A possibly revitalized Fabian Delph may change everyone's plans.
While last week saw the return of Friday Feedback in our mega-prediction post, this week is the return in its traditional format. As a reminder: each week I send out a question to our illustrious panel of 7500 to Holte writers. Sometimes the question is frivolous, and other times its serious. We try to mix it up. Everyone responds with an answer of any length, we post it, and then we invite you to give us your answers in the comments. We've got a new contributor this year, so everyone be sure to welcome Slaky to the panel.
Since we're near the beginning of the season, and the team is pretty near to full health, I thought it might be interesting to see what everyone's ideal Aston Villa starting XI would be. Does anyone around these parts actually want Alex McLeish's blank-slate policy to extend to Stephen Ireland? How about Stephen Warnock? You'll find our answers below, and hopefully we'll see yours in the comments.
This week's question: Let's assume a fully-healthy team with Carlos Cuellar. What's your ideal starting XI for Aston Villa?
Aaron: For me, it has to depend on the opposition. The lineup I'd like to see against, say, Norwich City is a lot different that what I'd hope to see against Manchester City. Against the better attacking sides in the league Villa's vulnerability through the middle is more easily exploited, so there's got to be an attempt to compensate for that. So with that said, I've got two; one a more attacking lineup that ideally would be run out in something like two-thirds of the games, the other a more defensive lineup for those situations where getting even a point requires a more conservative approach,
Given; Young, Collins, Dunne, Clark; Makoun, Delph, Bannan; Albrighton, Bent, N'Zogbia
That's a 4-3-3, Makoun and Delph in deeper (but not defensive) positions in midfield with Bannan playing in the space behind the striker. I think Delph brings a bit of a destroyer mentality to the center of the park, while Makoun functions as the engine and Bannan the primary creative force. I don't think Ciaran Clark is a great left back, but his faults are primarily in the attacking phase and with N'Zogbia playing as a wide forward on that flank it's less of an issue.
Given; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Young; N'Zogbia, Clark, Petrov, Makoun, Delph; Bent
This is either a 4-5-1 or a 4-1-4-1 depending on how you want to look at it. Clark is a pure defensive midfielder with Petrov and Makoun laying in the more forward band. N'Zogbia is on the right and Delph on the left, giving the weaker defensive outside back (Young) a bit more cover. This is a pure counter-attacking team, and one that doesn't look especially impotent either. It's also quite easy to sub Albrighton for Petrov and move things around a bit to give it a more attacking feel should such a thing be necessary.
Ideally, the back line could have one or two new signings, and Agbonlahor could be replaced by a motivated Ireland (which would be like a new signing) playing in the hole behind Bent. And now, back to my lake.
Kirsten: Given; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Makoun, Delph, Bannan; Albrighton, Bent, N'Zogbia
If you'll notice, this is essentially Aaron's "A" lineup, but including Warnock and not Young. I can't stand Luke Young, I think his strengths don't come even close to compensating for his faults, and to have him playing behind Albrighton has never seemed like the smartest move. Cuellar tends to stay back a bit more and, although it may not be his best position, I'd still rather have him at right-back than Young. And an overlapping Zogs and Warnock actually excites me a bit -- provided, of course, that Warnock never crosses again. And yes, I will continue to append that condition to any statement about Warnock until he stops doing it.
Slaky: Right now, I absolutely hate the 4-2-3-1 and while it's quite possible I have no idea what I'm talking about, I just don't see the right player on this team to lock down that role behind Darren Bent. Given (punny!) the current squad I would probably roll with a milquetoast 4-4-2 and adjust the depth of central mids and back line depending on the situation (home vs. away, Norwich vs. Manchester Anyone).
Robert: While Aaron totally nailed it, if you forced me to pick an all-purpose starting XI, here's what I'd say:
Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock
Petrov (note: I'm a total moron and this was supposed to be Makoun), Bannan
So it would be a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-2-1 depending on how you looked at it. It'd be a team that is stout in the back (I wish Cuellar were a left back, as I'd rather replace Warnock with him than Young, but what can a armchair manager do?), fairly smart in the middle (I could see a possibly revived Ireland replacing Petrov), and then with some great wing play serving to Bent. I think they'd be phenomenal up the wings, and could be a deadly counter-attacking team.
I'm not sure if this would ever happen, but it reflects the kind of soccer I'd like to see. I understand the fun of bombing it up the middle, but wing play is much more exciting to me.