Villa managed to record a vital, but costly, away win at Turf Moor on New Year’s Day, outlasting Burnley 1-2. The match was notable not only for getting us back out of the drop zone and seeing a new formation from Dean Smith, but also sadly for season-ending injuries to Wesley and Tom Heaton. What already looked to be an extremely important window suddenly became even more so. The links are flying fast and furious. And as Dean says to the journos, you won’t know who we’re really after.

So there’s that. And rather than the usual GB&U, I thought I’d just come at this from various talking points regarding formation, tactics and players.

Adios, 4-3-3?
Injuries aside, Smith finally implemented changes by playing three at the back. Why? Dunno. I doubt he’s the sort to be swayed by the supporters, but obviously the calls have been loud and clear and hard to ignore. We’ve heard about getting more energy in midfield, more height, and it makes sense. We’ve needed it.

Whatever the reason, he did have a rethink, and given Mings’ availability, Wednesday seemed to be the day—and perhaps the right opponent—for giving it a try. Maybe they’d been working on it in training for a while. It can’t have hurt that Konsa and Hause have gotten playing time under their belts in the meantime. And the result was encouraging if not perfect.

My thinking has been that given the types/distribution of players bought and the unfamiliarity of many with each other or the Premier League, Smith wanted to stick with 4-3-3 long enough to properly evaluate it and give the players a chance to settle into something. With the very poor run, some will say he’d given it longer than he should’ve. And that would be fair, based on results and performances. But, I also weigh that Villa were creating (and missing) chances at a higher rate earlier in the season, and that if we’d converted a higher percentage, we’d have had more points and probably more confidence going into that run…maybe even avoiding it. Despite a downturn in scoring of late, though, it isn’t until you get up to Arsenal in 10th that you see a team with more goals. Trouble is, as is usually the case for a team flirting with relegation, we’ve conceded more than any other side bar Norwich and Southampton.

Doesn’t necessarily mean teams already hadn’t, or ultimately wouldn’t have, sussed us out, regardless. Every formation has its strengths and weaknesses, and they’re amplified by the players, of course. Liverpool can play a devastating 4-3-3 because they have true danger men all along the front, quality fullbacks…well, they’re just a very good and disciplined team that works really hard off the ball and can be lethal on it. It also didn’t happen overnight.

Villa, on the other hand, may not have gotten everything they’d hoped for out of the players they bought. We’ve gone on at length about Trez and Ghazi blowing hot and cold…and perhaps not being good enough, regardless. Jota…Well, I didn’t see much of him before he came to Villa, and while he’s seemingly a cultured player, I can’t really say whether he ever had legs or pace. I can’t imagine that coming back from the surgery wouldn’t take a while, despite being declared ‘match fit’, if for no other reason than a player often has trouble trusting his body or really stressing it following surgery and rehab. Luiz, Nakamba, Targett, Wes. We’ve talked about all of them. Only Heaton and Guilbert have escaped real criticism, though Guilbert has had his share of bad moments. Wesley, well, there’s a player there…but the debate over his relative merits is now moot.

To be fair to Smith, he has tinkered. Some have said he was desperately “chopping and changing,” which I disagree with. Some have dismissed the smaller adjustments he’s tried, such as a 4-2-3-1, moving Jack up, moving him more central. He does go 4-4-2 chasing a game, like a lot of managers. These haven’t been ‘permanent’ changes, but he hasn’t been as ‘stubborn’ or ‘naive’ as it might seem, at least not to my eyes. Has it been effective? In places, yes. In others, no.

With Davis injured and Kodjia pretty much done, there haven’t been many alternatives to Wesley. We’ve talked about putting Trez or Ghazi up there to partner Wes, getting someone in the window. But, whether it was poor recruitment, lack of funds, scuppered deals, whatever…There haven’t been a lot of options up front. And now?

In midfield, Conor has had his ups and downs. McGinn was not his usual self before fracturing his ankle. Luiz and Nakamba have thad their ups and downs as well. Some of it to be expected. So you could say, given all the above, that we’re pretty fortunate to be where we are, never mind the various misfortunes, VAR-related and otherwise.

Shipping goals
Villa have conceded a fair number of goals of late, and many have been avoidable. Doesn’t mean we deserved to win the matches, but shooting yourself in the foot doesn’t help anything. Whether it’s been bad luck, carelessness, panicked thinking, ball-watching, lack of quality…We’ve not done ourselves a lot of favors. Part of it comes with the territory—new team, superior league—part doesn’t. But what you see keeping us from feeling a bit safer is the lack of draws. And stupid goals help keep you from walking away with something.

If Smith sticks with three at the back, maybe we’ll cut some of that out. If we get another result or two and heads begin to rise, that won’t hurt, either. But shipping goals is the result of a number of factors. And for us, lack of composure, bad luck, and midfield woes are chief among them.

In the recent run that’s seen us win 2 of 7 league matches since the draw at Old Trafford, the team’s effort has often come into question, which in turn raises questions as to whether Smith’s lost the plot and/or dressing room.

Me, I don’t think he has. Regardless, Villa haven’t been as tenacious or as determined as our opponents. We’ve been timid and hesitant, playing cautiously and with mental cross-talk. Players have been hiding, letting themselves get marked out of play, or not busting a gut to get back. We try many of the right passes for the system, but they don’t come off. Too long, too short, too telegraphed, too slow. The ball comes right back, and this, too, can sap confidence and effort. The players lose faith in each other. They don’t continue to make that run. They don’t track back after sprinting to join/support the attack (or they’re just never going to catch up anyway). Poor decisions, sideways passes, head tennis…Even good players look bad when this starts to spread through the team.

Normally a manager with options would drop players. But it’s a thin team. Lansbury isn’t going to help. Hourihane isn’t going to seize the game by the scruff of the neck in midfield. McGinn’s engine isn’t there. If plays are tired for lack of rotation, you have to ask who are you going to rotate in for them?

The effort was better New Year’s Day. Maybe it was the change in system. Maybe the players were taking on more responsibility. Maybe both. Mings spoke of clear-the-air talks. I think his presence in the side frankly intimidates some of the others into playing harder.

The League and Relative Results
Finally, when you watch other matches and look around at results, you see how ridiculously unpredictable this season has been so far. Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Spurs…All over the shop. City already looking to have raised the white flag. Only Liverpool and Leicester seem able to go consistently into “should-win” games and come away with all three points. Southampton all of a sudden look much better. Pearson’s got an underperforming Watford side getting wins at the moment. But up and down the table, you see results pinging all over the place. I watched Spurs look almost as poor and bereft of ideas as I’ve seen Villa look at times.

Which is to say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and it’s not just Villa. We’re out of the drop zone for now, just over halfway through. Teams immediately above us look vulnerable. The teams around and below us likely are going to stay in or around the relegation conversation. A few more wins, which, despite everything we’ve just gotten two of, along with a few more draws and we should be okay. The year we went down, 38 points would’ve seen us safe. In the years since, 34 or 35 would’ve been just enough. Right now we’re at 21, with 17 left to get another 13-15. And maybe it’s more needed this year. Who knows.

The crazy thing is that outside the top four, no team has more than 8 wins. We’ve got six. But only Norwich have lost more than us: 13 vs 12. So. Draws would most definitely help. The difference between Villa and Arsenal is one win and three draws.

So at the end of the day, pray for good business in the window and don’t lose faith just yet.

Over to you.

Comments 111

  1. JC – I posted this on the previous post as you had published your tome.

    I was joking, surely you didn’t think I was that anally retentive?
    It’s all paper talk, & I try not to to get involved in the media wind up.
    We can do better than he who drinks water anyway.
    We also have Chester to come back, so can’t see us acquiring Vlad the Impaler either

    PP-You misread my post mate, I wasn’t doing them down, I said that I was concerned that they may not return & be able to get a contract, I hope so but am concerned that the stability is not here for them at present.
    I voice this rather than going gung ho or parroting the crazy media.

    HNY on the borders?

  2. JC
    I’m full of pakistani home soul food, glowing with the chilli, so it may distract from your work, but I’m slowly fading out & keep seeing sheep, which is very distracting.

  3. JC
    I broadly agree with your conclusions as much is common sense, especially the fragmentation, which some people use to label players ‘headless chickens’.
    Also, as you say, it is a very crucial time, & we need to get the recruitments right for us to have a chance.
    It seems a very unusual season all round, except for the top 2, as there seems very little pattern at the moment, & anyone is beating anyone.
    So definitely some optimism for now.

  4. If we had two quality wingers either side of a new main striker we wjll improve no end

    I’d sell one of Jota, ghazi or Trez. They should only be used as sub players

  5. Thanks JC- almost as long as one of my posts fair old effort. Don’t think there’s a chink in that to pick at.

    I think that Burnley we’re definitely the right team to try 343 against as it’s the antidote to 442 if done properly.

    Makes me wonder which came 1st systems to attack and defend or systems to beat systems, think I just answered that 🙂

    All in all it gave us confidence and made the team braver and able to execute on the ball without which any system fails.

    A player can be not good enough at any level but unlikely when Sheffield’s manage it?

  6. I would not buy a keeper, I would stay with Nyland and Sirkic until Steers back in feb. His shot stopping was always good now he will have better defensive screen than we have ever seen him with.

    Two forwards one winger/10 and a Decent CM should do it. Sell Lansbury, jota , kodjia and Croatian keeper if needs be.

    One forward will need to be able to play out wide if necessary but that’s it.

  7. Aston Villa: Nyland, Elmohamady, Engels, Chester, Taylor, Lansbury, Nakamba, Hourihane, Jota, Kodjia, El Ghazi.

    Substitutes: Konsa, Trezeguet, Guilbert, Kalinic, Hause, Ramsey, Vassilev.

  8. MK,

    I agree, Nyland looks an excellent goalie that has matured.

    Very scrappy game vs Fulham. Kodger looks lively. Im surprised that we dont have a single U23 player starting.

    Lansbury at least making some runs. Not sure what Jota is up to though.

  9. Christ we need wingers and strikers this month. We have absolutely no quality

    Hourihane and lansbury aren’t prem standard to. Need centre muds

  10. Think it was Brian Clough who said that any player that could kick a ball from point A to point B had talent. Some of our players don’t have talent judging by the poor passing going on.

    Don’t want a draw Villa.

  11. Not the worst, not the best.

    Good energy to start, Kodjia has been lively. Ghazi needs to bury something to get some confidence back.

    Agree with you, Frem. It’s that second three in midfield where we get undone.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Indiana get an appearance.

  12. Yeah, Plug…You can see time and again that long diagonal, which is pretty key to a 4-3-3 just doesn’t come off. The quick triangles need to be better, where we’re taking the initiative.

    Jota seems about the only player who makes that soft through-ball for runners in the channels.

  13. We certainly need a few more summer window to shape our squad. Midfield is so weak. Lansbury and hourihan just not good enough. Love hourihans left peg though! Get Ramsey on. Linked to Kamara at rangers, would be excellent.

  14. We do a lot right in the move, but then Ghazi does too much. Turn it over with that many players up, asking for trouble. At the back, no one’s aggressive in coming out to Knockaert.

  15. Jota and Lansbury much better in 2nd half. Fulham focused on attacking Taylor all game. In fairness Taylor has been decent. Great saves from Nyland today

  16. And also nice that Ghazi got on the end of it. Not sure it was going in without him being there.

    He gets in enough decent positions in attack. Has to convert more often to justify his inclusion.

    And then a strike out of nowhere.

  17. What kind of boots does taylor wear,always running back if not falling over my god we should scrap youth set up and all the coaches if we haven’t young lads that can play either full back or as wingers

  18. James Gill, yeah I was wondering why no FB from U23’s.

    Engels looks big, awkward and slow. Nakamba makes the odd mistake, but I think he’ll be great. It can’t be easy moving to EPL from Belgium league.

    Fulham deserved the win. Knockard and Nyland the obvious EPL players and by far the 2 best from both sides. Kodjia has so much pace and looked decent at times, then other times he got caught off side because his lazy ass is walking back. Doesn’t seem like he wants to give 100% for 90 mins

  19. Jon. A great write up – if not a tad depressing

    We did buy some rubbish in the summer. Wasted millions. We should gave purchased quality not quantity. That is why we are near the bottom of the league.

    We could have supplemented quality with some of the kids. Have you noticed that none of our kids are anywhere near the first team? I don’t get this. Surely we must have some decent youth team players. Why isn’t Smith giving them a chance? Just look at how we performed today at Fulham.

    Now we are in the mire – Smith wants to sign players with Premier League experience only. Really. Premier League experience of Premier League Quality. If this had been the approach in the summer we would be fine.

    We lost to Fulham today and it looks like we have done a Fulham with our transfer business in the Summer.

  20. RichardS- I have seen the should have bought quality in the summer come up a few times.

    What’s your idea of Quality? 5x£30m? Considering the backbone of the squad we’re basically on loan to us we needed min two quality CB’s in reality 4 for cover. A quality forward? Seen many expensive ones fail as the cheap ones. A quality keeper? Heaton not bad we are already at 4 .So then we buy another forward? Or a DM?

    Basically creating something to hang the kids and what’s salvageable on. From last season to fill it out?
    Now Smith looked at the kids last season and even sent green out this, that tells you an awful lot about a man that once blooded two 19 cb’s in the champs having sold his others.

    I pushed for the kids when Garde arrived, where would we be now on that front if the we had embraced it? You never know but throwing kids at a survival season after years of ineptitude? Suicidal. We have missed the boat on the kids front until we are more stable. We might see some next season is my guess.

    I think Smiths two players for every position was correct and hasn’t been far off as we are half way to safety. We have seen injuries to 4 of our quality players already some of them season Enders without Wesleys, do you think we could of bought 5 indestructible quality players? To risky a strategy with what we had available is the bottom line.

  21. Oh and I cannot believe smith did not want experience in the summer but that’s expensive and it’s not just him in charge he’s the coach not a manager. If we hadn’t lost so many you would be looking at two prem loans this window having accessed the squad I believe. Unless a real quality bargain came up.

  22. Basically, Villa have no youngsters, because the decision was made, not only to scrap the first team, but to scrap the under 23’s and replace it with a ‘B’ team, which did not happen in the end, so a new under 23 team had to be formed. Mitch Clarke, and many other youngsters were shown the door. including Harry McKirdy, who scored a great header for Carlisle yesterday.

    The old saying is, you cannot build a house on sand, and that is exactly what we have tried to do. we scrapped all the building blocks from the previous season, and expected to be able to build an Arsenal overnight. I still have some support for Smith, but with reservations, as he appears to be another Steve Bruce in disguise. Where were the opportunities for the youngsters on the bench yesterday, surely they should have started, and then if they were struggling, they could have been substituted.

  23. Won’t hit everyone over the head with another 1400 words on the topic, but …budget and buys.

    You can only spend so much without running afoul of FFP. Compass could’ve spent more, but weren’t allowed to. New team had to be bought in a given range.

    Up to now, as up and down as it’s been, it’s worked. We’re 17th, where I’d be happy to finish. Mings and Engels go out, you’ve got Hause and Konsa. Guilbert and Targett starting ahead of Elmo and Taylor. Argue as you like, but there’s two players each side playing in their preferred positions. Luiz and Nakamba, who are both better than Hourihane and Lansbury, though far from the finished article, and still finding their feet. But they have upside, whereas Conor and Henri are at their peak. Mings was ‘big’ money, Wes, too. But, spine

    Anyway, the math just doesn’t work any other way. Could’ve been that Player X under consideration would’ve turned out to be better than Trez for the same fee. But that’s always the case. See Joelinton. Rated, somehow, at £27m still, he’s only the 89th most valuable player in the PL, and 39th amongst all strikers anywhere. Think Wes was having a hard time?

    Villa couldn’t have gone about things any other way. The cupboard was bare. Coming at this window, they know what they’ve got, know what they need. What hurts is that instead of adding, we have to replace.

    But the idea was always to just stay up and get the next PL payout to strengthen and consolidate within FFP.

    It’s easy to forget that teams who aren’t big clubs but have been up a year, two, or more, have had the chance to spend a lot more money shopping at a different level.

  24. Good analysis as always. I am not a regular contributor to this blog. My heart though bleeds when things seem to go awry.
    I think Dean Smith has to take his share of the blame especially tactically and his lack of blooding academy players.
    He has been here for a year and three months and he should be doing better as a manager. I agree that we have to work within the FFP but i think in the transfer market he could have done a better job.
    Regardless of what i have said i think avoiding relegation should be a priority then continue to strengthen in the summer. The likes of Lansbury,Chester,El Mohamady ,Taylor,Kodjia should be sold released regardless of which division we will be come May.
    He should stick with the existing keepers Kalinic,Nyland and Sarkic. No point in buying a new keeper.
    Heaton was fairly injury prone in his Burnley days and i questioned the desire for us to invest in him. Will Douglas Luiz also link up with Brazil for the pre Olympic tournament. If so our midfield will be in big trouble.

  25. I think we need more aggressive type of players to

    Mings is our only leader. Nobody else will scrap.
    You don’t want targett when the going gets tough for example. We are to soft

    Giourd would be good. As long as we got two wingers who can cross

  26. And I think we have to draw a line between Compass and everything before. Youth, recruitment, whatever, that’s just what was inherited. Nothing to be done, hands tied in a lot of ways. Dr. Tony’s exit was Year Zero in terms of us doing anything right.

    Compass have had to work financial magic just to fund (and considerably) what business has been done. There will be development and all the rest…It’s just that virtually nothing was handled well by previous regimes, and they walked into massive financial pressure, and a foundation of sand, as PP says, which equals “win now with what we can scrape together.”

    If we go back down, then the rebuild will be done right and we’ll come back and look more consistent and coherent, like Sheffield United have done.

  27. Good to see you, Jackvilla.

    Agreed, should save our money for other needs than keeper. Thought I saw that Villa had said no to the Olympics business. Maybe that was just Wes, but…

  28. Frem,

    Yes. Whoever’s being brought in for McGinn needs to be physical, a fighter, and a good ball winner. Like you say, aggression’s what’s needed.

  29. It’ll come down to FFP, though, Frem. No idea what our situation is, but I doubt we’ll be addressing LB during this window.

    Striker, midfielder (maybe one central, one outside). If you get a Benrahma, two birds with one stone. But…I’ve not looked at today’s gossip yet.

  30. Luiz is staying with us. Linked to Randolph and assombakonga! As always! I don’t mind giroud at all but he needs service and support. He ain’t going to run in behind! I want to see some pace and mobility bought.

  31. Frem and all, we dont need a goalie.

    Nyland was the best player from both sides vs Fulham. He looks an unbelievable goalie in my view, he was perfect vs Fulham as no goalie would have saved those shots.

    Giroud would be good if we crossed the ball, which we don’t. We need a speedy striker, blistering pace and guess what, RHM is the man, but he’s out on loan with Tranmere

  32. I think expectations are outstripping Villa’s reality, understandable with our recent history and our new owners and the fact us fans think we always know better 🙂

  33. A friend of mine attended an event over Xmas and he sat at at table with Dean Smith and John Terry.

    Apparently we can only make loan signings (some with a view to buy) in January because of FFP.

    It is going to be difficult to sign players on a loan basis only in the window.

  34. Richard – Probably true. We did f**k up in the summer

    It’s going to be a disappointing month I think

    Glen Murray linked now


  35. And we need wingers

    Look at Knockheart. His goal. None of our wingers could execute that strike

    Why do Fulham have better winger than us?

  36. Frem- I think fans are terminally doomed to look at other players clubs with envy. When they turn up at yours and do naff all and can’t shoot for toffee you scratch your head. Lets face it most worldie type strikes elevate a player up in the football world.

    As for none of our wingers? Jacks goal against Manure

  37. A while back Wes Edens was interviewed and said that Villa’s approach to transfers would be based on Moneyball. Where is the moneyball on any of the players Smith and Suso signed?
    I risk being slated here;but i think Paddy Riley did a good job when he was on Villa’s books. You only have to look at where Idrissa Gueye,Jordan Veretout ,Adama Traore and Jordan Amavi ‘s current status in football to see he had an eye for a good player.
    Smith is like another Guardiola. He is stubborn with 4-3-3 yet it is bringing the worst out of our set of players. A good manager has to be proactive depending on how the opposition is playing. I have always questioned his tactical nous and time and again i am being proved right.
    If he is looking at signing another keeper then we are doomed.

  38. JackVilla- notice how we only appreciated those players were any good when they had left, if they don’t leave then how can we ever know how much they are worth moneyball style? also we made next to naff all on Paddy Rileys buys.

    You can hardly ask the manager to play 3 at the back in the FA cup when he is basically scratching around for players and trying to give them match time or rest them for the semi.

  39. JackVilla,

    You missed out Jordan Ayew, who is now reaching his potential at Palace. If Remi Garde had been properly backed and we had signed a decent goalkeeper, the Villa story may have been different, especially, if we had held on to those players and the manager a little longer. No one will ever know.

    I do not see us spending money in this window, and it looks like begging and borrowing players to see us through for the remainder of this season. The full on media garbage is dying away very quicky, as they accept that for the moment, there is no money in the coffers.

    Maybe, a couple of results against Leicester and Man City may make a difference, but not very apparent at the moment.

  40. Mark King – We have to abide by the rules of FFP or risk a points deduction or a huge fine unless the owners are willing to conjure another sponsorship deal like Man City did with Etihad Airlines.

    And we have only been linked with loan deals so far – Batshuyi – Giroud

    We could always construct loan to buy deals. However clubs with money to spend in January will be in pole position.

    And you can bet the likes of Batshuyi /Giroud will be on be bucks at Chelsea – £90K-£120K per week so that could disrupt our pay structure.

    In short we have to rely on loan signings and this could mean us waiting to sign a new striker until the 31st January as teams will only loan players if they have a replacement.

    It is going to be tough.

  41. Mark your bang on about expectations.

    Taking off our villa glasses we are a newly promoted team. In a serious relegation fight. Big injuries to 3 key men. Trying to deal in the nightmare Jan transfer window. Teams aren’t going to sell best players. Teams know we are desperate. On the cusp of ffp. Absolute nightmare and anyone coming in will be welcome. Murray could be very shrewd for me. But I wouldn’t want 2 strikers the same. Already got Davis coming back who’s a target man. Need service and pace.

  42. I have a feeling its going to be a s**t month

    Can’t get sturridge, giourd, the other Chelsea guy and Murray won’t be able to come because they won’t let him

    It’s going to be 10th choice again. Like the summer

    No wingers linked. We will go down if we don’t sign a ciouple. We have the worst forward line in the league

  43. re: Moneyball

    Remember, the primary goal is getting in players who produce on key metrics and cost less than other players who perform similarly. It’s about value for money. Mings versus Maguire, for example.

    Sell-on is secondary: just naturally follows that if you buy a less-expensive version of a certain kind of player that they’ll be worth more money when they produce.

  44. We bought 13 or 14 players for 130mill. It’s peanuts. The circumstances last summer for us was so unique. Managers first summer transfer window. Squad overhaul as players were old and out of contract and loans ended. And we lets admit it was very lucky to go up so have prem league to contend with. It’s mission impossible! Now the spine of the team Heaton mcguinn wes injured!

  45. Completely. Reality is we should of finished 10th or so last season. Miles behind Norwich, blads, Leeds, baggies last season. How the hell we got out the champ I’ll never know last season. Ridiculous run, pens against baggies and Leeds bottling it against Derby.

  46. Sounds like we are missing our on everyone

    Palace and Newcastle beating us to strikers

    Not good

    Bentileb being linked to Palace to. Exactly the type of DM we need. We need someone we power and height. We are so small and weak

  47. H&V- Maybe looking at him being the base, more of a play maker, depends on whether DS sticks with 343 or 433, Leicester played 442 at their height with him and Kante in the middle.

  48. yeah true. Not knocking it. If you match up our current cm’s Lansbury, hourihan, nakamba, luiz drinkwater is probably 2nd best!

    He has prem experience and has a bit of bite about him which we need. Any signings a risk…we moaned when we signed mings on loan and that turned out ok! Wait and see.

  49. Smith is turning into bruce lambert and Sherwood
    Drinkwater is the similar to our midfielders,lightweight and small when we are crying out for a big fcuker in midfield someone to bully other sides
    As for this young lad from barcelona didn’t we sign someone 3 years bedeau was it for nearly a million let go free,anymoney we have we need to spend on the here and now

  50. Welcome to VP Danny Drinkwater. I think he’ll need to hit the ground running.

    Looks like the order of the day is loan players due to FFP. Does anyone know when our next set of accounts will be released?

    Seems like small heath are in points deduction territory again. Too bad.

  51. Plug- the end of the Tax year is April 1st so around then. That raises a question as in if we are going on the previous tax year 18/19 plus two previous it means this seasons £130m splurge is not even added to the equation yet that would be next years tax year plus previous two. Good job as we lost a lot over the last few years, How the buy out effects that who knows?

  52. Drinkwater is not a bad signing. Plus he is on loan. From his performances at Leicester in their title winning season i think he can add bite to our midfield provided he can be fit enough.
    About tonight’s match i think Dean Smith should try out El Ghazi upfront. He has shades of Ronaldo about him having watched him all those years from his Ajax debut. He can take players on,has pace and does actually know how to finish.
    Leicester took us apart last time out but with 3-5-2 system we have a chance of getting a result. My prediction 1-1.

  53. Drinkwater will be interesting, especially as he couldn’t make it at Burnley. It’s more or less the last chance for him, so hopefully he’s up for it.

    Seems like we’re getting desperate for a striker, and getting liked to everyone. Whoever we get will be a risk, as I can’t see a 20 goal striker coming in

  54. Apparently the Bowen link not true! Don’t think we are spending lots!

    Agree about drinkwater it’s a gamble but we are dealing in Jan window but it could be a decent signing. He can be a nasty little bugger which we need.


    El ghazi shades of Ronaldo 🙂 The man has missed so many open goals! I think Trezegeut will turn out good….theres a very good player in there to come out. He was great aginst burnley

  55. Couple thoughts:

    Drinkwater: From what I’ve read about him, the biggest asset is his range of passing, and feeding the ball upfield. Which we could sorely use. I didn’t see much of Leicester during their title run, so I’m ill-equipped to say much more.

    The Burnley stint seems to have gone wrong because he injured himself at a nightclub, was basically hurt most of the time, and had only come back to fitness and consideration. So, I don’t think his time there really says anything about him. Beyond not letting him go out at night.

    Strikers: Going to be linked to anyone, yes. But given we’d gotten five goals in half a season from Wes, replacing that production, or exceeding it, shouldn’t be the world’s biggest ask.

    Of course, some of these players aren’t going to do the hold- and linkup job Wes was improving at, so we might have a different attacking style going forward.

    If one of Drinkwater’s strengths was hitting Vardy in stride, then there may be more of a plan behind his acquisition and the strikers we’re in for than initially meets the eye.

  56. Blimey it’s like taking kids into a sweet shop

    Just putting my head inside the door, I think tekkers would be a different player for Villa to what he is at CP, & he would come back to himself in a far more supportive environment.

    But it’s unlikely to happen.

  57. Jackvilla, H&V…

    I don’t actually think you’re far off there on Ghazi. He is fast, he is strong on the ball, and he can be very direct running at defenders. He has missed some sitters.

    But overall, I think he suffers from the pace of transition. He’s not getting the ball in space in the channels, so he doesn’t get many to run onto in more infield positions. We get up, but by the time we do we’re rather flat along the front, leaving him to work the touchline, and leaving it to the midfielders to be in the places where I think he would be more threatening.

    Again, if Drinkwater can spray longer passes earlier, he might be a very useful asset.

  58. Drinkwater has been identified as the player to supply Hogan with the balls that he needs, in exactly the same way as he supplied Vardy. The whole problem with Hogan was we kept crossing balls into him, rather than feeding the ball to him.

  59. IanG…

    Miracles, one hopes.

    What I’m looking for is a side that really wants to redeem themselves. Because of this semi business, we’ll end up playing them four times. They really gave us a lesson the first time. Have we learned anything?

    And then there’s the question of City (and points) at the weekend. You want to put out a strong side for a cup semifinal, you need to to avoid getting embarrassed. But we also need something left in the tank. And something to build on, confidence-wise.

    Me, given the situation and how they took us apart last time, I might very well go three at the back again, leaving someone fast like Mings to keep an eye on Vardy and the quick, long balls they play. If I were Dean, I’d be very happy with a compact, disciplined performance and play for a morale-boosting draw. Stepping stones.

  60. I expect us to be tactically and technically outclassed again

    I can’t see us stringing 5 passes together and having no shots on target

    I hope not

    Hope we see 532

  61. Frem,

    Maybe we can string 3 passes together and get into the final third a couple of times.

    If we can manage a draw, or come away with only a one goal deficit, we will be doing well, much more than that I do not see, unless Drinkwater plays a blinder with Jack.

  62. JC
    I thought drinkwater greatest asset was he was first to the bar
    Some of links are gone beyond ridiculous even renia what’s point nylan kalnic sarkic available now steer in few weeks ,smith really disappoints

  63. I would like us to do a man city from last night and play with no strikers…sorry kodger! Front 3 of trez jack and ghazi.

    Linked to Rodriguez now.

    Reina is a great signing for me. Proper experience and very calm. Keeper is hugely important and as a defender I’d know who I’d love to play in front of!

  64. I liked the look of the front three and wondered if we would see it for a while now, very fluid, mobile and decent on the counter. I wonder if Kodjia is off? which could mean we have a striker sorted.


    Team to face Leicester: Nyland, Konsa, Mings, Hause, Guilbert, Luiz, Nakamba, Taylor, El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Grealish.

    Subs: Kalinic, Elmohamady, Chester, Hourihane, Lansbury, Jota, Vassilev.

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