Well, well, well...
Who on Earth would have thought that Aston Villa could come back to win after twice trailing to Manchester City? Not even the most ardent Villa fan could have seen their side claiming their third win of the season with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manuel Pellegrini's men.
It was, undoubtedly, one of the shocks of the season, and it was no fluke—well, maybe just a little.
Villa certainly rode their luck throughout the match and were fortunate to go level with Karim El Ahmadi in an offside position as he found the back of the net, but it was Villa's formation that allowed them to down the Citizens.
Villa boss Paul Lambert opted for a 3-5-2 formation, with Leandro Bacuna and Antonio Luna operating as wing backs, meaning that Villa could flood the midfield and ensure that they would not be overrun by City's physical pack.
The tactic certainly paid off for Lambert but the victory could leave him with a small headache. Should he continue with the formation or should he revert back to his favoured 4-3-3?
With the expected return of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Westwood and the fact that Villa are playing a newly promoted team, Lambert will more than likely opt for the 4-3-3 and should selecting the following players in his starting XI.
The American keeper has been one of Villa's stand-out players this season and, as the Daily Mail reports, has racked up the second-most touches in the Villa team this year. Villa have kept just one clean sheet in the last 27 matches, but that is no fault of Guzan's. In fact, their only clean sheet in that period—the 1-0 win over Norwich a fortnight ago—was solely because of the custodian.
Following right-back Matt Lowton's dismal performance in Villa's defeat to Newcastle, Lambert has opted to play utility man Bacuna in the Villa back line. The Dutchman, who prefers life in midfield, has been excellent during Villa's two most recent games and, although playing out of position, will certainly keep his place in the side against Hull City.
Along with Guzan, Vlaar's name will be one of the first on the team sheet. As Villa captain Vlaar is one of the most vital members of the squad and has had no trouble taking on the responsibility since his transfer from Feyenoord. The Dutchman has played every single minute of every game this season and, so long as he stays fit, should continue to do so for the rest of the term.
Clark will be given the nod to play alongside Vlaar in the heart of the Villa defence. Though Nathan Baker played in Villa's win over Man City, a change in formation should see him dropped to the bench with Clark preferred. The Republic of Ireland international's experience in the Premier League and in international competition gives him the edge over Baker, though the young Englishman will certainly push his teammate for a starting spot throughout the season.
Luna, like Vlaar, has played every one of Villa's 540 minutes of Premier League action so far. From scoring on his debut against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium to working tirelessly against Manchester City, Luna has done everything Lambert will have wanted from the Spaniard since his move from Sevilla in the summer. Luna has competition in the side with Joe Bennett pushing for a start but, with the 22-year-old performing so well in the side, Lambert would be foolish to replace the left-back.
It appears that, finally, Delph is starting to prove his worth. In fairness to the Bradford-born youngster, his first few season at Villa were injury-hit, which inhibited his progression through the ranks. But the promise that Martin O'Neill saw in the all-action midfielder is now finally starting to show. Delph was Villa's player of the month for August and has continued in his fine form to help Villa into the top half of the Premier League. The fulcrum in Villa's midfield, Delph links defence with attack using his energy, ambition and fabulous passing range. He's a certainty to feature against Hull.
Karim El Ahmadi
El Ahmadi is yet to prove himself to the majority of Villa fans. He is a player who splits opinions but is certainly doing his best to get everyone on side. Following a very indifferent season during the 2012/13 campaign, Lambert has opted to stick with the Moroccan. El Ahmadi was a bystander during Villa's opening two fixtures and then had a stinker in Villa's loss to Newcastle. But his performances during Villa's last two games—victories over Norwich and Man City, in which he scored—seem to have repaid the faith Lambert has shown in him. Villa fans could now be seeing the player Lambert knew he signed back in 2012.
Westwood was a revelation for Villa in their disastrous 2012/13 campaign and was one of only a few bright sparks. The young midfielder picked up where he left off last season, performing well alongside Delph in the heart of midfield. The 23-year-old picked up a thigh injury in training ahead of Villa's clash with Norwich and subsequently missed the following two games. Lambert is confident that his midfield maestro will be fit for this weekend's tie with Hull and should go straight back into the team.
Fan-favourite Agbonlahor has been a real star for Villa this season, operating down the left after being converted from a striker—a change that has seen the Birmingham man flourish. Agbonlahor tore the Arsenal defence to shreds on the opening day of the season, winning two penalties, and has since given other Premier League sides' defences a real headache. Injured in Villa's win over Norwich, Gabby missed the win over Man City but will be fit to play against Hull and will certainly be installed on the left.
Like Agbonlahor, Weimann has had to settle for playing on the wing—largely because of the influence Christian Benteke has had playing up front. The young Austrian doesn't seem to mind where he plays, though, and will always give 100 percent. Villa's formation against City did give Weimann a chance to partner Libor Kozak up front—allowing him to score a dramatic winner—but if Lambert is to revert back to a 4-3-3 then expect Andi to operate from the right once more.
Villa's summer signing from Lazio will be the man up front. Benteke is expected to be out until the end of October so the Czech striker will be given the nod. After a rather forgettable debut against Newcastle, Kozak scored within minutes of replacing Benteke against Norwich. Last season's top goalscorer in the Europa League led the line well against City, using his strength to hold up play and his fine aerial ability to play in his teammates. With the pacy Agbonlahor and Weimann on either side, Kozak could be given a number of opportunities to grab his second goal for Villa against Hull.
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