Steven Gerrard was appointed Aston Villa manager in November with the reputation of favouring a 4-3-3 formation, but he’s mostly preferred to pack the midfield with creativity by opting for a 4-3-2-1.

The 41-year-old has made another pivot to a 4-3-1-2, however, using Danny Ings alongside Ollie Watkins in attack to varying degrees of success. Villa have started 11 games with the formation, winning four times (36%) and scoring 18 goals (1.63 per game).

Villa have a 1.23 points-per-game and 1.37 goals-per-game average in the Premier League this season, so the 4-3-1-2 formation is leading to better results.

Noel Whelan is a big fan and says Gerrard has ‘hit the jackpot’ being able to name both strikers in his starting eleven. He added that a two-man attack is a ‘brilliant option’, telling Football Insider: “Ings and Watkins are not bad Premier League strikers.

“They seem to thrive from playing with one another, and both are pretty well-rounded forwards. They can do almost everything in that final third. I think right now that a diamond system is a brilliant option for Steven Gerrard. He’s hit the jackpot.”

Watkins would always lead the line if Villa started with just one striker, so it was a waste to have Ings (46 goals and 10 assists in 100 games for Southampton) on the bench.

Whelan added: “They don’t lose any creativity by having two centre forwards. They can both drop in and play in between the lines if they have to. The goals at the weekend just prove that they can be a really potent strike force when they are given the opportunity to play together.”

Watkins has scored 10 goals with one assist from 32 league games this season while Ings has scored seven goals with six assists from 27 league games. Watkins and Ings have netted four of Villa’s last six league goals, so Whelan might have a point.

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