Tottenham Hotspur vs. Aston Villa: Tactical Preview

Tim Sherwood will not return to the touchline at White Hart Lane on Monday when Aston Villa travel to Tottenham. The former Spurs manager was fired this past Sunday with Villa sitting bottom of the table on only four points through ten matches – you know you’ve hit rock bottom when even Chelsea beats you.  

As I write this, no successor has been named, though Remi Garde seems to be the likely choice. Regardless of whether a new manager will be appointed come the match, Villa will be a side in flux when they take on Spurs under interim manager, Kevin MacDonald.

Perhaps nowhere is this instability more apparent than in the defense. Both of Villa’s starting center backs, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards, are questionable for Monday, each being listed as having a 75% chance of playing. Should just one of them be absent, look for Ciaran Clark to step in. Should both be absent, we’ll probably see the pairing of Clark and José Ángel Crespo – the two of them started in the League Cup this week. 

The rest of the defensive unit is comprised of goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, right back, Alan Hutton, and a left back that could be Jordan Amavi (who played left back this week in the League Cup) or Kieran Richardson (who played left midfield in the League Cup). Hutton is a significant contributor to the Villans’ attack, averaging 1.4 chances created per 90 and assisting twice this season. Amavi also has two assists on the season.

In the first midfield band, look for Leandro Bacuna or Ashley Westwood to join Idrissa Gueye – this, of course, presumes that MacDonald will play a 4-2-3-1, which is certainly not a given. Though it’d be slightly surprising if Villa played a 4-4-2, given the opponents and the venue.

The second midfield band should feature Gabriel Agbonlahor on the left. Agbonlahor leads the Villans in chances created per 90 (2) and could be a handful for Kyle Walker. Despite playing on the wing, Agbonlahor creates very few of these chances from crosses, Jordan Amavi, however, does look to cross often and provides width in the attack. If Amavi starts at left back, expect Agbonlahor to drift in and feed Amavi via overlapping runs. The situation is similar on the right side of the pitch. Right winger Jordan Ayew rarely crosses the ball, while right back, Hutton, crosses often. 

In the number 10 role is 20-year-old Jack Grealish. Grealish should, in theory, be an important component of the Villans’ attack, though his numbers thus far are not those of a match-commanding attacking midfielder. He’s only averaging one chance created per 90 minutes. Compare that to our own Christian Eriksen, who averages 3.5 chances created per 90. Grealish is full of potential, but at the moment, he’s not solving many of Villa’s problems. 

Frenchman, Rudy Gestede, will likely line up at striker in MacDonald’s side. At 193 cm, Gestede brings significant aerial options to Villa’s attack, leading the Premier League in aerial duels won per 90 (10.3). Expect many long balls to be sent his way. 

Poch will again be without Bentaleb, Son, Chadli, and Pritchard – though Mason could return to the side this week. The lineup will probably resemble if not be the exact lineup that started the 5-1 rout of Bournemouth, with Mason making his return off the bench. 

The Spurs Projected Goal Difference is the highest it’s been all year at +1.63 in favour of Spurs. This should, in theory, be a very favourable match for Tottenham, though we should keep in mind that the last time Spurs hosted Villa at the Lane, Spurs lost 1-0.

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