Aston Villa are in desperate need of a morale-boosting win at Southampton on Friday night as Dean Smith continues to come under pressure.
Villa have suffered four losses on the bounce in the Premier League, and particularly given the manner of some of those results where we didn’t turn up at Tottenham, fumbled a two-goal lead at home to Wolves and didn’t get going at Arsenal, it has all added to the frustration and disappointment.
With the international break to follow our game on Friday, it’s imperative that we sign off on a positive note to alleviate the pressure building on Smith and his players, and to simply just get back on track and start climbing the table again.
In order to that, there are key decisions that the Villa boss must get right against the Saints.
Keep the 4-3-3 system
While we didn’t get the desired result against West Ham, there was an improvement in our general performance compared to previous games, as seen when we changed it at half-time against Arsenal.
The 4-3-3 system suits key players much better than the 3-5-2, and it allows us to get on the front foot and be more commanding in our approach to the game.
It’s going to be a difficult test away at Southampton, but the 4-3-3 should hopefully provide us with some level of defensive solidity despite our porous backline recently, and allow us the ability to play our top creative players too.
Find the right midfield combination
Jacob Ramsey is expected to be ruled out for a few weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain on Sunday, while Douglas Luiz was also absent and so his availability is unclear at this stage.
In turn, Marvelous Nakamba and John McGinn will likely continue, while it’s hoped that Morgan Sanson is fit enough to start and prove a point after his injury nightmare since joining us.
That trio possesses tenacity, work-rate, technical quality and skill to help us get a foothold in the game. Our midfield has been far too weak in our losing streak, and so if it’s this trident, they have to be physically imposing.
Stick with Buendia
While he didn’t have the best of games overall and was seen going straight down the tunnel after being replaced against West Ham, there was a glimpse of what Emiliano Buendia can bring to this Villa side with his assist for Ollie Watkins.
His run off the ball and then the composure and vision to find his teammate was top class, and he now needs the opportunity to build on that and find some consistency.
Even if his position and role is tweaked, it’s important that Buendia stays in the starting XI now and finds his best form.
Keep playing Watkins alone up top
Similarly to our problems in midfield, it’s also currently uncertain as to whether Danny Ings will be available to face his former side after sitting out at the weekend.
What we did see in that game though was Watkins looking much more comfortable and effective in his usual role for us from last season, as he scored a goal and pressed high up the pitch in the right areas.
Villa need to get back to basics and utilise what made us such a strong side last year, and that includes playing Watkins up top on his own as the spearhead of our attack.