By Jonty Banks

15th Apr, 2023 | 7:10pm

Unai Emery delivered tactical masterclass with John McGinn positional switch in Aston Villa win v Newcastle

When Leander Dendoncker was named in the Aston Villa starting line-up against Newcastle on Saturday (15 April), many supporters may have been left questioning the thinking of Unai Emery.

The Villans cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Magpies in a totally dominant display in front of the Villa Park faithful, in a result that further solidified their chances of getting European football this season.

Dendoncker, who hadn’t started for Villa since early November, slotted into the middle of the park beside Douglas Luiz and allowed John McGinn to shift out to the right-hand side of the four-man midfield.

The tactical alteration was a masterstroke by Emery, with McGinn offering the defensive cover that Ashley Young required at right-back when coming up against the express pace of Anthony Gordon.

Earlier this month, in Aston Villa’s 2-1 win over Leicester City, Young was run ragged by winger Harvey Barnes, with the Englishman’s direct running in behind causing major issues for the 37-year-old.

Young’s difficulties ended with Barnes netting a superb solo effort in which he cut in from his left wing, skinning the Villa defender in the process and whipping a delightful finish beyond Emi Martinez.

Although the Villa veteran couldn’t have done much to deny Barnes getting on the scoresheet, Emery clearly noted this weakness and made the necessary tactical shift against the Magpies.

With Dendoncker slotting into central midfield, this allowed McGinn to cover Young’s lack of pace – a job that he completed to great effect.

The Scot won nine duels during his 90-minute showing, including a further aerial duel victory, as well as making three tackles. [SofaScore]

Despite only completing 72% of his passes in possession of the ball and only successfully finding a teammate with one of his four crosses, McGinn’s role off the ball was far more important in Saturday’s victory.

The fact that Gordon failed to complete a single key pass, only managed a single dribble and was subbed off after just 56 minutes clearly highlights the superb work of both McGinn and Dendoncker in helping to protect Young’s vulnerabilities.

Every decision that Emery makes seems to turn to gold right now, and the tactical shift of McGinn was yet another success story for the Aston Villa manager.

In other Aston Villa news, we can exclusively reveal that Manchester United are set to sign this highly-rated Villa player.