Discussing Carles Gil’s potential role at the weekend

Apologies - this should have been written a couple of days ago, but it’s taken a while to get up to speed on what kind of player Carles Gil really is.

Paul Lambert has already suggested that his new Spaniard will go straight into the team against Liverpool and, superficially, the twenty-two year-old seems to be exactly what Aston Villa need.

Under Lambert, Villa have become progressively more negative.  They are obviously a very defensive side, but they’ve become far too reliant on counter-attacking.  When they’re unable to break quickly out of defence and into an opponent’s half, they play with little or no imagination and they have a real shortage of players capable of moving the ball with any creativity.

It’s all very formulaic, it’s all very predictable.

Had Gil not arrived this week, the above is probably the front-six who would have started at the weekend - Carlos Sanchez might have been swapped with one the midfield three, but it’s roughly accurate.

The problem is two-fold: firstly, although that deep trio is quite resolute, its collective distribution - as discussed above - is fairly limited.  Secondly, with the exception of Christian Benteke, neither of the advanced players - nor Charles N’Zogbia, were he to be playing - are particularly accomplished at retaining possession in advanced areas.

The cumulative effect is that Villa rarely attack with any numbers and they struggle to create any sort of momentum in an opponent’s half and that is ultimately why they score so few goals.

This weekend, not only do they face a defensively-suspect Liverpool team who are very beatable, but Burnley, Leicester and QPR - all teams who need to be kept in the rear-view mirror - are at home and are potentially in a position to pick up points.

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The above is from Squawka and it shows Villa’s completed passes against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day.  Obviously, not every game is the same, but this is a fairly standard graphic for Lambert’s side - in fact, it’s probably above average.

What is shows is fairly simple: this team are quite reasonable with the ball outside of the attacking-third.  When they get there, though, they lack the type of player who can play a between-the-lines pass, a through-ball, or who can create an opportunity for himself by beating a defender.  Agbonlahor is relatively effective when he’s in open-space and Weimann is very energetic without ever being particularly convincing, but there’s a real lack of intricacy in that area - and against defensively-capable opposition, Villa are subsequently very easy to subdue.

Carles Gil is a variation on those players. Predominantly left-footed - but not overly so - he’s the kind of technical footballer who is not only comfortable in possession, but who can also use the ball in ways beyond the formulaic.  He typically seems to look most comfortable from shallow areas on the right-hand side of the pitch, but has the skill-set to drift and influence the play from a range of attacking positions.  YouTube is littered with little examples of his subtlety, so curious Villa fans can head over there and see for themselves - clearly, he adds something that Agbonlahor, Weimann, and N’Zogbia aren’t already bringing to the table.

Arguably, he represents what Joe Cole would have been to this team had he been younger, fitter and not five years past his best.

Gil won’t be the solution to this attacking problem by himself, but he is a step in the right direction and he will make this team harder to defend against.  In an ordinary situation he would be introduced to the Premier League in stages, but needs must and Lambert is effectively obliged to put him straight into the team.

Expect him to start at the weekend and expect Villa to be better for it.

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