With the international break now upon us, Aston Villa boss Dean Smith will have plenty to think about ahead of our encounter with Wolves on October 16.
Villa will hope to bounce back after defeat at Tottenham this past weekend, and while we have a tough upcoming schedule, we certainly have the quality in the squad to ensure that we come through in a positive place.
Nevertheless, one big talking point is the system that Villa adopt, and with a game at home in which we will be expected to control, command and be on the front-foot, it could be time to show tactical flexibility and switch the formation.
3-5-2 still on the agenda, but 4-3-3 could be option
Granted, much depends on whether or not Leon Bailey is available for the Wolves game, as Smith noted in his press conference last week that he’ll train over the break and will be assessed thereafter to see where he’s at following the quad muscle injury he sustained against Everton.
If the Jamaican International is at Smith’s disposal, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to start given his lack of match minutes, and so it’s hoped that he can flourish in the impact substitute role for another week.
That said, the Villa boss also has Emiliano Buendia to consider as he’s been limited to a bench role too in recent weeks, and it’s imperative that he gets time on the pitch to find his feet and discover his best form to be an influential figure for us in the final third along with Bailey as it sets up a mouth-wateringly dynamic attack.
That seemingly can’t happen if we stick with a 3-5-2, as that would essentially see us continue with the same side from the last two games with Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins leading the way up top.
Against the top sides in the Premier League, particularly away from home, this system works well. It allows us to keep numbers back, pack the midfield to win that battle and use the movement and quality of Ings and Watkins to provide a threat in the final third.
If it works as desired, it gives us good balance on the road, and that was shown against Man Utd while it also worked well against Everton at home.
However, this next game is an entirely different proposition. Wolves possess quality too, but their mindset and set-up will be different and they can’t necessarily be expected to come to Villa Park to play expansive football and go all out for the win.
The onus will be on us to get on the front foot and put pressure on them, and it’s questionable as to whether or not the 3-5-2 system gives us enough creativity to cause real problems consistently as it has a heavy reliance on the full-backs and midfielders breaking forward.
With the likes of Buendia, Bailey and Bertrand Traore sitting on the bench, Smith arguably has to find a way to integrate them into his XI for these type of games, as it gives our attack a more dynamic look and will be difficult to contain.
Time will tell if Bailey is available or not to start at least, but it would come as no surprise if Villa move into this system and personnel as the game goes on against Wolves, depending on whether or not the 3-5-2 is having the desired effect.
Ings is the one who could potential come out in that case as we wait to see the best of his partnership with Watkins, but it could also work with our summer signing in the mix too instead of Bailey.
That would require him to float behind Watkins and drift between a central role and over to the left flank, while it would demand more of Jacob Ramsey and Matt Targett to hold down that flank if Ings is given that freedom.
It’s an intriguing decision for Smith, but he’ll no doubt analyse every little detail to work out which system hurts Wolves more and gives us the foundation to go out and win the game with the most suitable talent on the field.