Aston Villa vs Brighton – Pre-game Assessment

One thing for sure, Brighton must have been hoping for Dean Smith to keep his job, at least for one more week.  Their effective high pressing of a Villa backline that has gone from one of the best last season to one of the worst this season could easily have been rewarded with an opening goal.  At the very least it would have resulted in long clearances that the visitors could have used to control the play.

Even Graham Potter, Brighton’s manager, admits that he expects a more committed effort from our Villans.  With so little time to refocus the Villa squad, tactical changes will necessarily be limited.  What will change will be the way our claret and blues play as a team, regardless of what happens.  The players will know that they are embarking on a journey, and success will come, regardless of any slips along the way.

One likely tactical change will an emphasis on maintaining possession and making it very hard for opponents to score, something Gerrard was very successful at achieving at Glasgow Rangers.  That will likely translate into the team selection and formation.  It is almost certain that he will go with a variation of a 4-3-3 formation with returning Konsa’s ball handling skills being invaluable.  He may even select Morgan Sanson in the midfield trio for his speed, control and ability to set the tempo.

Up front, Ollie Watkins’s ability to press and force rushed clearances makes him invaluable.  It may also incline the new gaffer to select Buendia on the right, with the anticipation of him building on his partnership with Matty Cash.  Gerrard may be hesitant to start Leon Bailey coming off two international games for Jamaica and little time training with the new coaching staff at Bodymoor.

Danny Ings is also a question-mark after a mystery absence (was it a soft tissue injury or COVID-19?) that Gerrard inherits.  The obvious lack of chemistry between Ings and Watkins suggests that we will likely not see them together on the field for a while until that is sorted out.  That leaves the most likely starter on the left will be either Ramsey or Young, suggesting that the 4-3-3 could morph into a 4-3-2-1.

Brighton will start a similar line-up to that in recent games with two enforced changes.  Robert Sanchez, the imposing 6’6” goalie will have to sit out against the Villa having intentionally tripped Calum Wison of Newcastle to prevent a goal that would have seen the goalie’s team lose.  Jason Steele will replace him in what will be his first Premier League appearance.  The capacity crowd are sure to make this a memorable occasion and expect our Villans to make every corner an adventure.  That will be despite Brighton’s imposing Dunk and Duffy best efforts to protect.

The only other necessitated change will be the replacement of Mwepu who sustained a hamstring injury in the Newcastle game.  He is likely to be replaced by MacAllister who replaced him then.  Brighton will likely play for the draw having hit a lull after their dream start to this season, four wins and one loss.  They are now gone eight games without a win. 

Our Villa have to keep in mind that one of those ties was at Liverpool and it came after the Albion were down 2-0 in the first half.  That Trossard was able to almost walk his tying goal into the net suggests that, as a false-nine, he is extremely dangerous.

My prediction is 3-1 with much of the credit going to the raucous Villa fans.


Aston Villa likely starting XI

Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Luiz, Morgan, McGinn, Buendia, Ramsey, Watkins

Brighton Hove Albion starting XI

Steele, Veltman, Duffy, Dunk, Cucurella, MacAllister, Bissouma, Lamptey, Lallana, March, Trossard

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