During our defeat to Southampton I couldn’t help but think that keeping the same starting 11 made Aston Villa to predictable and very easy to play against. Prior to games, opposition teams will send out scouts to analysis their opponents style of play. With Sherwood sticking with roughly the same starting 11 for several consecutive it was inevitable that one team would find a flaw in Villa’s game and expose it. That is exactly what had happened, playing a high line was not effective versus the pacey Mane.
With survival assured I think that Sherwood will be using the game against Burnley as a testing ground for Villa’s big FA Cup final against Arsenal, a game that has huge implication for Villa’s future and more importantly, Benteke’s future.
In order to do this Sherwood needs to change the formation and give different players a chance in the starting 11. If I was the manager this is how I’d design my starting 11 against Burnley.
I made a few significant changes to the build up of the game, firstly I changed the defensive line. I remember in the beginning of the season when Hutton, Senderos and Vlaar all played very well. It could be worth a shot playing Senderos and Vlaar together. If Sherwood is not keen on Senderos, Baker and Vlaar play very well together. Okore and Baker would make a poor partnership because neither are a natural leader and often play better alongside Clark/Vlaar. Should Richardson be fit, he’d fill in the left-back spot but Lowton plays really well on the left hand side. I thought it Sherwood was mad to play Hutton in left-back ahead of Lowton in our game against Southampton. Lowton has often been mismanaged and never really given a fair chance in my opinion.
Midfield is straight forward, Delph and Cleverly have been superb all season long and they have the fitness and energy to run that midfield. It might be a little light against Arsenal but changing things up will make Aston Villa a little more difficult to scout and analysis come the FA Cup final. I think it would be a good idea to push Bacuna further upfield, Bacuna is currently leading the assist table and that’s come from playing at right-back! What could happen if he played in midfield. Who knows but it’s definitely worth a shot, I certainly believe that he’d be more affective than N’Zogbia who is yet to score and hasn’t created nearly as much as Bacuna. Sinclair has just signed a permanent deal and we have not seen to much of Sinclair recently. I’d say give Sinclair a chance against Burnley and see what kind of impact he can have.
Lastly the attack, there is no question or doubt that Benteke will start against Burnley. Hopefully he doesn’t pick up an injury. But should Sherwood be keen on mixing things up, I’d like to see Kozak making an appearance of the bench, he has had a very difficult season due to injury and I think fans can agree that it would be great to see Kozak on the pitch at least once this season. Should that not be the case, Agbonlahor would surely play a part in the game against Burnley.