“Half-Time” of the full tie has concluded, and sees Aston Villa up 2-1 on aggregate. How should Dean Smith and his squad approach the away leg at the Hawthorns?
Since the appointment of Dean Smith, the team has gone a collective 18-10-8, including the impressive 10 match win streak that ultimately vaulted this club back into a playoff position. In his tenure, the club has shifted from the Bruce-era 4-5-1, “bag one and protect the lead” approach, to a 4-3-3, which has produced more progressive attack-minded football.
I wont pour over statistical analysis when it has already been done in a fantastic way here on TotalFootballAnalysis, because ultimately what we need to understand is just that this team are far more likely to win playing extremely attack minded football. Obviously, you need to score more goals than your opponent to win, but this comes down to how approaching these matches (from a progressive attacking point of view) allows other players to flourish. The defense is not constantly under attack. The likes of Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor have a controlled freedom to press up the pitch. Jack Grealish (shouldn’t) have to track back into the Aston Villa third just to get touches. etc. etc.
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So the simple answer to the earlier question of how to approach this match? Keep doing what got you here.
Full credit to James Shan and West Bromwich Albion for sticking to their game plan and executing it to perfection for about 70 minutes. Their 3-5-2 flummoxed the Aston Villa attack, saw Jack Grealish having to track way back to receive the ball, and saw West Brom’s defenders winning one aerial battle after another. They won’t be able to do that this Tuesday (at least from the start), and Aston Villa need to take advantage.
Dean Smith’s men need to throw the first punch. I fully expect that we see numbers pushed forward (and Connor Hourihane starting) early in an effort to bag at least one goal, at which point we might see the defend-and-counter strategy rolled out.
Stay true to yourself Dean, and let’s hope the lads can see this one out.