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What can Aston Villa expect from Roberto Di Matteo?

Roberto Di Matteo has been in active management for less than four of the last eight years.

Roberto Di Matteo has been in active management for less than four of the last eight years.

Aston Villa are close to appointing Roberto Di Matteo as their new manager, and the decision is being met with skepticism among supporters.

The Italian coach took MK Dons to the League One playoffs in 2009, before earning promotion to the Premier League with West Brom in 2010.

He would go on to win the Champions League and FA Cup with Chelsea in 2012, but has been inactive for a lot of time in between roles that sees his name under scrutiny. Questions also remain over playing style and longevity, which subsequently has many unconvinced that he’s the right pick.

Hardly active in the last few years

Roberto Di Matteo’s last job was with German Bundesliga side Schalke 04. Taking over the struggling club in early October 2014, he resigned at the end of the season (May 2015) after failing to finish in a Champions League spot. The 46-year-old has been out of work since, and is sure to be in for a culture shock if he is to become Aston Villa’s next manager.

The seven-and-a-half months at the Veltins-Arena is Di Matteo’s only coaching job since November 2012. He hasn’t completed a full season since his debut campaign at West Bromwich Albion (2009/10). That’s a worry for Aston Villa fans, as their former manager Remi Garde was plucked from a two-year sabbatical and seemed out of his depth with the scale of the job at hand.

Di Matteo has been active in coaching for eight years, but has been in management less than 50% of the time. It’s been four years since he was last in England, and for a Champions League winning manager to go from coaching a top-10 European outfit, to one in the second tier of English football, questions are bound to be asked. It’s worth noting he’s never lasted a second full season in any of his former jobs.

Tactical philosophy?

Aston Villa supporters are very keen to learn more about the philosophy Di Matteo wants to impose on the squad. His spell with MK Dons in 2008/09 saw a much more expansive game and near success in the playoffs. Back then, he utilised a 4-4-2 formation to full effect, placing emphasis on flying wingers and getting the ball into the box as much as possible.

At West Bromwich Albion, Roberto Di Matteo stuck with a similar style, but his wingers were better distributers than dribblers. This meant West Brom would plunder even more crosses in the danger areas, and with the target man/poacher combination in attack, it worked a treat.

However, such outdated tactics aren’t likely to be much good for Aston Villa given they don’t possess the industrious quartet in midfield as West Brom did years ago. At Chelsea and Schalke, the step-up in opposition forced Di Matteo into being more pragmatic. A deep and compact defensive outlook led to a very unattractive style of play, but it did yield major honours by hitting sides on the break with pace in the wide areas.

Away from home, Di Matteo struggled to get results due to his cautious nature. His obsession to merely avoid defeat when on the road led to nervy performances and lengthy clearances rather than looking to retain possession. Risks weren’t taken on the ball to unlock the defence, and it meant Chelsea were very easy to play against. His squad selections saw more substance than style which led to a lack of creativity, and ultimately cost him his job.

At Schalke, playing style was criticised early into his tenure, and once again a lack of away wins was noted. It will be refreshing for Aston Villa supporters to see their incoming manager isn’t naïve to play such open football, but his over-obsession to nullify might see Villa struggle to win enough games.

Aston Villa are 9/1 to win the Championship title next season, but can Roberto Di Matteo get the Villans back in the Premier League?

Wed 1 Jun, 2016
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