Why Aston Villa should drop Ashley Westwood or Tom Cleverley

Aston Villa

Why Aston Villa could help turn around their current dismal run of form by dropping either Ashley Westwood or Tom Cleverley.

Outside of injuries forcing his hand, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has made few changes to his line-up during the club’s seven-game winless streak.

The club's distinct lack of strength in depth is a big factor in that, but there’s one move the Scot could make which would improve their dismal attacking statistics.

In midfield duo Ashley Westwood and on loan Manchester United man Tom Cleverley, Villa have two solid but unspectacular options, who, so far, have shown little going forward.

That fact has been all the more clear in recent games, too, with talisman Fabian Delph sidelined after an operation on a dislocated shoulder, and not set to return until the New Year.

While summer signing Carlos Sanchez has since stepped in to fill the holding role in commendable fashion, Lambert’s side have been left with a blunt look through the middle, as neither Englishman has been able to provide the creative presence required.

It shows up in the figures, too, with Villa bottom of the league in all the main offensive categories.

  GoalsTotal ShotsShots On TargetAssistsTotal Key PassesGames
Stoke 12 153 39 9 111 11
Sunderland 12 120 38 9 94 11
Leicester 11 106 34 6 80 11
QPR 11 146 38 8 111 11
Burnley 6 128 32 4 89 11
Aston Villa 5 101 23 3 69 11

A less than stellar frontline, which has missed a fit Christian Benteke, hasn’t helped, but the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor and top scorer Andreas Weimann have hardly received great service either.

With six weeks still to go before the winter transfer window opens, the solution for Lambert is simple at the moment: drop the three-man central midfield and switch back to the 4-2-3-1 formation used during the first few unbeaten games of the season.

Getting that extra man in attack could just make all the difference, with a potential line-up with Weimann and Agbonlahor out wide, and Charles N’Zogbia behind Benteke up top, looking much more promising.

Sanchez’s noted defensive qualities would then make his inclusion in front of the back four an even bigger asset, leaving Westwood and Cleverley to compete for the spot alongside the 28-year-old Colombian international, where their lack of offensive production wouldn't be a burden.

Both are almost the exact same player trait-wise – that being the primary issue in the first place – but the statistics do seem to suggest that one has a slight edge over the other.

 2014-15 Assists Key Passes GAMETotal Passes GAMEPass AccPoss Lost  GAMEDispossessed GAMETotal Tackles GAMEDuels Won GAMEDuel SuccessInterceptions GAMEAppearancesMins Played
Tom Cleverley 0 0.89 48.89 88% 8.67 0.56 2.67 5 55.56% 1.33 9 806
Ashley Westwood 0 1.17 45.7 80% 13.7 0.6 0.9 2.2 42.31% 1.8 10 880

As things stand, Cleverley appears the less wasteful in possession and the more physical of the pair, which is perhaps not surprising given his United and England pedigree, although Westwood does have him just beaten in terms of chances created and interceptions.

That's still probably not enough for the former Crewe Alexandra captain to earn a spot in the side ahead of his new teammate but, looking ahead to January, when Villa have option of making the latter's season-long loan stint a £7.5 million permanent switch, one has to question whether the price tag is warranted.

Whatever the case, Westwood will still likely be in the line-up for Monday night's Premier League clash against Southampton at Villa Park, given Lambert's affections for him, but whether it will be a wise decision remains debatable.

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