Steven Gerrard’s switch to diamond helps Aston Villa shine
KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: Switching for a diamond helps Aston Villa shine… Steven Gerrard has a squad ready to piggyback so Philippe Coutinho can have a free role and support strike partnership Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings
- The new system has secured three out of four wins and is built around Philippe Coutinho
- The Brazilian averages one goal or assists one game since joining Barcelona
- Steven Gerrard switch allows Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings to play together
Steven Gerrard wants his best players out on the pitch and finding the perfect positions that showcase their strengths.
His recent system change allows Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings to play together at the top – rather than leaving one of them on the bench or playing one on the outside – and allows Philippe Coutinho to play in the front with a license to move.
Since Gerrard arrived at Aston Villa, he has mostly used the 4-3-3 formation that has served him well at Rangers. But the poor results against the relegation contenders prompted a change.
Steven Gerrard’s new system has three out of four wins and revolves around Philippe Coutinho
After drawing with Leeds and losing to Newcastle and Watford, Gerrard has had seven days to work with his side ahead of their next trip to Brighton. He hatched a plan, showing his flexibility as a coach by working on a new system to get the most out of his best players.
He opted for a 4-1-2-1-2 setup – one diamond in midfield and two up top. Douglas Luiz provides protection as a deep midfielder and splits in front of him the two workaholics Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn. Coutinho is given a free diamond point role, followed by the Watkins-Ings strike partnership.
This new system has given Villa three out of four wins and is built around Coutinho, who gives the team good passing pace.
However, this configuration is far from perfect. This leaves problems on the flanks as there are no wingers.
The Brazilian averages a goal or assists a game since joining Villa on loan from Barcelona
Saturday’s opponents Arsenal get their width from exceptional youngsters Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. But Villa relied on their full-backs Matty Cash and Lucas Digne to create their width.
Without natural wingers in front of them they sometimes find themselves with a heavy workload and last weekend at West Ham Gerrard lost the influential Digne to a hamstring problem.
A look at a Premier League table for possession won in the final third class Villa at the bottom. With this new system, I don’t see that changing as they don’t have the number of forward positions to press high like Liverpool or Manchester City.
What strikes me about Villa, however, is how Gerrard has a team ready to work for the system to support Coutinho. The Brazilian is worth it – he averages a goal or assists a game since returning to these shores.
Recent system change allows Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings to play together at the top
Whether Gerrard sticks to this system or returns to 4-3-3 next season will largely depend on whether Coutinho stays or leaves.
Mikel Arteta has complained about Arsenal’s fixture list following Wednesday’s loss to Liverpool and this clash will be their third game in seven days. With no European football and an early exit from the FA Cup, this is the first time the club have experienced such a level of congestion in 2022.
They are used to one game a week. They must now rise to the challenge they face today and win at Villa Park to solidify their push into the top four.
Douglas Luiz protects workaholics Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn (left)