Hopefully after every game, I’ll take a look at the film and offer up my opinions on the match and some of the key moments, players, and actions. This past game against Bournemouth was a tale of two halves in my opinion:
1st Half: Right Tactics, Wrong Personnel
To start the game, Tim Sherwood had Aston Villa sitting back and absorbing Bournemouth’s pressure, trying to take the buzz out of the stadium and slow down the pace of play. That made a lot of sense to me, Bournemouth is a newly promoted side who never played in the Premier League before. They want to go up and down and open up the game, the way that Villa was set up prevented that from happening. In my opinion, the problem was the personnel that was put out there:
Villa started the game with Gabby as the sole striker with Ayew and Sinclair flanking him off of the wings. If we were looking to dominate possession and let Gabby use his pace to get behind the defense, this lineup would have made some sense. However, what Villa did was take on pressure and try to use Gabby as the release valve, playing long balls to him and expecting him to win the first header and allow Villa to control possession. That didn’t workout too well:
Gabby only won 2 of his 6 first half aerial duels (as shown in the chart above), only completed one pass, and only attempted three. Villa lost possession quickly, was forced on their backfoot, and had to defend way more than they would have liked. The real loser in this situation was Jordan Ayew. He was almost nonexistent, mainly because he was looking to play off of Gabby. The problem was that Gabby wasn’t winning that initial ball and that left Ayew hanging.
Additionally, on the off-chance that Villa was able to get the ball into a crossing position, they didn’t have a threat in the box:
They even had a great passage of play where they linked up a number of passes, got the ball to the wing, and it came to nothing because of no threat in the box:
2nd Half: Rudy Makes The Difference, Pushes Gabby Wide
The second half started brightly for Villa as they looked to attack a little bit more, but the real difference took place when Rudy Rudy Gestede entered the game:
Once that happened, Gabby was able to slide over to the right, taking Ayew’s position. This allowed Gabby to use his strongest skillset, his pace. Now, Gabby seems to be getting a lot of stick for his play up top, but he’s not a natural striker. To me, he seems far better suited for the wing, and he showed that once Rudy entered the game. In fact, one of Rudy’s first touches was a great pass to play in Gabby as he ran onto the ball:
The Rudy to Gabby connection provided a real threat. Rudy up top also allowed Gabby to pick up the ball further in the defensive end, allowing him to run with the ball:
In addition to improving Gabby’s impact on the game, Rudy showed his ability to be the focal point of long balls, knocking balls down to his teammates. Additionally, Gestede showed a really good feel for the game, understanding when he needs to come back for the ball, making himself available for his teammates:
Oh yeah, he also scored a goal off of a great header too:
All things considered, this was a good performance, keeping a clean sheet, getting a goal, and getting three points. Villa will probably need to be better to beat better opponents, but Tim Sherwood seems to have found a style of play that he likes, and with Rudy Gestede, he seems to have found a player who can help him execute this style.