Saturday the Dynamo play their annual Dynamo Charities game this year against Aston Villa. Since we like to know our enemy we asked Aaron Campeau of 7500 to Holte fame a few question about Villa and what we can expect to see out of them.
Dynamo Theory: Does the trip to the US feel like a serious tune-up match or just a fun vacation?
Aaron: Villa have a lot of unanswered questions regarding their best team, team shape, and preferred style of play, and (presumably) key new additions Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson, and Philippe Senderos have had very little time with their new teammates. These are games Villa will be taking seriously as pre-season preparation, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Paul Lambert give what he sees as his best 18 most if not all of the playing time.
With that being said, the team-building aspect of the trip is hugely important for the team as well. Last season was by all accounts a dysfunctional mess that led to the dismissal of two members of Villa's coaching staff, guys that had been with Lambert since he was managing Colchester in League One. With former high-profile castoffs Darren Bent, Alan Hutton, Charles N'Zogbia, and Shay Given now (apparently) being granted a fresh start, it's going to take a lot of work to restore a functional locker room. Throw the club's uncertain future on top of all of that, and it's clear that this is a situation that could go off the rails pretty easily. In that sense, the off-field aspects of the trip are likely as important as the games themselves.
DT: What do you think of Antonio Luna and Aleksander Tonev not travelling to the US with the rest of the squad?
Aaron: Luna wasn't much of a surprise as he's been out of favor since the middle of last season and rumored to be on his way to Hellas Verona for a few weeks now, but Tonev being left back was a bit unexpected. Lambert has always spoken high of Tonev's potential and continued giving him chances to impress well after many other players found themselves consistently left out of the squad, so it certainly seemed as though he was in the plans for this season; it certainly doesn't seem like that's the case anymore. Personally I'm hoping Tonev goes on loan rather than leaving Villa altogether because I do think he has some potential, but he's not ready for the Premier League yet and isn't someone Dynamo fans should feel as thought they're unlucky to miss out on seeing.
DT: With pre-season do you see the team experiment with formations or do they stick to one formation and simply rotate players?
Aaron: They'll switch things around. Lambert seems to be leaning towards playing a 3-5-2 as his first choice formation, but he's shown a willingness to mix things up depending on the situation. In Villa's first friendly they started in a 4-2-3-1 and switched formations at least two other times depending on who was on the field.
Villa don't have the kind of squad that lends itself to tactical rigidity, especially with Christian Benteke still unavailable. They're going to have to switch things up a lot this season, and I'd expect the way they approach this game to reflect that, which could make the game pretty fun to watch.
DT: Who will be the player to watch for against the Dynamo?
Aaron: If the world weren't such a cruel and unfair place the obvious answer would be Benteke, but as Villa fans have learned over the past few years, that's not the way it is. Ron Vlaar is another player that is an absolute joy to watch-which isn't typically the case with centerbacks, even great ones-but he's been given an extended break by Lambert due to the World Cup. Thankfully Brad Guzan will be there, and given the fact that he'll be playing behind an Aston Villa back line that doesn't include Vlaar, he'll have more than a few chances to shine.
Fabian Delph took the step from "guy everyone expects to be really good someday" to "guy who is actually really good" last season, and though he isn't exactly the world's flashiest player, he's as good of a box-to-box midfielder as you'll find outside of the top four in the Premier League. Charles N'Zogbia is wildly inconsistent and often invisible, but he does something wonderful and absurd just often enough to make him worth keeping an eye on. Gabby Agbonlahor isn't above average at much of anything other than running fast, but he runsreally really fast, and if he gets space it can be pretty special to watch. Then there are guys like Jores Okore and Jack Grealish; not yet guaranteed regulars but young guys talented enough that they could end up being hugely important for Villa both now and in the future. As bad of a team as Villa's been the past few seasons, there are quite a few players on this team capable of doing some pretty cool stuff.