Opinion

Could a 4-4-2 change Aston Villa’s outlook?

Aston Villa played two out and out strikers against Rotherham, linking Tammy Abraham and Jonathan Kodjia.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

Aston Villa supporters have been clamouring for a change of tactic after a poor run of form and they were treated to that change against Rotherham United. 

After barely scraping a draw against Blackburn after a Conor Hourihane world class free-kick, the performance was just not good enough. The standard of playing three midfielders should not be completely abandoned, but the inclusion of Tammy Abraham on loan from Chelsea definitely felt like utilising two strikers was an obvious and much needed tactic. 

Abraham didn’t disappoint against Rotherham. He netted a goal with the assist coming from Jonathan Kodjia. The pair of strikers have a bit of history after playing with each other at Bristol City a few seasons ago and it seems like the chemistry is still there between the two players. Abraham seemed to know exactly what Kodjia was doing on the pitch and that hasn’t proven easy for a lot of his Villa teammates in the past. Kodjia has the ability to come off as a very greedy footballer and it’s incredibly noticeable on the pitch at times. 

Abraham seemed to know where and when to make his runs when Kodjia started using his big frame to hold up the ball in the final third of the pitch. It showed up in the statistical column as well. Villa boasted 59.8% possession against Rotherham. Rotherham may not be the stingiest of opponents that Villa will clash with this season but it is a promising statistic that the administering of a 4-4-2 formation seemed to do wonders for the squad as a whole. Villa also completed 353 accurate passes, the most since the 1-1 draw to Reading at the end of August. (Stats via FotMob)

Leading up to the Abraham goal, Aston Villa showed intense and unforgiving pressure in the final third. It seemed every time there was a clearance by the Rotherham back-line, a Villa player was running his socks off to regain possession of the ball. This kind of high-work rate added to a fresh formation may be exactly what Aston Villa supporters have been begging for. The starting eleven seemed to enjoy the change as well. It was a little strange seeing Jack Grealish utilised on the flank, but he seemed to really flourish. 

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce had a few words after the Rotherham result about Jack Grealish playing on the left-flank: “To play two strikers, it was the only way to do it. Grealish has played there as a boy. We made him into a midfield player last year and he did very well. But if I’m going to play two strikers, I’m not going to play Jack in the middle of a two-man midfield. I wanted to give him the freedom to allow him to be a force. I thought he played very well.”

Could this change of tactic potentially save Steve Bruce from getting the sack? Time will tell, but it seems that the tactical change may just stick around for a while at Aston Villa.

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