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The Midfield Three


Delphinho123
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For me what McGinn needs is to be playing further up the field.

The best bits of McGinn are where he nips the ball off some poor unsuspecting midfielder and sets us off on our way - when he's doing that he's full of energy and vim and vigour and McGinn-ness.

At the moment he's doing that 30 yards too deep - he still gets in and nips the ball away from people, but when he looks up he's either in the full back position or on Tyrone Ming's toes. There's too much for him to do then to start an attack - he gets caught up in people and can't get out from where he is. The play is too compressed when he's finding the ball five yards outside our box, there isn't space for him to do anything but stick his bum out and hope for a whistle. [Kenneth]

When he's nipping the ball off people on the halfway line or just inside their half, he looks up and we're away and he can follow that forward, when he does it deeper, he looks up and he's trapped.

For me what McGinn needs is to be playing further up the field.

 

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I think McGinn is the player who has suffered most from this change of shape. With Luiz being the out and out sitter and Barkley being a 10 who doesn't offer much off the ball an awful lot ends up being asked of McGinn and it becomes even more pronounced when the team as a whole isn't playing well. I think his ceiling is probably that of a good mid table player and to suggest it's lower than that is being harsh, it's easy to remember he could occasionally have his sloppy days in the Championship too but folk tended to give him a pass for how much work he got through, the case is still the same in the PL except needless to say those games are a bit more frequent given the higher standard. Ultimately though he's had too many strong performances to suggest he's in any way out of his depth as was proposed by some earlier in the season, agreed with others that you'd probably see the best of him again alongside another busy 8 like Sanson with whom he could share more of the workload with and offer more balance to the midfield. He's largely done a capable job in this new role but we're losing a lot of what makes him effective by curtailing the other side of his all-action style of play.

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2 minutes ago, Indigo said:

I think McGinn is the player who has suffered most from this change of shape. With Luiz being the out and out sitter and Barkley being a 10 who doesn't offer much off the ball an awful lot ends up being asked of McGinn and it becomes even more pronounced when the team as a whole isn't playing well. I think his ceiling is probably that of a good mid table player and to suggest it's lower than that is being harsh, it's easy to remember he could occasionally have his sloppy days in the Championship too but folk tended to give him a pass for how much work he got through, the case is still the same in the PL except needless to say those games are a bit more frequent given the higher standard. Ultimately though he's had too many strong performances to suggest he's in any way out of his depth as was proposed by some earlier in the season, agreed with others that you'd probably see the best of him again alongside another busy 8 like Sanson with whom he could share more of the workload with and offer more balance to the midfield. He's largely done a capable job in this new role but we're losing a lot of what makes him effective by curtailing the other side of his all-action style of play.

Finally, someone with some sense. Great post

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18 minutes ago, Indigo said:

I think McGinn is the player who has suffered most from this change of shape. With Luiz being the out and out sitter and Barkley being a 10 who doesn't offer much off the ball an awful lot ends up being asked of McGinn and it becomes even more pronounced when the team as a whole isn't playing well. I think his ceiling is probably that of a good mid table player and to suggest it's lower than that is being harsh, it's easy to remember he could occasionally have his sloppy days in the Championship too but folk tended to give him a pass for how much work he got through, the case is still the same in the PL except needless to say those games are a bit more frequent given the higher standard. Ultimately though he's had too many strong performances to suggest he's in any way out of his depth as was proposed by some earlier in the season, agreed with others that you'd probably see the best of him again alongside another busy 8 like Sanson with whom he could share more of the workload with and offer more balance to the midfield. He's largely done a capable job in this new role but we're losing a lot of what makes him effective by curtailing the other side of his all-action style of play.

I think every now and then when performances aren’t great one or two players become the root of all our problems and should be dropped. At the moment it’s Barkley (rightly so) and McGinn (unfairly so imo). Earlier in the season it was Mings but he has got through it. I’m backing McGinn to do the same. 

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1 hour ago, Delphinho123 said:

Why? Why does he need a break? I keep hearing this? He had a whole week between the Arsenal and Brighton matches and Brighton was arguably his worst performance of the season!
If he needs a break, it means he isn't good enough. We're not in the business of paying people millions of pounds a year but letting them take 2/3 weeks off during the season because they 'need a rest'. 

I don't doubt he was incredible at Arsenal but playing well 1 match in 5/6 just isn't good enough and we need better if we're to push up the table. 

(Still love him though ;-))

Yes I think the same too. McGInn is a bit like a batsman. Scores heavily when in form but makes too many ducks. So whether its a rest or he just needs to be dropped thats what should happen. But there again Barkley needs dropping so not sure we have to make tgwo changes to the midfield. 

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6 minutes ago, Vive_La_Villa said:

I think every now and then when performances aren’t great one or two players become the root of all our problems and should be dropped. At the moment it’s Barkley (rightly so) and McGinn (unfairly so imo). Earlier in the season it was Mings but he has got through it. I’m backing McGinn to do the same. 

Yes just take Barkley out of the side for now and replace him with Sanson

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5 hours ago, The Rosk said:

Also - I frankly think our results since the break have disguised a lot poorer form. 

We really did not deserve a point from Brighton at all.  3 points against Arsenal and Southampton, where a point arguably would have been fair for both sides.  Burnley we should have got something for sure.  Newcastle is the only team we've played where we've played comfortably better.  West Ham battered us.  

Through sheer defensive effort/goalkeeping masterclass we have managed to get 10 points there from 7 games, when on reflection we probably should have had 6.  That's near or around relegation form, stretched out across the season. 

And a lot of that comes down to the midfield - arguably the only clear weakness across that entire time.  IMO this needs sorting, and sharpish.

Just to be clear.  I am delighted with where Villa are going, and we are unbelievably lucky to be in the position we are in given the last 10 years of dross.  However, last season all we were calling for was a bigger squad, more strength in depth etc - now we've spent a lot of money on it, we don't seem to be using it.  

 

 

Was also thinking about this today!

In reality, if it wasn't for the brilliance of Emi Martinez/ Mammoth defensive performances , we would probably have a couple more losses under our belt.

 

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1 hour ago, JAMAICAN-VILLAN said:

Was also thinking about this today!

In reality, if it wasn't for the brilliance of Emi Martinez/ Mammoth defensive performances , we would probably have a couple more losses under our belt.

 

Yeah, shame Smith sticks to what hasnt been working whilst in-game. To pose absolutely zero threat for a full 90 minutes the other night was such a waste of a game. Always seem to just see the 4 wisemen in the stands having a mothers meeting but not much shouting and instruction on the sidelines when its as poor as it was. One gripe I have with Smith; when things need shaking up, we just seem to let the game play out and hope for the best rather than be proactive. Brighton being the case in point, one way traffic the entire game. Potters tactics nullified us, was like a 6 man midfield against our 2 and we just let it continue.

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On 06/02/2021 at 21:04, Delphinho123 said:

I don’t disagree with this. Football is constantly evolving and I feel like Liverpool and City have shown that 10’s don’t really work anymore and it’s better to have a sitting midfielder and two that run their balls off and fight for every ball. 

Even De Bruyne tracks back and hounds the opposition.

Barkley just doesn’t suit our side at the moment and whilst he may score a couple and assist a few, I think we’d be better off as a team with another box to box player in there. 

Its doesn't matter what system you choose, its still only 10 outfield players, every system has its plus points and draw backs.

assuming the players have the talent, to be in the team, they have to work hard, win their duels and make the opposition work for everything..

Watch West ham tonight, its an exhibition of the very thing we are talking about....outside Man City, probably the best team in the league, most rounded team anyway.....they have players to cover most of the ingredients in a complete team.

Edited by TRO
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2 hours ago, OutByEaster? said:

For me what McGinn needs is to be playing further up the field.

The best bits of McGinn are where he nips the ball off some poor unsuspecting midfielder and sets us off on our way - when he's doing that he's full of energy and vim and vigour and McGinn-ness.

At the moment he's doing that 30 yards too deep - he still gets in and nips the ball away from people, but when he looks up he's either in the full back position or on Tyrone Ming's toes. There's too much for him to do then to start an attack - he gets caught up in people and can't get out from where he is. The play is too compressed when he's finding the ball five yards outside our box, there isn't space for him to do anything but stick his bum out and hope for a whistle. [Kenneth]

When he's nipping the ball off people on the halfway line or just inside their half, he looks up and we're away and he can follow that forward, when he does it deeper, he looks up and he's trapped.

For me what McGinn needs is to be playing further up the field.

 

Totally agree....both of them are further forward players imo.

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2 hours ago, Indigo said:

I think McGinn is the player who has suffered most from this change of shape. With Luiz being the out and out sitter and Barkley being a 10 who doesn't offer much off the ball an awful lot ends up being asked of McGinn and it becomes even more pronounced when the team as a whole isn't playing well. I think his ceiling is probably that of a good mid table player and to suggest it's lower than that is being harsh, it's easy to remember he could occasionally have his sloppy days in the Championship too but folk tended to give him a pass for how much work he got through, the case is still the same in the PL except needless to say those games are a bit more frequent given the higher standard. Ultimately though he's had too many strong performances to suggest he's in any way out of his depth as was proposed by some earlier in the season, agreed with others that you'd probably see the best of him again alongside another busy 8 like Sanson with whom he could share more of the workload with and offer more balance to the midfield. He's largely done a capable job in this new role but we're losing a lot of what makes him effective by curtailing the other side of his all-action style of play.

I don't disagree with that.....but he gets caught on the ball too often just lately, we can all give reasons why, but only he can fix it......I have seen Jack shine in games, when many others have had average days.

We can talk systems and formations all day long, but players have to punch their own weight.....you can blame other players around them, but certain things like ball control and retention, should not be affected to the degree it is at times.

Barkley,is not working hard, but it's up to the manager to change it ,otherwise, he is condoning it.

Jack is gold dust for me.....but the other night, his first touch was pants, no one elses fault imo......I have seen him play world class football, when others around him have been average....so they do have to take responsibility for certain aspects of their own play......we can't always blame others.

However, I still think we need a big strong quality DM for Dougie to play alongside.

Luiz and  McGinn is not the partnership imv.

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51 minutes ago, BleedClaretAndBlue said:

Yeah, shame Smith sticks to what hasnt been working whilst in-game. To pose absolutely zero threat for a full 90 minutes the other night was such a waste of a game. Always seem to just see the 4 wisemen in the stands having a mothers meeting but not much shouting and instruction on the sidelines when its as poor as it was. One gripe I have with Smith; when things need shaking up, we just seem to let the game play out and hope for the best rather than be proactive. Brighton being the case in point, one way traffic the entire game. Potters tactics nullified us, was like a 6 man midfield against our 2 and we just let it continue.

I know what you are saying, and your point is valid, However.....

my view is he doesn't, have the variety of player to change certain scenarios.

what i mean by that is this......tonight West Ham have Benrama, Bowen, Lingard, i call them piano players......they also have Rice, Soucek, Diop, Dawson,Ogbonna, piano carriers.....players who can cause havoc at set pieces and disrupt opponents with their physical presence, both ends of the pitch.

We have too many players of the same type and not enough of other type.

He can only change a player for form, he can't change the game, to much degree.

I hope we address this in the summer.

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7 hours ago, The Rosk said:

Also - I frankly think our results since the break have disguised a lot poorer form. 

We really did not deserve a point from Brighton at all.  3 points against Arsenal and Southampton, where a point arguably would have been fair for both sides.  Burnley we should have got something for sure.  Newcastle is the only team we've played where we've played comfortably better.  West Ham battered us.  

Through sheer defensive effort/goalkeeping masterclass we have managed to get 10 points there from 7 games, when on reflection we probably should have had 6.  That's near or around relegation form, stretched out across the season. 

And a lot of that comes down to the midfield - arguably the only clear weakness across that entire time.  IMO this needs sorting, and sharpish.

Just to be clear.  I am delighted with where Villa are going, and we are unbelievably lucky to be in the position we are in given the last 10 years of dross.  However, last season all we were calling for was a bigger squad, more strength in depth etc - now we've spent a lot of money on it, we don't seem to be using it.  

 

 

West Ham , will be tough opposition for any team, currently.

David Moyes has built a good all round team who can deal with most scenarios.

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4 hours ago, OutByEaster? said:

For me, this is the strongest area in our squad and yet peculiarly also our biggest problem at the moment.

Personnel wise, Barkley, Luiz, McGinn, Sanson, Nakamba and Ramsey have enough talent to be working well, add in Grealish and we're well stocked.

Shape for me is key, not all of those players can play more than one role.

I think there are three shapes that we can look at:

Here's the full picture including all of the permutations that I think we'd go with if we're going to play with wingers:

LW--------No 10-----------RW

------No 8--------No 8--------

------No 6-------No 6--------

That give us a number of permutations:

The current one:

Grealish-------Barkley-------Traore

-------------------------------------------------

----------McGinn------Luiz--------------

Now for me we should struggle in two areas with that shape - firstly because that line of three players doesn't feature anyone who works hard off the ball, we really should be struggling to close out and close down defences with all three of them in there - we don't because we have the hardest working striker in football, Watkins gives us cover for some of the work that those three won't do. 

What that shape should give us is masses of creativity, the reason you have Grealish, Barkley and Traore despite the reduced workload off the ball is that when they have the ball, all three of them are more than capable of doing great stuff with it. We're struggling to get great stuff done at the moment - for me, part of that is because of how isolated they are from the rest of midfield.

The second area we struggle in is that with no number 8's in that formation, there's a big gap in the middle of the park, that results in teams breaking out from the back and running at our midfield - it's easy to get behind Grealish, Barkley and Traore and find space in front of you before you get to McGinn and Luiz. That puts two different pressures on Luiz and McGinn - the first being the mental pressure not to get too far forward, which is leaving the front line unsupported - if those two get to where they want to be in support of attacks, the hole behind them is simply too big - and they know it. The second pressure is a physical one, there's a lot of space to cover there - that I think combined with the pressure not to push on leads to both of them wanting to sit a little too deeply and invites pressure onto them and our (excellent) back four.

If I think back to a few months ago, there was a period where when we had the ball in and around the opposition box, I knew where Luiz would be - he'd be central and 10 yards outside the penalty area - he was the recycler, when we couldn't find a way through it went back to him and we started again - now he and McGinn are fifteen yards deeper, covering for any breaks by the opposition recycling has become much more difficult.

The full backs help out and give us the potential for overloads down the wings, but at the moment teams are able to put extra men out there knowing that they have McGinn and Luiz pinned back into areas where they can't hurt them, so they can make sacrifices in the centre.

I don't think it's working.

Here are a couple of other options:

Grealish-----------------------------Traore

--------------McGinn---Sanson-----------

------------------------Luiz----------------------

That one for me gives us more flexibility and more space - all three of those midfielders can do a bit of everything and can interchange, we can push the fullbacks on but still maintain a threat in the middle and both McGinn and Sanson would keep the ability to get forward into the box. Luiz would have less support but would be better protected with players in front of him. This is the one I'd like to see us try - however, I've not seen that much of Sanson and it might be that this works better:

Grealish-----------------------------Traore

--------------------McGinn--------------------

---------Sanson-----------Luiz--------------

Which gives Luiz more support but still with some protection and allows McGinn a freedom to get forward and play in the more advanced role that we've seen him succeed in before. These two formations are pretty much interchangeable with those players all being able to play in both of those lines.

Again, if Sanson isn't ready, then this would work too:

Grealish-----------------------------Traore

--------------------McGinn--------------------

---------Nakamba-------Luiz--------------

With Luiz having the freedom to get forward and join McGinn and Nakamba covering.

What doesn't work for me is having an empty line in those formations - by playing Barkley as high up the pitch as we are, we're abandoning the middle of the park and exposing McGinn and Luiz to runners, that role isn't the best part of either of them's game.

In terms of personnel, I think McGinn, Luiz and Sanson can all play in the No. 6 or No. 8 line, whereas Nakamba I think can only play at No. 6 and Barkley can only play at No 10. Ramsey I'm not sure about.

I think the limitations on Barkley's ability to play as a No. 8 mean he should be sacrificed to preserve our shape - there's space for him at No. 10 if we were to drop the wingers and go with two up top, but given that one of those wingers might be out best ever player I think that would be an insanity.

For me, we have to look at the McGinn, Sanson, Luiz combination - I think it addresses the balance, helps us create overloads out wide going forward, allows us to recycle when attacks break down and gives us more control of games.

 

 

Nailed it. Excellent analysis. Barkley is playing so high up he is almost a shadow striker but not doing any closing or pressing. McGinn and Dougie then have to work harder to make up for being a man short. I also would prefer to see Sanson alongside McGinn as a double 8 with Dougie as the 6

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People shouldn't be surprised by the way Barkley is playing, that's his game, it's how he's always played, he's a player that operates in the final third of the pitch trying to make things happen, he's never been one for pressing, chasing lost causes, and so on, he's only a midfielder by name, mostly in his career his teams have sacrificed winger to fit him into the line up, we sacrifice a midfielder to fit him into the side, but maybe it might be worth us trying a more traditional midfield three, say McGinn, Luiz and Sanson, and then having Grealish and Barkley just ahead of them as two slighty wide N.10s, which is how RB was mostly used by Chelsea and Everton.

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1 hour ago, useless said:

People shouldn't be surprised by the way Barkley is playing, that's his game, it's how he's always played, he's a player that operates in the final third of the pitch trying to make things happen, he's never been one for pressing, chasing lost causes, and so on, he's only a midfielder by name, mostly in his career his teams have sacrificed winger to fit him into the line up, we sacrifice a midfielder to fit him into the side, but maybe it might be worth us trying a more traditional midfield three, say McGinn, Luiz and Sanson, and then having Grealish and Barkley just ahead of them as two slighty wide N.10s, which is how RB was mostly used by Chelsea and Everton.

Yeah, I was thiinking about that, I think the below could work:

-----Grealish-------------Watkins--------------

---------------------Barkley-------------------------

-------McGinn---------------Sanson-----------

-----------------------Luiz----------------------------

With Grealish free to roam.

The problem then is that I think Watkins prefers t come in from the left and we'd really need width from the fullbacks - which would be ideal if we had Cash but....

 

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There is no system that compensates for players not working hard.....they have the talent we know that....we just need the industry and application.

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33 minutes ago, TRO said:

There is no system that compensates for players not working hard.....they have the talent we know that....we just need the industry and application.

I don't think the current system rewards the hard work of McGinn and Luiz - with Barkley so far up the field, they're pinned back and forced into an awful lot of defensive work with little credit - it stymies their attacking intent.

 

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