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Question of Best XI...?

Question of Best XI... A Team for ALL Occasions? No thanks…

I`ve seen this article on numerous sites, in this, the dullest international breaks… The Question of Lamberts Strongest Team… People have gone in to great detail explaining formation choices and tactical options. They have put huge thought in to the make up and balance of the team.

But I have news for them… They are all right… but in the same light they are wronger, than wrong could be.

People seem to be accustomed to this "strongest 11" idea, this is through years of watching MoN send out the same 11 no matter the opponents. People are taking a blue print from our most recent success and transposing it on to this new era in the history of Villa.

Much has been made of Lambert and O`Neill`s similarities in career path and the influence MoN may have had over PL. Now whilst there are correlations and I am sure Lambert has learnt from the Media Messiah O`Neill, I am also 100% sure that he has learnt from the other managers he has worked with, as a player, as a coach, as opposition and as a colleague.

So we must stop with this notion that Villa have this "one size fits all" strongest 11.

I have seen formations ranging from 451 to 3313 and everything in between. I have seen arguments about the value of having Gabby in ahead of Bent (now that Benteke has become a Drogba like character without even kicking a ball), the Ireland vs Bannan debate, the Dunne vs Clark question… Guzan vs Given… Lihaj vs Lowton vs Bennett … it goes on...

I have a word of advice to people… there will be very few games this season where Lambert will name the same team in consecutive games. Not due to injuries but due to his choice.

A few years back, we would turn up at games (home or away) and play the same kick and rush football. People knew what to expect from us, and eventually people where coming with game plans that nullified us and even exposed us. The same 11 would be flogged throughout the season as much as possible and by March the first team where out of form, and out on their feet.

This season we`re going to be seeing something at the opposite end of that spectrum. Not a team for all occasions, but a team for THE occasion.

Imagine a team set up to deal with opponent`s strengths and a attack their weaknesses… and this is where this "squad" Lambert has began to build comes in to it. Benteke, Gabby, Weimann and Bent, 4 very different strikers, who at different times this season will come together depending on opponent and of course form of the player. Benteke and Bent looks potent, but so does Benteke and Weimann… Yet Gabby and Weimann would pose teams serious questions too with Gabs pace and clever movement from the Austrian.

At times we`ll see a fairly defensive 451 designed to play on the break, at other times Lambert will see a chance to attack and will pick a team to do just that…

The team will be rotated, depending on opposition and form… depending and tactics and systems… depending on freshness and fitness…

What Lambert has managed to do, and I understand the scepticism of this, is actually build a squad that has cover and pressure coming from all areas in the team. I can`t remember the last time this was the case… can you remember a time when everyone in the first team squad see`s a chance of getting in the team? I remember interviews with Albrighton and Clark who talked about "knowing" no matter how hard they trained they wouldn`t get picked… I remember in Houllier era clashes of personalities getting in the way of the the better players being picked.


Guzan or Given

Lichaj, Lowton, Stevens, Bennett

Clark, Vlaar, Dunne, Baker

Westwood, Dutch, Herd, Delph

Ireland, Bannan, Holman, N`Zogbia, Albrighton

Gabby, Benteke, Bent, Weimann

Add Gards, Carruthers, Williams, Johnson, Grealish, Drennan, Burke etc to that and you also have some youngsters eyeing up a chance too… although I do expect Lambert to now start exposing our youth to lower league football at an early age to get them game hardened… I have often said it our youths are technically proficient but naive and under experienced in pressure game situations.

The squad doesn`t look as strong as it has in the past, but the competition for places, I would hope, will bring extra out of the players who will all be looking to improve and keep the place or win their place in the team. There will be no room for resting on your laurels here, something that we have seen in the past… as well as exhaustion.

So I wouldn`t go trying to second guess Lambert this season, he`ll have his own ideas about breaking teams down, and while some selections will look odd there will always be a reason behind them, just take a leap of faith and trust the man. Some times he`ll get it wrong, some times steams will be just too strong for us, some times the luck just won`t be with us. But I bet he gets it right more often than not.

As an example… take a look at these teams and pick the "strongest"


Lowton Vlaar Clark Baker

Dutch Westwood

Holman Ireland Bannan




Lichaj Vlaar Clark Bennett


Dutch Delph


Benteke Bent



Lowton Vlaar Clark

Lichaj Dutch Bennett


Gabby Benteke N`Zogbia


You imagine the first team would do quite well against a stronger team like United, whilst the second team would be more effective away from home against a team we`re closer matched to… whilst the 3 line up would hopefully tear a new back side for a weaker team… it`s all about who we`re playing and how we`re going to play… no such thing as "Best Team" in this the Lambert Era.. we`re all in it together and every one has a part to play… So what will the formation and line up be on Saturday? I`ll bet you Lambert looks to expose Southampton down the flanks, it is their weakest area. So it wouldn`t surprise me to see Lichaj and Bennett at the back with Benteke and Bent upfront , but what his formation will be and how we'll look to play the game who knows?

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The Journalist

Writer: WorldClassAV Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday September 11 2012

Time: 1:25PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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While we`re attacking Southampton down the flanks,Swansea will be having a field day at Villa Park. A merry jest ! Totally agree.Gone are the days of knowing the team the day before.
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11/09/2012 13:34:00

agreed... lol... mistake... Oh well... Against Swansea I think we'll see Lowton then... I think they're weaker defensively so we must take the game to them and thus Benteke with Bent, maybe even Ireland and Bannan... need to keep pressure on Swansea and force them back. Swansea are not weak down the flanks... lol doh but will crack under pressure, if we let them set the tempo we'll be in trouble.
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11/09/2012 14:02:00

this debate all depends on results to come, doesnt it ? the problem we clearly had up to and including the Everton game, was that - unlike the current UCL and Europa contenders - we cant field two different elevens in any competition and have a realistic chance of getting points/wins. Then we bought four more players. However I think vs the "Top Four"(plus however many...) this team will still pick itself regardless.
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11/09/2012 14:05:00

Really? You suggest the "BestXI" against a TOP4 team would the "BestXI" for say Wigan?
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11/09/2012 14:11:00

New manager ,new players and a fresh outlook on how football should be played. Pick whoever you want Paul,I`m with you all the way. Can`t wait for Saturday,as oppose to last season when it was a case long till the end of the season ?
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11/09/2012 14:38:00

Think Lambert takes it one step further and prepares his teams to change pattern mid- game if something isint working so the subs he picks will be very much part of the game plan. One thing for sure we wont be playing to keep the score down like last season.
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11/09/2012 15:45:00

You mean we might actually have tactics, keep the oppo guessing and change things about accordingly? Well, I'm all in for that!! Agree btw!
The Fear
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11/09/2012 15:59:00

I blame Martin O'Neill.
chocolate teapot
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11/09/2012 16:56:00

I assume "Dutch" is KEA even though he's Moroccan.........
Pride of Lions
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11/09/2012 17:07:00

if WorldClass's comment was for me - my point was: there are 6-7 other teams in Prem (of whom Wigan is not one) against who(m?) we still need to send out the "best team" because we dont have the tactical luxury of say ManCini being able to send out specifically different line ups vs ManScum or vs Arsenal. If we dont send out that team we significantly reduce the chances of getting points. That does leave a lot of games to experiment, and ironically, we dont quite know who that "best team is yet, because there are so many new'uns....but I think I could have a good guess. I am of course also hoping that in 6-12 months time this is no longer true.....however in the meantime we have a no. of these "top teams" to play.
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11/09/2012 17:35:00

mala. the point is tho formation and tactics will change depending on opponents... so the "BEST XI" for United, is not the same "BEST XI" for Newcastle which isn't the same "BEST XI" for Wigan... is the game plan for that team and the personel to fit within that system... Lambert will pick the "BEST XI" for that particular game... not as a generic "BEST XI" at Aston Villa...
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11/09/2012 17:49:00

That 3313 would work well if we had Marcelo Biesla as manager and another creative player to take the burden off Ireland but it would be a massive gamble otherwise... I think a few fans will be delighted to see their 'tactics' in action this season as Norwich started more games with different formations than any other team last year... So its pretty likely a few fans will be calling themselves tactical geniuses when they see us beat somebody with a formation they thought was best...
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11/09/2012 19:29:00

Another interesting debate by WCAV. Good man. Last season Grant Holt started just 24 games and was a sub for 12 - and he was the main man, the top scorer, the man who should start every game!!! PL will pick and change before and during a game. Norwich fans pre season were telling us that it was not uncommon to see three or four formations in one game under PL. However there is an argument that if you have a strong starting 11 you stick with it and only change it when injury or suspension dictates. A team who know each others game inside out may do better at 75% than a team who are changed for freshness at 100%. Might be worth remembering 1981. It is no good saying football has changed. It hasn't. It is 11 men trying to score more goals than the other team. So whilst there are more substitutions that allow changes during a game, the rest is still the same, only we actually play less games than in those days. Some people will say "why worry about the opposition, if we are good enough then let them worry about us". If you have a strongest team that consistently delivers results then why not stick with it? WCAV says other teams work out your tactics and adapt accordingly. If that happens and teams are having to change their style to combat yours, who has the upper hand?? I would suggest that we have. But it is all about opinions and WCAV has well thought out ones.
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12/09/2012 10:31:00

Holloway at Bpool is a maestro at keeping a full squad happy - even on poor pay of only £10,000 per week. Lambert seems the same. The secret - picking your sure-fire best players (say 5 or 6 may stand out). The rest get 60 or 70 minutes, and the bench KNOW they will get on for 20 or 30 minutes - and if they do well they know they may well start the next game and get 60 / 70. There must be flexibility and fluidity of choice, and we must engender an "all in it together spirit"
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12/09/2012 12:07:00

P o L, KEA represents Morocco in football. He was born and raised in the Netherlands and learned his football there. He's presumably a Dutch citizen. KEA is Dutch-Moroccan. Just because a player chooses to represent a country doesn't mean they cut ties to another one. Klose and Podolski both represent Germany but have spoken about how they are proud of their Polish roots. They probably could've just have easily played for Poland under other circumstances.
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12/09/2012 16:48:00


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