Aston Villa boss Dean Smith should tweak midfield to punish Arsenal

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Aston Villa are finding things tough in their Premier League return. They precariously occupy 17th in the table just two points off rock-bottom Watford.

When those at the club first took a look at the fixture release earlier in the summer, it is unlikely many would have been pleased by the fact that they play European finalists Tottenham Hotspur and an Arsenal side boasted by a new club-record signing within the first six matches of the season.

It is also unlikely that has changed since, but after the Gunners’ recent showing, it should offer up some encouragement.

Just so long as Villa boss Dean Smith makes an adjustment to how he sets out his team this weekend.

On the Chalkboard

Unai Emery’s men faced a mammoth 31 shots on goal against Watford, who as aforementioned sit bottom of the table, and became the butt of one unfortunate statistic in doing so.

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No team in Europe has faced more shots than the North Londoners this season with 96.

Villa’s Wesley is only averaging 1.8 shots per game himself with 2 being the most he’s recorded in any one game. Therefore, it doesn’t seem like he’s the answer unless someone can provide him with more chances.

Instead, Smith should look to tweak his midfield by removing the need for a defensive midfielder and pushing skipper Jack Grealish into the number ten role.

The 24-year-old recorded 76 key passes last season at a squad-high average of 2.3 per game so moving him further up the field will allow him to rediscover that element of his game.

Smith can also bring Douglas Luiz back into the fray to sit next to John McGinn as he can add a slight defensive element.

He played in the role in their only win of the season alongside the Scot so that the loss of Marvelous Nakamba isn’t felt so hard, thus enabling this system to work.

Having their midfielders further up the pitch would allow more pressure on the Arsenal backline too and as seen first-hand with Watford that can force them into mistakes.

Grealish could press from the front in a number ten role, alongside the striker, which could allow them to make life difficult for a backline including Sokratis and Bernd Leno who have made one error leading to a goal this season.

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