Aston Villa can contain creative output of Trent Alexander-Arnold with tactical switch of John McGinn v Liverpool
The task was clear from the offset for Aston Villa captain John McGinn in last week’s 2-1 win over Spurs.
The Scottish international started in a midfield two alongside Douglas Luiz at Villa Park but surprisingly took the more defensive role in the middle of the park.
Why McGinn was tasked with taking up such areas of the pitch quickly became clear as he stuck to Harry Kane like glue whenever the England talisman dropped into the midfield and looked to play through balls for the onrushing Son Heung-min and Richarlison.
During his 90-minute showing, McGinn engaged in a team-high 13 ground duels, winning eight of these, as well as committing four fouls and chipping in with three interceptions. [SofaScore]
Although Kane did eventually score from the penalty spot in the dying embers of the game, his impact was generally limited by the Villa midfielder, only having two shots on goal, but more importantly, notching up a mere 10 passes all game long.
If Aston Villa are going to taste similar success this weekend in their must-win clash against Liverpool at Anfield (Saturday, 20 May), McGinn will have to deliver a similar role but in a slightly different position.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are one of the form teams in the Premier League right now, and much of this has been down to the tactical switch of Trent Alexander-Arnold from a regular full-back to an inverted full-back – a move which has provided him with far more freedom to create chances in the final third.
Since taking on his altered position on 9 April in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal, the England international is first for the number of assists in the Premier League (6), top for through balls (10) and unmatched for passes into the opposition half (279). [Sky Sports Premier League]
The impressive numbers don’t stop there, with Alexander-Arnold also having the most touches of any Premier League footballer at a staggering total of 750.
If Unai Emery is going to keep the forward momentum going in the club’s search for European football, limiting the impact of Liverpool’s key creative force is going to be key.
And although the Spanish boss will be tempted to keep McGinn in his central midfield position that he thrived in last week, a new task awaits.
If Emery were to bring the fit-again Boubacar Kamara back into the fold alongside Luiz, it could allow McGinn to operate on the left side of midfield with the sole purpose of getting up in the grill of the Liverpool full-back from the offset and not offering him any time to look up and pick passes into the final third.
Yes, this might leave Alex Moreno vulnerable to Mohamed Salah further up the pitch, but the defensive-minded Kamara should be capable of filling this void and helping to double up against the Egyptian.
Aston Villa will have to be firing on all cylinders to pick up a result at Anfield this weekend, but switching McGinn to this wide midfield role could be one way of limiting the attacking output that Liverpool possess.
In other Aston Villa news, Emery has been urged to axe one three-pass flop after his struggles in the win against Tottenham.