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Talking Tactics

Grealish and Targett to take aim at Spurs' right side

Adrian Clarke 13 Feb 2020
Jack Grealish and Matt Targett, Aston Villa

Adrian Clarke says Aston Villa's blossoming left-wing duo will be a major threat to Sunday's opponents

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 26.

Dean Smith's tactical shift in 2020 has breathed fresh life into Aston Villa's fight against relegation.

Villa had dropped into the bottom three after a poor December in which they collected just four points from a possible 21.

But that rotten run prompted a switch that may have turned around their season.

Crucial switch

Since the turn of the year Smith has changed his set-up from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-2-1 formation.

In that new shape the Villans have looked more assured in and out of possession.

Although they suffered a setback in losing 2-1 to AFC Bournemouth last time out, Smith's side picked up seven points from the previous three matches.

They also beat Leicester City over two legs in the EFL Cup semi-finals.

Tailored for Targett

Playing with three at the back suits summer signing Matt Targett.

Like team-mate Frederic Guilbert on his opposite side, the 24-year-old is a natural attacking wing-back.

Former Southampton defender Targett has shone in recent weeks and his blossoming partnership with Jack Grealish has become a key feature of Villa's play.

Grealish understanding

Both are comfortable on the ball and have made a habit of dominating opponents down the left side of the pitch.

Grealish's inclination to drift inside suits Targett, who usually stays near the touchline to offer width.

The Villa captain has been one of the stars of the season but it is in part down to Targett that he has been able to excel.

The playmaker could not wish for better service from the full-back behind him.

Who Targett passes to most
Team-mate Times passed to
Jack Grealish 135
Marvelous Nakamba 45
Douglas Luiz 43
Tyrone Mings 43

To keep the home side quiet this weekend it is important for Tottenham Hotspur to pay as much attention to Targett as they do Grealish.

Their right-back, Serge Aurier, will require the support of the attacking midfielder playing ahead of him.

If he is not helped the visitors will struggle to deal with Villa's dangerous overloads.

Key passers

Over 32 per cent of the open-play chances Aston Villa have created this term have been supplied by Grealish or Targett.

Between them they have made an impressive 72 key passes in open play, with Grealish accounting for an incredible 55.

That puts him second only to Kevin De Bruyne's 65 in the entire league. 

Watch Grealish's best bits in January

If he and Targett are afforded space to create then Anwar El Ghazi or Trezeguet could be decisive at Villa Park.

El Ghazi has four goals and four assists this season and is strong at attacking crosses.

The Dutch winger is the player who has most often been on the receiving end of Targett's deliveries.

Who Targett crosses to most
Team-mate Crosses completed to
Anwar El Ghazi 7
Jack Grealish 3
Tyrone Mings 3
Trezeguet 2
Wesley 2

Spurs have been a little shaky in the full-back areas, especially on the left where Jose Mourinho has used a number of different players.

So if they lose sight of Villa's attackers at the far post on Sunday, the likes of Grealish and Targett are good enough to pick them out.

Also in this series 

Part 2: Vardy v Jimenez: Top strikers set to go head-to-head
Part 3: How Hasenhuttl has breathed fresh life into Southampton
Part 4: Fernandes can raise Man Utd's tempo at Chelsea
Part 5: Can Man City solve their efficiency problem?

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