Aston Villa were defeated again in their latest Premier League game as they lost 2-0 to Chelsea at Villa Park on Sunday.
Despite the result, former Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor has shared his thoughts on Steven Gerrard’s team selection for that game and why he should stick with it going forward.
He also namechecked two players in the squad who weren’t part of the line-up on Sunday and who, in his view, should remain excluded from the manager’s starting XI, which was set up in a 4-3-3 formation for the third successive game.
Agbonlahor’s plea to Gerrard
Agbonlahor stated: “I said that Gerrard needs to scrap the two number eights and go with wingers in a 4-3-3. That’s what the formation looked like to me. [Ollie] Watkins on the left, [Danny] Ings through the middle and [Leon] Bailey on the right with a midfielder three with legs and aggression.”
“It was working. Watkins looked better on the wing. I didn’t want to play left wing but I did it for the team. When Darren Bent came in, it was either play left wing or don’t play.
“That’s where I see Watkins. Ings is probably a better finisher and you don’t play two up front nowadays so you put Watkins on the left.
“I think it was the right tactics from Gerrard, it was attacking. [Emi] Buendia and [Philippe] Coutinho have been passengers so it was nice to get a nice three up there.
“It was like when it was me, [Christian] Benteke and [Andreas] Weimann together. You could go anywhere, if the ball is on the right, Watkins can make it two in the box. That was effective under Paul Lambert and the three of us would get goals and assists.
“On another day, Villa beat Chelsea 3-0. I would do the same against Fulham. That’s the best I’ve seen Villa play all season and it looked like it was a team playing for the manager.
“What Villa have been playing is Coutinho and sometimes Buendia. Neither of those two have pace and it’s easy to defend against. Fulham are praying those two play on a tight pitch.”
Stick with 4-3-3
Taking this into account, it seems that even though Villa lost against Chelsea, there was enough in the team’s performance from the starting XI that Gerrard picked for Agbonlahor to feel that the 42-year-old should stick with that formation and line-up for the foreseeable future.
Bearing in mind how Villa had more shots (18 vs 8), corners (7 vs 1) and big chances (4 vs 3) than the Blues on Sunday, this shows how effective this team selection and formation had been in terms of dominating their opponents and why it could be worth sticking with for the foreseeable future.
While it may help the team to pick up points if they can become more clinical in front of goal, it may not be good news for Coutinho and Buendia, especially if Gerrard thinks his side are better without them in the starting XI.
Alas, with the South American attacking pair managing only one goal contribution between them (an assist) from a combined 20 league appearances this term, it’s little wonder that Agbonlahor feels they should be omitted due to apparent under-performance.