Steve Bruce and Dean Smith are set to meet for the 11th time in their managerial career this Saturday at Villa Park. Bruce will be looking for his first win against Smith in the Premier League, and for the first time since April 2016.
With Darlow and Dubravka still absent, Freddie Woodman is likely to be given his second game as Newcastle's number 1 this weekend. Despite conceding 4, I was still impressed with how Woodman performed, the 1v1 save against Bowen and the initial penalty save were clutch moments in the match.
The obvious downfall that led to the defeat against West Ham was the unexpected, unorganised display from the back 3. The issue started with the personnel Bruce went with for the match, Emil Krafth isn't a natural centre back, and was hopefully playing in that role as a temporary fill-in for either Lascelles or Schar.
Given Aston Villa's vulnerabilities with their defenders, it would be smart to see Bruce opt for a back 3 with more passing capabilities while bringing back Lascelles to organise the defence and relieve some of the defending responsibilities off Jonjo Shelvey.
Joe Willock is available for selection and should be an instant starter as we missed his energy and attacking thrust. Almiron linked up well with Ritchie on the left but with Shelvey's calf injury, his passing range will be missed. The signs point to Hayden going into the 6 and Longstaff going into a box-box alongside Willock.
Allan Saint-Maximin was the whoscored.com man of the match and completed more dribbles than anyone on the pitch will likely start up front alongside Callum Wilson.
Areas of weakness for Villa?
Defenders prone to making errors
Because Villa generally play a possession based style. This means the centre backs; Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa have a lot of touches per game. However, this style of play has led to mistakes as Villa may not have the best personnel to accommodate this tactic. Statistics from FBref.com show from between 2019-2021, Mings has made 12 errors that have led to shots on goal, which totals an error leading to a shot from 1 in every 12 matches. As a whole squad, they collectively made 12 errors leading to shots in the league last season which was the 6th highest, which accumulated to; 1 error leading to a shot in every 3.1 matches. A nervy statistic for Villa fans that doesn't seem to be being addressed.
A few times last season we have pressed the opposition and this same approach could be the key to causing an early upset against a nervy defence.
Against Watford, Villa were defending the wide spaces which left spaces open in the central and half-space, against Watford they were vulnerable on the counter-attack and for Newcastle, hitting teams on the break is their bread and butter.
The extra man in midfield could be useful in breaking up play and quickly transitioning from defence to attack and exploiting Villa's defensive weaknesses. If Villa use the same approach to defend wide, then instructing the wing-backs to make under lapping runs into the central/half space could open up space for some awkward crosses into the box for Wilson and Willock to poach.
Newcastle 2-1 Aston Villa.