Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

The difference in intention of Aston Villa's movement

I compared two different passages of play of Aston Villa. One from October against West Ham, and the other from Tuesday against Newcastle. The difference in the intention and lack of movement in the Newcastle match is stark in comparison.

Figure 1.1
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The arrival of John McGinn central to receive the pass in a pocket with Douglas Luiz moving to the next pocket. Pau Torres carrying forward to make a defender jump. Zaniolo and Diaby moving right anticipating the pass to the right.

It’s all coordinated and easy on the eye.

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Aston Villa are moving towards the ball, towards the space closest to the ball.

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They’re offering both an outlet out to safety and a pass forward before West Ham’s back-line. They aren’t just moving for the sake of moving, they are reacting to the opponent, baiting movement from the opponent, and then anticipating passes before they are played.

There is only three changes in the lineup when you compare this match against West Ham, and Tuesday’s match against Newcastle. Youri Tielemans is in for Nicolo Zaniolo, Clément Lenglet is in for the injured Pau Torres, and Álex Moreno is in for the injured Lucas Digne.

The rest of the lineup is the same, a back-four with two full-backs, Cash and Moreno, but a different application of how they move.

Figure 2.1
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Aston Villa are moving away from the ball, in unison. There’s a double pivot, and the rest attack space ahead of the ball. There’s very little movement ahead or behind the ball.

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As the ball is played side to side, again, little movement but all in unison. It’s a very predictable way of playing.

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Once the ball is played wide, due to that lack of movement before they play wide, there’s little space created for the front three.

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Figure 2.10

And then ultimately they just hoof it long. This is was the repeated pattern throughout that Newcastle match.

It’s hard to place blame on one player but I will say that Pau Torres is a very important to what they do. His ability to know where to move, when to carry forward, his accuracy with medium length passes is invaluable. The midfield probably feels more comfortable dropping and making runs when he is back there. He connects the full-backs to the midfield.

Clément Lenglet has done a better than expected filling in but he takes a bit longer to make decisions. The midfield seems to hesitate when they are given the option to pass him the ball, at times.

Add the fact that Álex Moreno has no one to rotate with at left-back because Lucas Digne is injured, and the general tiredness throughout the entire squad as they are plagued with injuries in multiple positions after only getting four days rest before the match after playing Chelsea. They have an FA Cup replay on February 7th against Chelsea to add to the fatigue.

They need to bring back that West Ham movement towards the ball, towards the pockets of space, to get their attack back on track during the run of games before the next Europa League match in March.

The intention should be to coordinate movement to manipulate the opponent to open space, not just pump it forward and follow side to side.

Match: Aston Villa 4-1 West Ham, 22 October 2023 — Newcastle 3-1 Aston Villa, 30 January 2024

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