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Stewart Downing & The Possibilities

Stewart Downing & The possibilities

We`ve been speculating about it all season, before he`d even kicked a ball even, but with Stuart Downing making his Aston Villa debut the weekend, added to the argument about the centre-midfield partnership. It`s the one issue amongst Villa fans that seems to be causing endless debate as to who the ideal first choice pairing should be. Stan Petrov seems to be the first name MON puts down and seemingly preferring Sidwell alongside him. But a look in the Vital Forums and you`ll find multiple threads and countless posts that always end centering around the issue.

Some call for Reo-Coker to partner Petrov while others prefer Delph to be given more of a chance. 4-5-1 also gets its fair amount of airtime with a three-man centre of Petrov & Delph and any pairing of Sidwell or NRC.

The full back issues of Young/Cuellar and Warnock/Bouma are a close second but the centre partnership is the clear leader in Aston Villa debates. And rightly so in my opinion. It was only a few weeks back MON was calling for goals from midfield and a look at the statistics will tell you why it`s not a difficult observation to make.

Below highlights the top teams in England and the goals-to-games ratio of their central midfielders.

table

We`re still waiting for a goal to come from the centre-mids this season. Hell, both centre-backs have already scored before they have. Even Cuellar managed his first goal for the club before any of Reo-Coker, Petrov or Sidwell has managed one this season. I still have to laugh when I think about Sidwell`s miss against Bolton. How anyone could miss that shot following Milner`s penalty is beyond me.

MON rightly pointed out that to be successful you have to have a goal scoring midfield, and to go a season without a goal coming from the centre but still be successful; you would have to be extremely lucky. It may sound like I am, but I`m not criticising the players as individuals. Regardless of what we say about them, they all have something to offer to the first team. It`s not their fault that MON prefers wing-play and has the team set up to play this way. It would be nice to have them popping up with goals every now and again but it doesn`t take a genius to figure out that the expectation for goals falls on the likes Carew, Agbonlahor and to a lesser extent, Milner & Young, and then to an even lesser extentů Heskey. (Although congrats on the goal the weekend Emile).

Downing

The point I`m making is that with Downing`s return to playing, we could be seeing a major shake up to way MON sets up his midfield to try and improve the miserable goals-to-games of the midfield. Downing is hardly a superstar but I firmly believe he could go on to become one of the best signings O`Neill has made. Not through his own ability per say, but the options that he will bring to the team. This one player could make all the difference to MON`s plans A, B & C.

Plan A - Stick with what you know

LW: A. Young
LCM: Downing
RCM: Petrov
RW: Milner

This would see Downing become a straight replacement for Barry. I know we were reassured that this wasn`t the reason for his signing, but Stuart Downing is about as close as you going to get to Gareth Barry. It wouldn`t be too hard for Downing to adapt his play to the centre. We would finally have someone in the centre of the pitch actually able to make some good passes. It could even mean less long balls for Carew to aimlessly flick on!

Having a central midfielder in Downing would allow more time on the ball as he can hold the ball and pick out his pass. Much needed if you ask me. The amount of times I`m pulling my hair out over losing possession far too easily after aimless long balls to Carew to flick on.

After all, the formation is what Villa know and by and large has proved successful during MON`s tenure ship.

Plan B - Energetic centre

LW: Downing
LCM: Petrov
RCM: Milner
RW: A. Young

With Downing in the team MON has already dropped hints to giving Milner a chance in the centre of the pitch. For so long Villa have needed that little bit more creativity and energy in the middle. With the leadership of Petrov next to a player with more ability we could have Milner overlapping Carew & Agbonlahor to run onto balls into the box. And let`s not for

A goal-scoring central midfielder would be a huge addition to the Villa attacking arsenal, and lets not forget that Milner and his fantastic work rate, is more than able to get back and put a defensive shift in when needed. This is a distinct possibility, as it would come without the sacrifice of losing any of our wing play. Ashley moving to the right would mean less of a dependency to cut inside and would see him maybe beat his fullback that little easier. With the left free for Downing he can use his left peg to provide deep crosses to the far-post and with Gabby, Carew, Milner & Ashley Young all being available to attack the ball then surely we`re looking at goals??

Plan C - Three pronged attack

LW: Downing
CM: Petrov
RW: Milner
ACM: A. Young

To be a top, top team you need to have that ability to commit men forward when chasing a game. I feel that in this formation Downing in the team would be beneficial merely for just having him in that left wing position. This could then see Milner or Young playing just behind Gabby & Carew adding more pace, more threat and more chance of a goal than throwing on Heskey. (Although congrats on the goal the weekend Emile).

I can`t see MON employing this tactic too often, as it would leave us depleted in the centre of midfield. But as I say, just to have the option is a luxury that the top teams have been able to enjoy for years.

This in no way means that Sidwell, Delph, & Reo-Coker become redundant. I feel like the only one, but am getting increasingly sick of reading scathing comments and articles on the likes of Reo-Coker, Sidwell & Heskey. Admittedly they aren`t the best of players and they all have their faults, but to have players like this in the squad able to come into the first team and do a job is a massive luxury. For too long were we complaining about the lack of depth in the team. For too long did we hear the excuse of having such a small squad. Now that we finally do have options we`re spending our time trying to drum out some players because they don`t seem too able to get into the first team. Get a grip men!

This is the best Aston Villa squad I`ve seen for a long while and I`m more than happy to include Reo-Coker, Sidwell & Heskey into that.

Now Downing is on his way back to fitness this could be one of the final keys to unlock the top four. His mere presence is going to provide so many option and I hope he gets a run out a Spurs the weekend. I`d love to see him from Holte End.

Let me know how you think Downing will fit into the Villa team.




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The Journalist

Writer: JayVFC Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday November 24 2009

Time: 9:41AM

Your Comments

What a stunning article, thanks so much for taking the time and effort with that, very appreciated. Sorry not got the Downing image loaded in admin yet!
The Fear
What a stunning article, thanks so much for taking the time and effort with that, very appreciated. Sorry not got the Downing image loaded in admin yet!
The Fear
I think Plan B is more likely than Plan A. I think it will take some time for Milner to adapt to being a proven central midfielder as at times his distribution is quite poor. It does seem to spell the end of Craig Gardner's time at Villa though which is a shame as I think he could develop to be a real class act and he's got one hell of a shot on him. Still - nice to have some options for a change!
melski
I think Plan B is more likely than Plan A. I think it will take some time for Milner to adapt to being a proven central midfielder as at times his distribution is quite poor. It does seem to spell the end of Craig Gardner's time at Villa though which is a shame as I think he could develop to be a real class act and he's got one hell of a shot on him. Still - nice to have some options for a change!
melski
A is a very weak left of midfield, no tacklers in Young and Downing. Strong teams would rip us apart down that left hand side. I think the only option if you want to include them all is plan B which allows a strong CM with creativity in Milner and two excellent wingers. Milner would slot in well for a few goals too. I still think that Delph would be better sitting alongside Milner with Petrov just behind them (or NRC) and Gardner as a replacement for either Milner/Delph when needed, and Gabby up front. I cant see enough strength in midfield otherwise.
barcavilla
A is a very weak left of midfield, no tacklers in Young and Downing. Strong teams would rip us apart down that left hand side. I think the only option if you want to include them all is plan B which allows a strong CM with creativity in Milner and two excellent wingers. Milner would slot in well for a few goals too. I still think that Delph would be better sitting alongside Milner with Petrov just behind them (or NRC) and Gardner as a replacement for either Milner/Delph when needed, and Gabby up front. I cant see enough strength in midfield otherwise.
barcavilla
I like B, I hope he employs that if MON sticks to 4-4-2, however is we employ a 4-3-3 formation with option C (extra midfeilder) we would be very exciting to watch
GUMBOAVFC
I like B, I hope he employs that if MON sticks to 4-4-2, however is we employ a 4-3-3 formation with option C (extra midfeilder) we would be very exciting to watch
GUMBOAVFC
I love it when a plan comes together.
Stig
I love it when a plan comes together.
Stig
Been very keen on us signing Downing for the last 18 months. The article above is why...options! I still like 4-5-1 away from home, especially against the top sides. Happy with 4-4-2 at home, except perhaps aginst United and definitely play 4-5-1 against Pool to nulify the Gerrard threat. We also have the option to rest Ashley or James to keep them fresh as well. We can then have 'match winners' to come on from the bench. Great signing, fingers crossed!
krfeskivilla
Been very keen on us signing Downing for the last 18 months. The article above is why...options! I still like 4-5-1 away from home, especially against the top sides. Happy with 4-4-2 at home, except perhaps aginst United and definitely play 4-5-1 against Pool to nulify the Gerrard threat. We also have the option to rest Ashley or James to keep them fresh as well. We can then have 'match winners' to come on from the bench. Great signing, fingers crossed!
krfeskivilla
i think the 4-2-3-1 formation that liverpool play is an option aswell with young, milner and downing interchanging with one another behind gabby, carew or even heskey, leaving 2 of petrov, NRC, sidwell or delph to play in a holding roll and provide some much needed cover for the defence. i honestly think excluding torres and gerrard we actually have a stronger team to play this formation than liverpoo, and with young, downing and milner attacking and switching positions would cause other teams nightmares. excellent article by the way, alot for MON to think about.
1982benny
i think the 4-2-3-1 formation that liverpool play is an option aswell with young, milner and downing interchanging with one another behind gabby, carew or even heskey, leaving 2 of petrov, NRC, sidwell or delph to play in a holding roll and provide some much needed cover for the defence. i honestly think excluding torres and gerrard we actually have a stronger team to play this formation than liverpoo, and with young, downing and milner attacking and switching positions would cause other teams nightmares. excellent article by the way, alot for MON to think about.
1982benny
I agree about being sick of reading scathing comments about our players. I think we have a great squad now with many options. I'll never claim to knowing a huge amount about tactics but I know everything there is to know about getting behind my team. All of the above options seem exciting to me. Glad to have Downing increase our options further. Bring on the Spuds. MASSIVE game. UTV!!
Adam Deuce
I agree about being sick of reading scathing comments about our players. I think we have a great squad now with many options. I'll never claim to knowing a huge amount about tactics but I know everything there is to know about getting behind my team. All of the above options seem exciting to me. Glad to have Downing increase our options further. Bring on the Spuds. MASSIVE game. UTV!!
Adam Deuce
Agree with 1982benny about Gerrard and Torres. IF, and I know it's aMASSIVE IF, we had Gerrard and Torres in our squad I honestly believe we would challenge Chelsea and United for the title. With Gerrard and Torres in their squad, Liverpool will only challenge for the top 4, not the title. Apart from those two world class players, we have a better squad.
krfeskivilla
Agree with 1982benny about Gerrard and Torres. IF, and I know it's aMASSIVE IF, we had Gerrard and Torres in our squad I honestly believe we would challenge Chelsea and United for the title. With Gerrard and Torres in their squad, Liverpool will only challenge for the top 4, not the title. Apart from those two world class players, we have a better squad.
krfeskivilla
nice article. i like ashley out on the left and with him and milner on the wings out full backs are helped out loads so i'd be hesitant to change that. but i'm not sure if downing is the man for goals from midfield. personally im still more excited about delph than downing
ric112
nice article. i like ashley out on the left and with him and milner on the wings out full backs are helped out loads so i'd be hesitant to change that. but i'm not sure if downing is the man for goals from midfield. personally im still more excited about delph than downing
ric112
great article, like the 4-2-3-1 idea.
NorthcliffeBandit
great article, like the 4-2-3-1 idea.
NorthcliffeBandit
4-2-3-1. Petrov and Reo-Coker/Sidwell in the 2, with Downing, Milner and Young in the 3, playing behind Gabby/Carew/Heskey as the lone front man. The 3 could interchange positions at will, causing all sorts of tactical headaches for opposition defences.
gmvillan
4-2-3-1. Petrov and Reo-Coker/Sidwell in the 2, with Downing, Milner and Young in the 3, playing behind Gabby/Carew/Heskey as the lone front man. The 3 could interchange positions at will, causing all sorts of tactical headaches for opposition defences.
gmvillan
oops just saw the same thing above from 1982benny..... sorry mate!!! But it does prove that at least two great minds are seeing things the same way.... :)
gmvillan
oops just saw the same thing above from 1982benny..... sorry mate!!! But it does prove that at least two great minds are seeing things the same way.... :)
gmvillan
What ever the combination deployed, no doubt our play will consist of a long punt up field towards Carew/Heskey !! ;-) Good article, but I think there could be a lot of interchanging between Young, Downing and Milner, and at times we could even see Downing cropping up on the right! 'Could' being the key word, because MON will probably put Downing through the centre... predictably....
bazzah
What ever the combination deployed, no doubt our play will consist of a long punt up field towards Carew/Heskey !! ;-) Good article, but I think there could be a lot of interchanging between Young, Downing and Milner, and at times we could even see Downing cropping up on the right! 'Could' being the key word, because MON will probably put Downing through the centre... predictably....
bazzah
Yep agree wih benny and gmvillan - Option C with only one of Carew and Gabby. Reinforce the midfield with Petrov AND Reo-Coker.
deano.avfc
Yep agree wih benny and gmvillan - Option C with only one of Carew and Gabby. Reinforce the midfield with Petrov AND Reo-Coker.
deano.avfc
Freidal L Young - Dunne - Collins - Warnock Petrov - Reo-Coker Milner - A Young - S Downing (All 3 can be free to move around!) Gabby Team picked & DONE!!! :-)
davidsands1982
Freidal L Young - Dunne - Collins - Warnock Petrov - Reo-Coker Milner - A Young - S Downing (All 3 can be free to move around!) Gabby Team picked & DONE!!! :-)
davidsands1982
PS Great article, really good read, thanks JayVFC
davidsands1982
PS Great article, really good read, thanks JayVFC
davidsands1982
id like to see friedel, young, dune, cuelar, bouma, milner, petrov, reo-coker, downing, agbonlahor, with ashley young having a free role behind agbonlahor, would work good, ashley last year imense!, reo-coker and delph to swop, dont fink mutch of sidwell in my opion. anyone agree with my team?
Tr1dent
id like to see friedel, young, dune, cuelar, bouma, milner, petrov, reo-coker, downing, agbonlahor, with ashley young having a free role behind agbonlahor, would work good, ashley last year imense!, reo-coker and delph to swop, dont fink mutch of sidwell in my opion. anyone agree with my team?
Tr1dent
Great article, you never know MON might already have a cunning plan of his own !!! UTV.
baldric
Great article, you never know MON might already have a cunning plan of his own !!! UTV.
baldric
I like Plan B the best and it would work,, i would love to see and im sure all of us would like Sidwell to get that form back which he had in Reading 3 years ago. Reo-Coker should play in those physical games like against Blackburn were he would've made the difference. Petrov sometime has that shine of excellence when hes in the mood kind of like Carew. I think Milner would do fantastic in the centre because he has that creativity that we need, i can see that he wants to dribble through players and create moments of magic. With A.Young playing in his own position there might be a little less pressure on him. But the big question is when will Downing finially be match-fit. I can only see him being a super-sub (like Harewood used to be) for the next couple of weeks. I think that we will see the best of our team in the second half of the season. So we can bring back that name "Villa Thriller"
__villa__
I like Plan B the best and it would work,, i would love to see and im sure all of us would like Sidwell to get that form back which he had in Reading 3 years ago. Reo-Coker should play in those physical games like against Blackburn were he would've made the difference. Petrov sometime has that shine of excellence when hes in the mood kind of like Carew. I think Milner would do fantastic in the centre because he has that creativity that we need, i can see that he wants to dribble through players and create moments of magic. With A.Young playing in his own position there might be a little less pressure on him. But the big question is when will Downing finially be match-fit. I can only see him being a super-sub (like Harewood used to be) for the next couple of weeks. I think that we will see the best of our team in the second half of the season. So we can bring back that name "Villa Thriller"
__villa__
Thats just the article I wanted to read today!
FootyFans
Thats just the article I wanted to read today!
FootyFans
At Last - we have some real options in the middle (well the whole team really) - can only mean good times ahead.
Lost_In_Ca
At Last - we have some real options in the middle (well the whole team really) - can only mean good times ahead.
Lost_In_Ca
Great article! Sounds like you should be MON's assistant! Or at least "tactical adviser". Especially liked your comments at the end about NRC, Sidwell and Heskey. I agree that they still have roles to play. Especially NRC in a 4-5-1 formation. Still think we need a 4-5-1 option, chaning to 4-3-3 as in your plan C. In any case, very encouraging, I really am looking forward to seeing our options widen out with the availability of Downing!
villa_de
Great article! Sounds like you should be MON's assistant! Or at least "tactical adviser". Especially liked your comments at the end about NRC, Sidwell and Heskey. I agree that they still have roles to play. Especially NRC in a 4-5-1 formation. Still think we need a 4-5-1 option, chaning to 4-3-3 as in your plan C. In any case, very encouraging, I really am looking forward to seeing our options widen out with the availability of Downing!
villa_de
Good reading. Its nice to finally have lots of options but will MON use any of them?
johnmurphy3112
Good reading. Its nice to finally have lots of options but will MON use any of them?
johnmurphy3112
I think MON will play Downing as a CM (i.e Plan A) the majority of the time, but with the option to switch with milner and young. SImilar to what we had with Barry last season, as MON doesn't seem to change his tactics much at all, but hopefully all 3 will have free-er roles than they did last year. I have noticed that Young and Milner have been switching a lot more this year than they did last year so maybe that tactic will also incorporate Downing switching more often than Barry did as barry was predominantly in the middle. Hopefully we will be much less predictable as a result and cause a few defences a nightmare or two.
liamo1981
I think MON will play Downing as a CM (i.e Plan A) the majority of the time, but with the option to switch with milner and young. SImilar to what we had with Barry last season, as MON doesn't seem to change his tactics much at all, but hopefully all 3 will have free-er roles than they did last year. I have noticed that Young and Milner have been switching a lot more this year than they did last year so maybe that tactic will also incorporate Downing switching more often than Barry did as barry was predominantly in the middle. Hopefully we will be much less predictable as a result and cause a few defences a nightmare or two.
liamo1981
You gotta love Fear. I spelt Stewart; Stuart when writing. Could have been embarrasing, cheers for the correction :) Thanks for all the comments guys. Seems like 4-5-1 was glaring omission but there was logic as no team WANTS to play it. It's normally to make sure they're not overrun in the middle, so the purpose of the article was to be more attacking flexible with attacking 4-4-2's.
JayVFC
You gotta love Fear. I spelt Stewart; Stuart when writing. Could have been embarrasing, cheers for the correction :) Thanks for all the comments guys. Seems like 4-5-1 was glaring omission but there was logic as no team WANTS to play it. It's normally to make sure they're not overrun in the middle, so the purpose of the article was to be more attacking flexible with attacking 4-4-2's.
JayVFC
Man, my grammar sucks latley. Not normally this bad. Should really read things back before posting. Oh well you get what I mean. (Hopefully)
JayVFC
Man, my grammar sucks latley. Not normally this bad. Should really read things back before posting. Oh well you get what I mean. (Hopefully)
JayVFC
only a few problems I see with most of the popular opinion, 1) options won't improve that much because NRC will be off in jan and I can't blame him one bit. 2) Stan is getting on now 3) an attacking midfield only works if we have the ball and enough confidence to allow players to get forward. Sidwell and Petrov have both been superb attacking midfielders in previous seasons with other clubs but haven't scored for Villa because they are being asked to hold. With our wing focused attack our central mid will only be able to attack when we have one dedicated spoiler and one allowed to bomb on. I hope Downing will be a revelation wherever he plays but can't help feel that if MON refuses to play NRC then a defensive midfielder would have given us just as many options by allowing others to play a more attacking game.
AVbornandbred
only a few problems I see with most of the popular opinion, 1) options won't improve that much because NRC will be off in jan and I can't blame him one bit. 2) Stan is getting on now 3) an attacking midfield only works if we have the ball and enough confidence to allow players to get forward. Sidwell and Petrov have both been superb attacking midfielders in previous seasons with other clubs but haven't scored for Villa because they are being asked to hold. With our wing focused attack our central mid will only be able to attack when we have one dedicated spoiler and one allowed to bomb on. I hope Downing will be a revelation wherever he plays but can't help feel that if MON refuses to play NRC then a defensive midfielder would have given us just as many options by allowing others to play a more attacking game.
AVbornandbred
 

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