Aston Villa's 2-1 defeat at hone to Newcastle on Saturday was shambolic, with the defending proving particularly shocking. The problem lies with the whole team’s defending, not just the defence’s.
Throughout the game, the side was disjointed, the midfield was all over the place and Christian Benteke was isolated up front and could not really make an effective contribution to the game. When Newcastle attacked, Villa stood back and let them come forward, which is always a dangerous game to play. Hatem Ben Arfa tore our defence apart countless times, making the defenders fall over on their heels many times as well. Loic Remy was excellent and his movement was not tracked once throughout those testing 90 minutes for Villa fans.
To me, the answer is simply defending more successfully. For the duration of the opening league game against Arsenal, Villa hunted like lions and the players wore their hearts on their sleeves with every player was committed to the cause. It was the same against Chelsea and in the second half against Liverpool.
Furthermore, against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool (in the second half) the players hunted the ball down in twos – one pressed and the other man supported. It is a successful system used by the best sides in the world. Some say that doing this leaves many gaps for the opposition to get into but I would argue that if this system is used effectively, gaps will rarely be exploited.
I will take an example from the first half against Newcastle when Villa won a corner. The ball in was poor and was cleared quickly by Newcastle up to Remy, who was allowed to bring the ball down.
Remy then ran at Matthew Lowton, eating up the ground before unleashing a powerful shot just wide of Brad Guzan’s goal. If Lowton had had support from another player then this would not have happened because Remy was isolated. If it had happened against a team that hunts in pairs, the shot from Remy would never have materialised as he would have been dispossessed.
The system works and we need to use it or else teams will exploit Villa further and punish them. Villa cannot let players of a high calibre have as much room as they afforded Newcastle United.
The Villa Park pitch is wide and teams will continue to exploit this with the use of two quick wingers if manager Paul Lambert does not address the defensive frailties soon. Villa's goal difference was terrible last season but I believe they can stop this from becoming an issue again this season with a more effective system.
Villa have cut out some of the silly mistakes at set-pieces but other mistakes are still visible. In addition, the team need to vary the midfield by having three defensively-minded midfielders. Currently, the ball constantly goes back and this immediately puts more pressure on the defence and will always cause trouble.
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