Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Aston Villa's back-three

July 31, 2023 — Pau Torres slotted in at left center-back, with Tyrone Mings central, Eric Konsa on the right, and Matty Cash pushed forward up the right-wing in possession for Aston Villa. A back-three.

Figure 1.1 - Aston Villa's three-at-the-back in the middle third.

I was wondering how they’d use both Tyrone Mings and new signing Pau Torres.

Torres can’t sit on the bench, he’s too good, but he’s left-footed. Mings is left-footed. Konsa seems to be undroppable, playing at right center-back and right-back during these preseason friendlies. The answer is a back-three.

Konsa and Torres act as the ball-playing center-backs, ready and able to get forward or push infield. Both are fantastic passers. Mings is the statue, the rock. It’s a well-balanced back-line in possession, and very tall.

Figure 2.1 - Matty Cash is played the ball down the wing.

This allows Matty Cash to sit higher up the wing at all times, waiting for the chance to cross.

Aston Villa had a lot of success attacking the right-wing last season with Ashley Young, and we should expect more of the same this season with Cash.

Figure 3.1 - Brentford Manager, Thomas Frank, during the water break.

Thomas Frank beautifully illustrates the full shape of both Brentford and Aston Villa on his whiteboard during the water break.

Three-at-the-back with a double pivot of Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz.

Figure 4.1 - Aston Villa's high line.
Figure 5.1 - Brentford playing over Aston Villa's high line.

Once Aston Villa loses possession, they switch back to a flat-back four, with Matty Cash coming back to right-back.

A feature of Unai Emery’s side is the high line, attempted offside trap. I could see someone like Nicolas Jackson of Chelsea or Rasmus Hojlund of Manchester United having a lot of fun running into the channels behind Villa’s back-line this season.

Figure 6.1 - Aston Villa 4-2 build-up from a goal kick.

When building up from the back, Aston Villa use this 4-2 sub-structure, with Pau Torres at left-back.

This is their baseline. The new shape that Aston Villa deployed against Brentford to include Pau Torres. This is the back-line I’d expect to see on game-week 1.

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