Aston Villa’s shifting lineup could be what beat Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur only average 45.5% of possession in the league so far this season and although the 38% against Crystal Palace, where they were at 10 men, will have an impact on that, they haven’t still really dominated a game.
The way the game plays out will likely replicate the game Spurs played against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Spurs sat down in that game and allowed Wolves an attempt to break them, with 58% possession Wolves had their chance to equalize but were ultimately frustrated.
Nuno Espirito Santo could approach this match in the same way. The number of passes per defensive action (PPDA) is a measure that represents the pressure applied by a team. The lower the number, the more intense the press. Spurs have given up 21.42 PPDA against Wolves and have regularly hit them on the clock.
With the pace they have with Lucas Moura and Heung Min Son, they are able to hurt their opponents as they transition onto the pitch. They average three counterattacks per game, 43% of them ending in a shot on goal. Which clearly shows that this is a viable tactic for them this season, which they have put to good use against Manchester City.
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This is where the problems arise for Dean Smith. The five at the back have been incredibly efficient in the last few games, but they might not be suitable for opponents this weekend. Villa had just 41 percent possession against Manchester United and 43 percent against Chelsea, they were able to threaten on the counter and transitions as the opposition dominated the ball.
Against Everton, the difficulties were evident in creating an open play until a moment of brilliance from Matty Cash opened the play and Everton had to attack. Spurs are a much more defensive side and if they sit down and frustrate Villa they might not be able to open up the Spurs defense which may have ruled out Pep Guardiola’s City side.
If Villa changed to a 4-3-3 like they did in the second half against Watford and Newcastle United, and included Bertrand Traoré in the lineup, they would have the necessary quality on the ball which is capable of unblocking the toughest . defenses.
Villa opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation against Chelsea in the Coupe de la Ligue and have shown that they are capable of competing with the usual four in the back formation. Spurs are likely to stay behind, which in turn would mean Matty Cash could still go ahead and join the attack.
A midfielder consisting of three of Jacob Ramsey, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn would still provide the necessary defense cover while threatening the opposition. The team have gained confidence since the Watford and Newcastle games and could thrive if they are given extra time on the ball in Sunday’s game.
Dean Smith will likely stay with the 3-5-2 lineup, but the advantage this season is that he finally has options. If Spurs stay seated he can quickly call in Traore or Emiliano Buendia and move on to a 4-3-3 that allows those players to move forward and hopefully unlock the bottom line of the Spurs.
Villa’s depth among the team was discussed in the latest episode of the Claret & Blue podcast which is linked below.
Settling into a 3-5-2 could still be a viable and useful option in a bid to silence Harry Kane and Heung Min Son. The problems that arise from this system are that Romelu Lukaku exploited the gaps between the three central defenders and that Mason Greenwood has also fallen behind on several occasions.
Spurs could counter and the likes of Son, Bryan Gil and Moura can all use this space created by the three at the back. A fullback might see one less defender but less room for attackers to operate and in turn provide them with less threat on the counter.
Dean Smith has mastered his tactics in every game so far and he will no doubt be the same this weekend. Going to a 4-3-3 could be the solution to breaking up a Spurs team that would likely be a frustrating team to break.
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