence in your defense, who would blame him.            As we look at the central pairings that have been used over a number of games this season, we have: Richards & Clark (8 games, conceding 1.75 goals per game) Richards & Lescott (7 games, conceding 2 goals per game) Okore & Lescott (4 games, conceding 1.25 per game)   We can say, certain pairings may have played against stronger opposition, but in the end we have to make the decision, certain pairings may just not work. I look back at the games throughout the season, and so many goals have been conceded by poor positioning, or players not attacking the ball while it's in the air.  The two goals against Norwich, Richards wasn't close enough, and didn't challenge Howson. Richardson, marking nobody, doesn't close down Mbokani Bezua, as the ball floats over Clark's head. Is this down to the manager’s instructions? Or are our players just that bad or just can't give a rat's ass.          The confidence maybe low, and a win may change things, but I feel a lot of the blame falls on our captain. Clark has made a couple of mistakes, and Lescott is a lot slower these days, but our captain's ability to control the defense is the major problem.   Richards is awesome at challenging for a long ball in the air, or challenging a forward as he receives a ball with his back to goal. Sadly, his wanting to charge up field, and lack of defensive awareness is killing us. If he had been in charge of the Titanic, it would have sank long before it hit the iceberg.   All the other three defenders, should position themselves off Richards. Defending is a lot about positioning and angles, and not just how strong you may be in the challenge. I have worked with flat back fours for over twenty years, and the only time Villa's defense has looked right is when Richard's hasn't been there. I'm not saying Richards shouldn't be one of our central defenders, I'm just saying he shouldn't be the one controlling it. 1490 games between them, and we looked like they have never played a flat back four before. I am not exonerating the rest of the players for their part, but when you don't have a leader you can rely on, then players start to do their own thing, and it all falls apart.   I'm not blaming Richards for, Lescott's slowness, or Clark's naivety, or Richardson's lack of ability to attack a ball, but I blame him for not being the lighthouse to keep everyone safe. People claimed, he was going to be an England regular for years to come at the age of 17, but his career flounder at Man City. He played with Lescott there, and formed a strong partnership, and friendship, sadly that partnership is now failing because Richards is the leader. I believe the Lescott partnership could be the one that brings a holt to the flow of goals, but only if Richards takes a step back, and hand over the reins to his friend.      I believe if Richards isn't willing to do that, then it has been shown in recent weeks that Okore is.




Aston Villa - Naughty or Nice

As we move towards the festive season, we will find out if Villa have been naughty, or nice. The next five fixture will show if the Remi has worked some magic on the training field. As we analyze those fixture, we will see if Villa will arrive at the New Year in high spirits.
  Southampton (away): In the last six fixtures away to Southampton, Villa have only walked away with one win back in 2013. Delph's late strike secured the win, but with him slithering away to Manchester, do we have someone else who can step into his shoes. Southampton have already beaten Villa twice at the St Mary's stadium in 2015, scoring 7 goals and conceding two.
  On the back of three defeats, Southampton must look forward to the team who loves to get struggling tracks back on track. With a weakened Villa defense, and a team poor of form, Villa would take a point right now, even though they need three.
  As most Villa fans, we dream every game to be the start of something new, but are frequently let down. Everything is going against Villa and a loss is expected.
  Prediction: Draw
  Arsenal (home): The Gunners are looking potential champions the season, and Villa fans aren't looking forward to this game. Oozing with talent, on a good day, they could easily put 5 past us. The good thing is, on their very few bad days, they can get beaten by anyone.
  This fixture hasn't been kind to Villa, and we have to go back to the December 13th, 1998, when we last beat them at home. A 3-2 victory, over an Arsenal team with Arsenal greats such as Bergkamp, Bould, Dixon, Seaman, and Viera, was something to savior. 
  The last three games between the teams have seen Arsenal take victory each time. With 12 goals scored against, and zero for, a defeat looks a certainty.
  Prediction: Loss
  Newcastle (away): If Newcastle's form continues, Villa maybe facing a team with a new manager. Newcastle at present, are performing as badly as Villa, with Newcastle fans running out of patience with their manager. No need for them to worry, Aston Villa are coming to town, and Villa haven't won there since the 1999/2000 season.
  Villa presently prop up the Magpies, and that would not have changed by the time the 19th ticks around. These games are usually very close encounters, except back in 2010/11, when Newcastle slammed their visitors 6-0.
  Both defenses have been hemorrhaging goals, and it could be down to who makes the least mistakes to who wins the game. I believe if Villa go with pace up top, they could come away victorious. Newcastle defense is looking weary, while Villa's are making schoolboy errors. Two more weeks, and believe Villa will get it right.
  Prediction: Win
  West Ham (home): The battle of the Claret and Blues. Over recent years, West Ham have finished higher in the league, and can claim presently to be the stronger of the two. The results between the two teams have bounced back and forth, with a number of draws, and either team being victorious.
  Billic has West Ham building on the foundation left by Big Sam. West Ham are presently sitting 8th, and could be fighting for a European place come May. Losing Sakho will be a big loss for the Hammers, and could sway things back in Villa's way. 
  Presently with 34 league wins each, both teams will pushing for the victory to take them to 35. Villa will be more desperate for the points, and this will make it a nervy Boxing Day encounter for the home team, in front of their expectant home crowd.
  Prediction: Draw
  Norwich (away): 2015, at this time will be coming to an end. Villa fans will be praying 2016 brings hope, and a stay of execution.  Norwich have been struggling of late, and are one of the teams Villa will hoped to have caught come May. With five points from the last four games, Villa would have doubled their points for the season. They will still be bottom of the league, but will have greater hope and belief.
  This is one of the fixture that has been good to Villa over the last few matches. Victories home and away, will give the players confidence going into this game. With games against Everton, United, and Spurs prior to the Villa game, Norwich could be searching for their first point in four.
  I believe Villa will have too much in attack for Norwich to defend, and a strong defensive performance will give the Villans the points.
  Prediction: Win
  Eight points in December would be a good return for Villa, and keep us intention with the teams at the bottom end of the league. The confidence that this will bring could see Villa break a record in 2016 that is worth breaking. January will roll round, and Villa fans all over the world, will have a greater belief the mighty Claret and Blue will stay ever present in the top division.
  Gary Davis www.garydaviswrites.com      




It's All About the Base!

It's All About the Base!            Since the arrival of the new "Garde", people have been talking about a new start. Sadly, after the 4-0 drubbing at Everton, new start or not, the same issues came to the surface. Villa have suffered with consistency for the last 5 years, the only thing that has been consistent is the fight against relegation. It is time to stop the tinkering with the team, and find a base we can build off.          It doesn't matter in the end, which formation Garde goes with, he has to find the spine of his team, and then build from there. I personally feel he should go back to a formation that makes us harder to beat. I look back to the Arsenal invincible team, and play a 442/441.          Due to a lack of options, Guzan looks to be our number one until January at least. As we start to look at the spine of the team, we need 6 leaders who are going to run along it. The sis positions that need to be nailed down are, two central defenders, two center midfielders, and the two furthest forward players.          Those positions need to be filled by leaders, a look around the Villa squad, and there seem to be slim pickings. I believe given time, Richards and Clark can build a formidable duo. Even though, they have both made school boy errors, they seem to have leadership qualities. Given guidance, and support on both flanks, they could be the difference to our future in the Premier League. If either of these two are injured for a period of time, then we would have to fall on the ilk of Lescott, Crespo, or Okore. Lescott, would be the most experience, but his legs seem to be past there sell-by-date. Llori could be a surprise package, but we won't know until he returns from a groin injury. He may need to fill in for the injured Amavi.          As we move forward, to the center midfield, only one leader stands out, and that is Sanchez. The captain of his current, who is starting to show that form for the Claret and Blue. For me, he has to be the first midfielder on the team sheet. He is prone to the odd misplace pass, but for all the work he does breaking up the opposition play, he is invaluable. It doesn't matter if we play two, or three in midfield, the next name on the sheet needs to be Gana. His high energy, and combative nature, will be a great foil for Sanchez. Yet to leadership qualities, I believe he will be an importance piece in the Villa jigsaw. We have the likes of Westwood, Veretout, or Gardner, who can play second fiddle, but don't fill me with a great deal of confidence. Given time, and good leadership, they reach their highest potential.         The forward two, this is a difficult area, as Villa haven't been very productive in front of goals over the last few seasons. The loss of Benteke to Liverpool, left a massive void. Gestede was brought in as a like for like replacement, and with quality service, he could be a savior. I believe Kozak has been written off too quickly by Sherwood, and now Garde, and he could be leader we have up top. At this time, I would give it to Gestede as I am unsure where Kozak is with his recover. A couple of U21 games, doesn't get him ready for the big league. The lack of creativity over the last few seasons, as killed Villa. I believe in Gil, and Grealish we have two potential match winners. Sadly, just as the Everton game should, I don't think they will play to often together. They are both light-weight, and are luxuries we can't afford in a dog-fight. I personally Gil has shown he can influence games at a higher level than Grealish. I would have a central pairing of Gestede, and Gil, with Kozak, and Grealish on the bench.          As we look at the limbs, we need to find fullbacks who can defend, and wingers with high energy, who can put the ball into dangerous areas in the penalty box. The last I looked, around 85%, of all goals ever, were scored from the penalty spot forward. Those numbers may have changed slightly, but what is true, is Villa need to get more balls in there for players to attack.         Villa at present isn't stacked with talents, but I also believe we are better than our present position.         Going forward, I would look to play the following team as much as possible.                                                                        Guzan                                           Crespo        Richards   Clark         Richardson                                           Sinclair       Sanchez    Gana         Ayew                                                                          Gil                                                                       Gestede Subs: Bunn Okore Bacuna Veretout Grealish Kozak N'Zogbia
          The main concern is left-back, I wouldn't mind giving Kinsella a run, because at the moment, Richardson is pretty poor. As I said earlier, Llori may be able to slot in there, and the sooner the better. The likes of Gabby, Hutton, Traore will still play their part, but should be limited until they show promise with the opportunities they get.   No matter what happens this season, Villa need to be more consistent in the formation, and the players we play.   **I had published this blog before Jack's weekend antics came to life. I appreciate him adding support to my call for him to be dropped.    Gary Davis www.garydaviswrites.com




Jack Grealish - A True Claret and Blue?

Jack Grealish - A True Claret and Blue?  
        In the Guardian, on the 14th October, 2014, Jack Grealish stated after signing a new four year contract, "I’ve grown up supporting the club. In fact I’ve had a season ticket at Villa since I was four years old and came to every game so this is a big thing for me and my family." Fast forward thirteen months, and the new Aston Villa manager labels Jack, "Unprofessional", as he is dropped from the squad to face Watford, in a must win match. This comes after Jack's latest late night antics, after a weak showing in a 4-0 drubbing at Everton. This wasn't the first time in 2015 that Jack's decision making was questioned.
         During the summer of 2015, Jack was photographed fast asleep in the street, after a late night with his "friends." This is the same summer that England and the Republic of Ireland were fighting for Jack's international commitment. Aston Villa fans, were a little more lenient during the summer, while many are now supporting Garde and his decision to send Jack to practice with the u21s. His actions during a time where "His Boyhood Club", is rock bottom, and needing everyone to pull together, are disloyal and disrespectful to the fans, club and very possibly his family. Kevin Sr. and Jr. have supported their brother as he rises through the ranks at Villa, a penny for their thoughts right now.
        Many Villa fans, including myself are questioning Jack's reasoning, and if he has the strength to rise to the top, or will he allow his success to bring him down. This week, football fans all over the world were celebrating George Best, and the talent he was as a player. Sadly, for George, and his family, his career, and life ended too soon. I'm not saying Jack is on George's path, but who knows where Jack's career and future may end. 
       Addictions and bad choices, have been the fall of many a great man, and even though Jack has every Villa fans dream job, his talents haven't been displayed on a regular basis. He has a long way to go before he is great, consistently good, would be a start. Fans would say Jack has made more of an impact on the pavement, than he has in success at Villa. His performance against Everton was well below par, and was rightly substituted. 
       I'm not looking for Jack to be Aston Villa's savior, but at this time Jack needs to save himself. He needs to learn who he can surround himself with during this time. One of the seven pillars of success in the work place is your social network. A positive one will bring you success, I don't need to tell you what a negative one will do. 
     Jack needs to understand, no matter how much talent you may have, you only get a certain amount of chances to show it. Villa fans give one of their own, a little more leeway, but they know words are cheap. In his own words, "The club to show this faith and trust in me, I’m really appreciative and I’m determined to repay that trust." “I know I have to continue to kick on and push on now. I have to keep developing and progressing and strive to be as good a player as I can possibly be."
      Jack, those words were over a year ago, please tell us how you have kicked on? A good game against Liverpool in a F.A. Cup semi-final, isn't kicking on. You say you love this club, and it's all you ever wanted to do, well it's time you showed it. You are old enough to make good choices, just as you have made bad choices.           How much does this club mean to you? How much do your families' sacrifices mean to you? All their support to get you where you are today. When are you going to repay their trust? The club needs your talent now Jack, it needs you to play your part, and help get us out of the mess you have helped put us in.
     Claret and Blue, Jack? Or Bacardi and Coke?   Gary Davis www.garydaviswrites.com   



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    • I think if he can demonstate that a few players have significantly improved, he will get time.....they will see, things can get better I have seen no one improve under his tutelage.....its not good guys. bumping along, much like Bruce, will not save him.  
    • Surely if we match another club's bid that has been accepted then it will be down to Mings himself who he talks to.
    • I am tired of listening to these manager philosophies....what's Darren Moores philosophy?.....what's Chris Wilders Philosophy?....What's  Lee Johnsons Philosophies. They just build balanced teams......players who can defend and players who can attack. They all work their nuts off and don't get physically out played. Its so damn obvious its untrue.......we are a million miles away from anything that resembles balanced.    
    • Big  Differennce like it or not ! Bruce had a track record , really dont want to change but dont see DS lasting to much longer.  
    • Yes indeed sir, absolutely garbage. Hopefully people look at those stats and offer us some money for him.
    • 9 assists, 4 goals, best passing percentage, second most "key passes" after Jack. That's just this season. Last season first midfielder to reach double figures in goals for Villa since Platt. Yeah, he must be awfull.
    • I’d hope that purslow is right in his comments about ffp and that our finances are not bad enough to worry about who we can or can’t afford to sack - if smith does finish in the bottom 8 and the board feel they can attract a better manager then I’d hope that finance wouldn’t be an obstacle - that said I’m sure we all hope smith does succeed - I certainly could never have envisaged a run like this a couple of months ago 
    • Hepburn Murphy has been dropped from starting line up for Cambridge but Doyle Hayes starts but 0-2 at moment
    • Finance should come into it, we lose the best part of £300k a week in revenue soon, expiring contracts nearly cover it leaving net nothing for a rebuild without selling some of the bigger earners with a year left. Smith has worked under bigger constraints and him, Pitarch, Kelly etc. will have better resources than Brentford regardless. What they need is some time. Binning the project before it has a chance to get going incurs cost in paying off Smith and Kelly. EDIT: Bruce in the end was given too much time, but he was allowed to have a preseason to get things how he wanted for a tilt at going up (which very nearly happened). The same should be given to Smith.
    • I think he does need time, within reason. However, I don't think the Brentford Model will work with us.....I don't see us going up without a discerning view on defence.....I mean, the whole team having an ability to defend.....See Man U last night or Albion against us. I think there will be much scrutiny, in what happens between now and the end of the season.....and opinions behind the scenes will be made....Its not a question of whats fair and whats not.....if Dean presides over a similar run in his first 14' he may not be given the time or opportunity to try and improve it.