Aston Villa host Crystal Palace on Saturday as Unai Emery will be looking for his side to deliver a big performance at home and get a positive result.
While our away form has been excellent under the Spanish tactician so far, we haven’t been able to replicate that level of performance at Villa Park and it has led to frustration for all concerned.
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Particularly after the defeat to Arsenal earlier this month, Emery was unhappy with our inability to control games, especially at home, as we’ve won two, drawn one and lost three in six since he took charge, scoring 11 goals while conceding 14.
In contrast, we’ve won four of five away games thus far along with one defeat, scoring eight goals and conceding just four – three of which came in the same game at Man City.
With an important run of fixtures ahead of us now as we look to break into the top half of the Premier League table, Saturday’s encounter is crucial as we look to learn from our mistakes and start to implement and execute the game-plan that Emery wants to see from us at home.
Moreno, Buendia to start with Bailey dropped?
Fresh from winning FIFA’s The Best Goalkeeper award for 2022 this week, Emiliano Martinez will continue between the posts, while Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings will likely remain the first-choice centre-half pairing in front of him.
Matty Cash has arguably done enough in the last two games to warrant keeping his spot at right-back, although Ashley Young will no doubt be itching to get back into the starting XI having impressed previously.
Nevertheless, with the energy and speed Cash injects into our play on and off the ball, he could be the better choice for this game, just as we saw in our last home outing against Arsenal.
Alex Moreno should arguably be the pick on the opposite flank for the same reasons. Just as we saw against Arsenal, Villa need width and different dynamics in our attacking play to find breakthroughs against teams at home while those playing through the middle try to provide control.
Moreno provided that with his assist for Philippe Coutinho’s goal, and while he continues to improve defensively, his technical quality and creativity down that left flank could be a crucial element of our play in the final third.
Naturally, Lucas Digne will have other ideas and will be eager to keep his spot, and so time will tell which option Emery goes with.
Villa will likely stick with the same midfield from the win over Everton, with John McGinn, Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz and Jacob Ramsey getting the nod.
That quartet offer us tenacity, defensive solidity, energy, technical quality, creativity and penetrative runs from midfield, and so as we look for a foothold in the game and to control possession and tempo, it’s arguably the best mix to have in that department.
Ollie Watkins will no doubt continue to lead the line as long as he has no fitness concerns, with the Villa forward looking to make it six consecutive Premier League games in which he has scored.
The big decision though is who starts alongside him? Leon Bailey struggled again at Everton and has managed just two goals in 11 league games under Emery. Although he does tend to have an impact at home and his pace and direct running offers important attributes to our attacking play, this could be one for Emiliano Buendia.
After making a brilliant impact off the bench last weekend and with his ability to create and unlock defences, we could do with his quality in the final third, and so the Argentine playmaker could be preferred to offer support to Watkins with Bailey and Jhon Duran on the bench to hopefully make a positive impact if needed.