With Villa conceding an average of nearly 2 goals a game (52 conceded in 27 games), its no wonder that they’re struggling to keep their heads above water.
Over the past few months, a number of players have been used in defence and in goal in an attempt to try to stem the flow of goals that have been going into the back of Aston Villa’s net far too often.
The original 4-3-3 shape used at the start of the season was scrapped in favour of a 5-2-3/3-5-1 formation at the start of 2020. It started off well as results began to improve (wins over Burnley, Leicester and Watford as well as a hard-earned point away to Leicester where Villa didn’t concede more than one goal in this sequence).
The 3 preferred centre backs throughout this run were Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause. They complemented each other well and the experience and quality of new recruit Pepe Reina ensured a solid base.
Recent results for Aston Villa have proven that the issue hasn’t gone away though. 3 straight losses to Bournemouth, Spurs, and Southampton all contained individual mistakes which led to goals against. The initial uplift that came from Reina’s arrival seems to have faded now as his tendency to pass short to teammates from goal-kicks has led to chances for the opposition, when perhaps at times he could just give the defence a breather by hitting it long.
It looks recently as if Villa’s centre backs don’t appear comfortable with the ball at their feet, which opposing teams realise and subsequently put pressure them, which forces a long hopeful ball forward – causing potential attacks to break down far too often. This has been a huge issue for Dean Smith’s team, who are now very much in a relegation battle.
A switch to a flat back four with Mings and Bjorn Engels at centre back could be a remedy to Villa’s issues as it’s fair to say that these two possess the passing accuracy and calmness on the ball to ensure that attacks can start with them.
They’ll be better suited to receive Reina’s passed and then find a teammate. They started the season as a pairing together and even though Villa were still conceding too many goals and chances, their stock has remained high with fans and they rank high for blocks and tackles made.
You can catch Aston Villa in action this weekend when they take on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final.