Are Villa going scouse?

Okay, so I've banged on a bit in the comments threads about the Downing signing. The point I've been making, for those of you who aren't already sick of it, is that I think it's as much about freeing up Ashley Young as providing him with competition on the left flank.

But having read Martin O'Neill's comments on DJ Stew's signature, in which he emphasises that he sees Downing playing on the left, in the hole and possibly "coming in off the right", a whole new perspective opened up. And I wonder whether MON might not be considering a very Spanish-Liverpudlian way forward for next season.

Last season there was a pretty lively debate on these pages about the relative merits of 4-4-2 or 5-4-1. The catalyst was the largely unpopular signing of Emile Heskey.

But I wonder if O'Neill might not just give us all the slip and switch for 09/10 to a very scouse 4-2-3-1. It's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility: Sidwell and Petrov sit in front of the back four, one going and one staying where necessary - and Young, Milner and Downing play a fluid three making the play behind a lone striker, hopefully big JC.

The loser in the set-up would be Gabby. But then - and you'll shoot me for this, some of you - Gabby didn't make the progress we would have expected last season and, at least from the New Year onwards, was looking far from a top six striker with deadly impact.

I can see the formation working, and also allowing O'Neill to play around with the attacking set-up so that Villa don't become as readable as they did last season. Whether Carew is mobile enough to cope with it is the biggest tactical question - but a few games on the bench should see an Agbonlahor renewed and hungrier anyway.

All we need now is for MON to put on a couple of stone, grow a silly goatee and buy a Spanish phrasebook.

Dos cervezas, por favor, Manuel - sorry, I mean Martin.