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What exactly does Martin want to do with Stewart Downing?


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So, after weeks of speculation and being linked with pretty much every footballer with two working legs - and the subsequent denials that we are after any of the good ones - we look likely to make our first signing of the summer, namely Stewart Downing for £12 million. But with one star left-winger in the side already, what plans does Martin O'Neill have for Stew, and where does he fit into our tactical play?

4-4-2

For most of O'Neill's time at Villa, we have played a fairly standard 4-4-2 formation, with the luxury of switching to 4-3-3 if need be. It proved especially successful last season when we actually had a proper right-winger in James Milner. However, With Young on the left, where will Downing go?

I fancy O'Neill thinks he can convert Downing to a more central figure. He doesn't posess vast amounts of pace, which if you're a winger, is a problem. He does however have a keen eye for a decent pass. Although not the natural central midfield playmaker we were crying out for, Downing could still do a job in the centre of the park, and I fancy Villa to retain their 4-4-2 formation. The other option here of course is moving Young over to the right, Downing on the left and putting Milner in the centre of the park. I don't like this option however as i think Milner is great at whipping in crosses from the right, and Young is best when he can run at players and cut inside onto his right foot.

But having Downing in the squad does open the door for a couple of other options;

4-5-1 or 4-3-3

It would be interesting to see if Martin O'Neill tried reverting back to the 4-5-1 formation he preferred when he first took over. It was reasonably successful, and the improvement of our players since then I think would see it work even better. Keep Young on the left, Gabby on the right with Carew up the middle. With those 3 as the attackers, you have a central trio of Downing, Petrov and Milner, thus effectively playing 2 wingers with 2 more secondary wingers in support.

Attacking-wise this is a great option as you could well imagine Downing and Young, and Milner and Gabby switching around like a game of musical chairs. Carew would have more corsses than he'd know what to do with, and the flexibility in attacking that I believe can be obtained from a formation like this I think could give us a real advantage. Defensively though we could leave ourselves exposed with this sort of formation.

4-3-1-2

One of my personal favourites this one. During the 07/08 season we played this formation which saw us score 15 and concede 3 in 3 games, including the legendary 5-1 drubbing of Small Heath. The reason this worked so well was because of Young's free role giving him the freedom of the park to find space, and he often did. I remember watching the game against Bolton that we won 4-2, and he was never in the same place twice. I think this avenue should be explored further now we have Downing and Milner providing decent crosses, petrov holding, and Young able to run the show from the middle.

Again though, this could leave us slightly thin in midfield and we could find ourselves overrun on occasions. but, if we get a top quality defender in the fold, perhaps that won't be so much of a problem.

Overall I think Downing is a decent signing at best. Overpriced at £12 million though, especially considering he will not play until october at the earliest, and the fact we would have to rearrange a settled formation to accomodate him in the side is also a concern. But, if anyone can do it, it's Martin O'Neill.

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I think this is a spot on signing.

Good lad with great personality (or so it seems from the outside) should fit into the dressing room really well.

An excellent replacement for GB in my opinion - 4 to 5 years younger but for the same money. MON will do the same with Downing as he did with Barry (I hope) i.e. bring him inside where he can control the game. He will have some development to do there but he also has a few advantages over Gareth - he is quicker and has a better eye for throughball (if Alves could shoot he would have been at the top of the goal scoring charts last season from Stewie's through balls).

Also gives us cover on the left if Ash needs to take a break/injured/suspended or moves over to the right to cover for Jummy. Options at last out wide.

Villa legend in the making.

4-1-3-2 for me.

----------------------- Brad ----------------------

Young ------ Davies --- Hangeland ----- Warnock

------------------------ NRC ---------------------

Jimmy ------------ Downing --------------- Ash

----------- Gab ------------------- JC ------------

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I like the 4-5-1 formation from that list.

Same here.

Good article, I enjoyed it. I'd been wondering where he could fit in to this side and came to the conclusion that he would be played alongside Petrov in a 4-4-2. Maybe it's not as simple as I thought.

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4-1-3-2 for me.

----------------------- Brad ----------------------

Young ------ Davies --- Hangeland ----- Warnock

------------------------ NRC ---------------------

Jimmy ------------ Downing --------------- Ash

----------- Gab ------------------- JC ------------

Leaving out our best player of last season then? :?

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4-1-3-2 for me.

----------------------- Brad ----------------------

Young ------ Davies --- Hangeland ----- Warnock

------------------------ NRC ---------------------

Jimmy ------------ Downing --------------- Ash

----------- Gab ------------------- JC ------------

What about our (probable) club captain Stiliyan Petrov?! I'd have him as a regular over NRC i think, based purely on last season. Interesting to note from the Villa website we now have the 2 most frequent crossers in the Premier League with Ash top and Downing just behind.

I can see Downing and Ashley swapping over all the time in a formation like that - an absolute nightmare for defenders, and especially good against teams who try to man-mark Young.

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I think this season when he returns we'll see him fit into a 4-2-3-1 with him, Young and Milner all interchanging off a lone forward for away games and some home games. Not sure where he'd fit in a 4-4-2.

Long term, I think he's Ashley Young's replacement tbh and it could well happen as early as next summer.

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