Amongst the sacking of Dean Smith, a large part of the Aston Villa fanbase have been left confused wondering what the next step is and who we are going to replace Smith with. In this article I will look into 2 of the names thrown about and will discuss what they will offer to Villa both long and short term and will look into how they play.
Firstly we will discuss Paulo Fonseca, with a bit of history around Fonseca he has had a history which includes many different jobs, in Portugal, Ukraine and Italy. The most successful of these managerial stints came with Shaktar Donetsk where the Portuguese manager managed to win a league and cup double three years on the bounce, where he racked up 224 league goals scored and only 49 goals conceded, since leaving Shaktar have seen a decline in quality with the Ukrainian outfit only winning the league once and failing to win the cup since his departure to Roma in 2019.
Fonseca largely basis his tactical style off of Vitor Frades tactical periodisation, which emphasises creating training schedules based on ideas that you need both the physical and technical side of the game to co-inside. With his players always working on the ball meaning they can respond better to in game situations, he uses this to make sure his players are more comfortable with it at their feet and building out, with the Aston Villa players both lacking the and confidence ability to do so this would lead to a significant improvement in the Claret and Blue side. From this style of training Fonseca was able to massively improve the Roma defenders comfortability on the ball and also caused a very easy transition in getting used to his style of play and how he wanted his team to form on the pitch. When beginning at Roma it was usually a 4-2-3-1 in which he used, however after finding good fortune in using a 3-4-2-1 Fonseca decided to do a full tactical shift which in tailed an unbeaten run of 8 games which included an extremely impressive 3-1 away win when facing Juventus.
When in build up the 3 centre backs will usually shape wider with the goalkeeper pushing towards the edge of the box to make a sort of back 4, with 1 midfielder usually dropping back to support the passing lines meaning there is a passing option in front of the back 3 or however will drop back in to a defensive role, whilst one of the centre backs take up an even wider position nearing on a wing back role. Paulo also often used a defensive minded midfielder in the heart of the back 3, meaning the passing range of the defence was increased significantly leading to an improved build up amongst the squad, this also means that the tactical shape of Roma would give them an advantage over weaker teams as the midfielder/defender would push up into the midfield. Preferring a style of Short passes building out from the back, getting players to find space in between the defensive lines opening more opportunities to pass out from, meaning he strives to make defenders high on confidence and ability on the ball, perfect for Konsa and Tuanzebe. He often restricted long passes to try to prevent wasteful passing and would only allow this to come into games against teams who press high or who they would have trouble breaking down.
In the attack the wide players would fall more centrally leading to the attacking minded wingbacks to overlap, causing a narrow front 3 focusing on technical wide players and a strong, clinical striker with a good passing range, often using the striker to hold the ball up for the highly central wingers to make a run into the box from deep. This will also mean the midfield would consist of a box to box midfielder who makes late runs into the box and a strong defensive midfielder partnering. Whilst in Roma Fonseca made sure to focus on making chances from centrally, making a sort of 2-2-1 whilst also overloading defences with his wing backs, causing defences to flurry. With patience seen as a key also he emphasised not to worry when going backwards in games as it can lead to better scoring chances and a more calm and less rational attacking phase.
If he were to do this with Villa I believe he would use this formation lining up with Martinez, Konsa, Luiz, Tuanzebe, Cash, Young, Sanson, Mcginn, Buendia, Bailey and Ings leading to a strong attacking balance and defensive security. For me this is the number one pick for Villa and the perfect suitor both short term and long term were we to give him the patience and backing to build a strong foundation. With an incredibly attractive style strongly suited to English football, I don't see how this isn't the perfect appointment.
Next linked manager we will look into is Ralph Hassenhutl, in the past with Southampton Ralph has seen a lot of success managing a league high 11th with an attractive brand of football and extremely limited funds and players in which he has to work with, vastly improving certain individuals such as Kyle Walker Peters and Danny Ings.
When lining Southampton up Ralph usually utilises a 4-4-2 which is more of a 4-2-2-2 with the wide attackers usually tucking inside when Southampton are within possession. Ralph alike Fonseca makes sure to focus on the defence in build up, making sure that when they are in their own third they show patience and responsibility on the ball, and alike Fonseca when building out from the back will see one of the midfield duo drop back to just in front of the defensive line. One full back will usually hold a more narrow position with the other a more free and advanced role placed further up the pitch then the midfielder who drops to just in front of what is now a back 3. Perfectly suited to Matt Cash who is extremely impressive in offence and Targett who in the 20/21 season was as defensively sound as they come. Despite being a high intensity and high tempo team when defenidng from the from they have a more patient approach when building out from the back, being given the freedom and time to pass between themselves. This is to target the offences attacking structure pulling them into a press in groups and disrupting the way in which they form there attacks making teams easier to progress through and breakdown. Once the players are drawn out of position, they will soon pick up the tempo and pass with speed and ease.
When in the attack a lot of Southamptons plans are to get the ball moving down the wing and target the oppositions full back whilst they have runners going on the inside. Due to this strict way of playing the players will often go backwards if they are not able to get the way they want to attack to form. When in strong attacking positions Southampton will seek to overload the box with players causing a vast amount of players being able to latch onto opportunities meaning their attacks are hardly wasteful and often lead to a shot or a chance. A very patient way of playing and can often cause frustration within fanbases when they are constantly going backwards when they are in strong positions.
When pressing Southampton will target certain passing lanes and will look to make it vastly difficult for opposition to build out from the back, causing a lot of errors and winning the ball back well. These passing lines can be multiple things, the two most frequent are usually the goalkeeper receiving a back pass and the full back receiving the ball from a centre back.
If Hassenhutl were to take charge of Aston Villa I believe he would line up with Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Hause, Targett, Bailey, Mcginn, Luiz, Buendia, Watkins and Ings. Long term I believe this to be the safe option as given the correct backing and strong set of players we could see a Hassenhutl system shine and given he already has Premier League experience he definitely eliminates that risk factor when getting a new manager, my only worry is whether he could take us to European football or whether he would make us a team who was feared, but never truly to that level.
All in all, I believe the main choice should be Fonseca and the board should be doing everything to show him the project we desire and the money he will be given. 100% the first choice for me, but were we to get Hassenhutl I would also be satisfied.
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