Aston Villa: Analysing Paul Lambert's 3-Man Defensive System Against QPR
Paul Lambert's a risk taker, but perhaps his biggest risk to date in his short Aston Villa career was opting to play a 3-5-2 formation at Loftus Road on Saturday.
The game carried monumental implications for the bottom half of the table and had they lost, the rest of the season would have looked immediately bleak for the Midlands club.
Let's take a look at how Villa used the system and why.
Lineup: No. 6 Ciaran Clark, No. 11 Gabriel Agbonlahor, No. 14 Brett Holman, No. 15 Ashley Westwood, No. 20 Christian Benteke, No. 25 Barry Bannan, No. 30 Eric Lichaj, No. 31 Chris Herd, No. 32 Nathan Baker, No. 34 Matthew Lowton
The script read: Harry Redknapp wins first home game of the season to spark Queens Park Rangers' charge to safety.
Paul Lambert re-wrote it.
He knew the optimism the players and fans would carry into the game at Loftus Road, and it was legitimate to believe Villa would really be up against it.
Going for three at the back was an unbelievable risk considering Ron Vlaar was injured for the game, but if you take into consideration both Enda Stevens and Joe Bennett being out, the decision becomes more logical.
Lichaj has had plenty of chances this season to stake his claim for a first-team spot but has looked a little shaky on each outing. He's also not entirely comfortable on the left, so the wing-back system was simply a way to compensate for the Villans' severe weakness in that area of the pitch.
Villa played almost exclusively down their own right side through Lowton, and when the ball was shifted up the pitch, the formation slid around to form a 4-4-2—Lichaj as an orthodox left-back, Herd at right-back with Clark and Baker in the centre and Lowton as an auxiliary right midfielder.
In the second half, QPR took hold of the game and Villa started to struggle.
Lambert is one of the most reactive managers in the English Premier League, and he didn't hesitate to switch things around. With Herd struggling in the back line, Lowton took his place, Lichaj was switched to his natural right side and youngster Derrick Williams was brought on for a debut on the left.
Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi came on in central midfield and shuttled up and down the pitch to move Villa forward.
The emphasis switched and all of the good play now came down the left side through Williams, Delph and Agbonlahor (the formation was still designed to leave Lichaj out of the equation).
The U.S. full-back is filling in for Villa in their hour of need, but it was clear that against QPR's 4-3-3, Lambert wasn't confident a back four could come out victorious.
It enabled them to double-mark each winger and man-mark Jamie Mackie in the middle while maintaining an offensive presence.
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