Aston Villa: 5 Positives in Paul Lambert's 3-5-2 Formation
It's fair to say that Paul Lambert's men are adjusting to the new system, although the match itself was neck-and-neck but for the finishing.
Here are five positives that Villa have found with their new look.
This season's annual controversy in claret and blue was the "Darren Bent/Christian Benteke debate." Paul Lambert rightly opted for one striker in an attempt to solidify his midfield, but he was constantly chastised by the media for leaving £18-million man Bent on the bench.
It also forced Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann—the club's other two senior strikers—into wide positions, meaning Bent became the victim of his own positional rigidity.
The 3-5-2 formation allows Aston Villa to pack the midfield and run with two strikers, giving Lambert the chance to try different combinations.
Suits the Most Promising Players
Aston Villa have a lot of young players playing in the first XI, so it's important to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
Out of the current crop, Paul Lambert's biggest potential stars are Ashley Westwood, Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke.
Westwood, playing in the Michael Carrick mould, looks at home as a deep-lying playmaker in the 3-5-2 (he's no Andrea Pirlo, but he's damn effective) while Lowton is surprisingly capable in an unorthodox wing-back role.
Benteke doesn't struggle on his own, but lifting the scoring burden by giving him a partner and allowing a midfielder to play off him is a wise choice.
Masks the Full-Back Deficiency
While the 3-5-2 allows Paul Lambert to run with two strikers, the real reason for the switch was injuries at the back.
Joe Bennett, Ron Vlaar and Enda Stevens were out for the QPR game at Loftus Road, meaning that a 3-5-2 was necessary to substitute quality for quantity at the back.
With Bennett and Stevens still out, this formation is doing a wonderful job of masking how poor Eric Lichaj is. He's playing the left-wing-back role, but he was such a liability that he was moved over in favour of 17-year-old Derrick Williams against Harry Redknapp's side.
Less Last-Ditch Work for the Midfield
For a bit of fun, many Aston Villa fans run a mini-sweepstakes on Twitter before each game, betting on which minute Fabian Delph will be booked in.
There's a genuine belief that if he comes off the pitch without receiving a yellow card, he's not going to be a happy bunny. That belief has also stretched to cover Karim El Ahmadi this season, who is certainly not afraid of a tackle.
In the 3-5-2, with three central defenders and at least one wing-back to cover, the midfielders don't have to tear their way through the opposition to get back and defend so urgently.
This can only be good for Delph's suspension record.
Support for Christian Benteke
Christian Benteke is a brilliant player, but he can't do it all on his own.
That's the task that Paul Lambert charged him with against Reading, and although he scored the winner, it wouldn't have worked against a better side.
In the new formation, Brett Holman has license to join up behind the striker, and he's already bagged two cracking goals in this role.
It also gives Benteke a forward partner, meaning that no central defensive unit can double team him unless they're playing three-man systems, too.