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Villa's front six - tailoring tactics to the opposition?


KentVillan
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I was just listening to the most recent Guardian Football Weekly and there was some discussion of the upcoming Norwich game. The likely outcome of that game and so on is a subject for another thread, but there was an interesting comment from one of the pundits about how PL likes to change his tactics to suit the opposition (and the implication being that Norwich were therefore f*cked, as he knew them inside out).

 

Anyway, I wouldn't have paid much attention to it, were it not for the fact I was faffing about on squawka.com the other day and I noticed that there does seem to be more method in the madness than I thought.

 

For example, against Sunderland, the whole team was incredibly skewed towards the right wing (i.e. pressurising Sunderland's left-back, Danny Rose). Looking at the front six, we had Delph and Westwood playing as centre-mids, and Benteke basically as a CF although hanging slightly left. But the other three (Sylla, Weimann, Gaby) were all focusing on the right wing. On top of that, Lowton was overlapping at every opportunity, while Bennett generally stayed back.

 

I wondered whether this was just the nature of our players - that Lowton is more attacking, that Weimann and Gaby both favour drifting right. But then if you go through a few other games and do the same exercise, you see different things coming through each time. I'll ignore the United and Liverpool games, because we were in less of a position to dictate the play. But looking at the Fulham, Stoke, and QPR games, it's interesting how differently we approached each one, despite using the same 4-3-3 formation that Lambert has settled on recently.

 

Against Fulham, we plugged the right wing with Bowery (is Riise weak in the air?), allowed Zog to roam, and had Benteke and Weimann linking up on the left.

 

Against Stoke, we had the same front six as against Sunderland, but with Bowery instead of Sylla. That seemed to change everything - again, Bowery plugged up the wing, and this time Gaby attacked mainly down the left. Joe Bennett actually got forward marginally more than Matthew Lowton, despite the wonder goal at the end.

 

Against QPR, we fanned out more, with Westwood CM (as ever), Bannan LM, Sylla RM, and the front 3 all playing as conventional strikers.

 

What does this all mean? Well, besides Westwood (CM), Delph (CM and Benteke (CF) who play in fixed, conventional positions, the other players who we rotate in and out of our front 6 change the shape of the attack a lot.

 

- Weimann is an ever-present, but as the link-up man he adapts his game a lot to the players around him

- Gaby is usually given one wing to hang on - perhaps the slower full-back??

- Bowery is always used to plug the right wing (any thoughts on when and why PL uses him?)

- Sylla is used to press on the right wing - perhaps when PL thinks the left-back is poor under pressure? this seemed a definite tactic all game against Sunderland, with Danny Rose giving away several corners if I remember correctly

- Bannan means we'll play a conventional 4-3-3, with a RM-CM-LM and three strikers

- N'Zogbia typically turns it into more of a 4-2-3-1, with him, Weimann and Gaby all interchanging as the 3 behind Benteke

 

So if Sylla or Bowery are starting, you can be pretty sure that Lambert has spotted a weakness somewhere. I think that's why you generally don't see either of them starting against top-level opposition - neither started against United, City or Arsenal. (Sylla did start against Liverpool, but that was with Bannan at LM, so we weren't skewing the midfield over to one side.)

 

If you're still awake after all that, how do you think we might approach the Norwich game? Do they have a weaker flank? Does anyone understand the logic behind playing Bowery? Is it just for set pieces? Thoughts please!

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I think you're right in that tactics and formations are very fluid and change depending on the opposition, but I don't think that's specific to Lambert. I think the modern game is incredibly complicated tactics-wise at the top-level and the standard armchair fan doesn't realise this.

 

But also, there is the train of thought which lots of managers subscribe to, that you have to just put your best 11 players on the pitch. You balance what you want to achieve against who you have available. Clough said it's a simple game, O'Neill said he just uses his best 11 players, and Lambert is a combination of the old-school O'Neill way of thinking and the modern European pressure play.

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Really good post. I have no idea as to the answer of your question, but enjoyed reading it! And nice to see our manager has some tactical nous. (A facet missing from some of his predecessors I feel...)

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He does make a more changes than the average manager from one match to the next, for better or worse.

 

It has the advantage of tailoring the side to the opposition but a drawback of players not getting to play together match after match to form partnerships and an understanding. Probably an issue in defence more than anywhere.

 

There are often comparisons with Brendan Rodgers who does the opposite in some respects by playing the same system every week. Rodgers tries to get his players to perfect that short passing game playing out from the back and holding possession rather than switching up the tactics when required. It is often noted though that Lambert has a very good record against Rodgers sides, perhaps he has a method to counteract the Rodgers system.

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Great post, it'll certainly make some people have a re-think about Lambert, while he has struggled tactically at times this season, he's never afraid to change something that isn't working. and seems to have ideas for any scenario. 

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Excellent post! I'll think about it more later.

 

I remember the West Brom game N'Zog, Gabby and Benteke over-loaded their left flank (the side of Billy Jones not Ridgewell).

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This is a first class post & provide's great insight into the thorougness of preparation by Lambo, Karsa & the rest of the management/coaching team.

 

The bottom line is though.............and all managers will tell you this...............it's ultimately down to the players on the pitch to bring it off!

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Decent post although Bowery only ever started because Gabby was injured.  So not sure the style PL would've played had he been fit.  One thing is for sure Lambert does like to change things to suit different teams.  Some he gets right some he gets wrong.  A lot more flexible than MON, that's for sure.

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Bowery said it himself that he played against stoke to help with the aerial battles.i believe he started both stoke games and we got 4 points so it worked.

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This is a first class post & provide's great insight into the thorougness of preparation by Lambo, Karsa & the rest of the management/coaching team.

 

The bottom line is though.............and all managers will tell you this...............it's ultimately down to the players on the pitch to bring it off!

 

Just to further add that it also works both ways. You're not going to like this, but FSW deliberately allowed both our full backs the freedom to roam high up the park so that Chelski could exploit the huge space behind them in the nightmare of Stamford Bridge.

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This is a first class post & provide's great insight into the thorougness of preparation by Lambo, Karsa & the rest of the management/coaching team.

 

The bottom line is though.............and all managers will tell you this...............it's ultimately down to the players on the pitch to bring it off!

 

Just to further add that it also works both ways. You're not going to like this, but FSW deliberately allowed both our full backs the freedom to roam high up the park so that Chelski could exploit the huge space behind them in the nightmare of Stamford Bridge.

 

 

FSW??

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This is a first class post & provide's great insight into the thorougness of preparation by Lambo, Karsa & the rest of the management/coaching team.

 

The bottom line is though.............and all managers will tell you this...............it's ultimately down to the players on the pitch to bring it off!

 

Just to further add that it also works both ways. You're not going to like this, but FSW deliberately allowed both our full backs the freedom to roam high up the park so that Chelski could exploit the huge space behind them in the nightmare of Stamford Bridge.

 

 

FSW??

 

 

Fat Spanish Waiter!

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This is a first class post & provide's great insight into the thorougness of preparation by Lambo, Karsa & the rest of the management/coaching team.

 

The bottom line is though.............and all managers will tell you this...............it's ultimately down to the players on the pitch to bring it off!

 

Just to further add that it also works both ways. You're not going to like this, but FSW deliberately allowed both our full backs the freedom to roam high up the park so that Chelski could exploit the huge space behind them in the nightmare of Stamford Bridge.

 

FSW??

Fat Spanish Waiter - and it's a great point. If the other manager is also a tinkerer, it's much harder to predict where the weak points will be. Also, while Villa under Lambert are usually pretty inventive going forward, we're defensively predictable - you can guess who the back 5 will be, and it's easy to work out their weaknesses. Someone physical against Bennett, while intelligent movement from the LW and AMs will usually undo Lowton. We've been picking up good results recently against teams who don't have good attacking options. I hope Norwich will fit that bill, as I can see Chelsea turning us over.

Re: Bowery, I totally accept he played for the aerial threat and because Gaby was injured, but why station him out on the right? There must be some deeper thinking behind it. Or maybe he just thinks that's the safest place to leave him in open play, out of the way.

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