Our ‘Complete Preview’ returns ahead of the Aston Villa v Everton game on Friday, as the hosts try and get their first points of the season.

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Everton are the latest side to grace the hallowed turf of Villa Park this Friday as the hosts look to get their first points of the new Premier League season under their belt.

The previous match day showed how random football can be. Below are the xG and results for last Saturday’s games:

Now, expected goals aren’t exactly perfect by any means. In fact, using it as a reliable metric to measure how many goals a team should have scored in just one given game just isn’t recommended. Why? Well, it’s not that the metric is faulty – it’s more that football is just too random to predict in most circumstances, let alone over a mere 90 minutes.

This explanation is just to make one point clear – expected goals show the number of goals a team should score in a given time period. This often contradicts the number of goals that are actually scored, because individual games come down to how many of those chances a team actually takes. And while that depends on things like finishing ability, it also depends on random factors like deflections.

This is completely obvious, of course. Over 90 minutes, teams don’t score the same number of goals as they should because of the element of random chance in football. Just look at the results above, which suggest that the following teams were “lucky” (so to speak) to score as many goals as they did over 90 minutes:

  • Arsenal
  • Norwich
  • Liverpool
  • Tottenham Hotspur

Whereas, these teams were unlucky and scored less goals than they should have done:

  • Brighton
  • Watford
  • Southampton
  • Manchester City
  • Aston Villa

All this to say that we’re two games in, and Aston Villa have a higher expected goals tally over those 180 minutes than Watford, Newcastle, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Leicester, Norwich, Burnley, Everton and Arsenal. 

At this point, I’d like to call out a couple of Norwich fans, who seem to think that two games in Aston Villa’s spending spree has already sealed relegation. Really? Norwich have actually over-performed somewhat:

Then again, Norwich have played one of the best teams in the league, followed by a toothless Newcastle United. Meanwhile, Aston Villa have played an equally impressive Spurs outfit followed by Eddie Howe’s dangerous Bournemouth side. Had Villa come away with the deserved three points (or even just the one point) against Bournemouth, a more measured level of perspective would likely have been applied. 

(Photo by Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images)

Looking forward to Everton

Everton started with a 0-0 draw to Crystal Palace, and a 1-0 win at Watford. Their expected goals tally is quite modest, coming in at 1.22 against Palace and 0.83 against Watford. Granted, they’ve made some big changes to their squad and they’ll likely need a little bit of time to gel – notably; Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean, Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph. 

Their strengths include:

  • Creating long shot opportunities
  • Defending set pieces
  • Protecting a lead

Their weaknesses include:

  • Keeping possession of the ball
  • Fishing scoring chances

It’s well documented that Everton didn’t really replace Lukaku as he left for United. But The Toffies will be looking to Moise Kean to pick up the number 9 slack. Dean Smith will hope that, despite Kean’s promising cameos to date, he takes at least one more game to hit the ground running. 

Dean Smith may also look to exploit Everton’s ball retention issues early on in the season, as Everton tend to control the game in their half, which might offer Villa the chance to nick the ball in dangerous positions themselves. 

Toffee Style and Line-Up

Everton’s Line-up for their win against Watford, where they played a 4-2-3-1 was:

Pickford, Keane, Digne (Holgate, 73′), Mina, Coleman (C), Sigurdsson, Gomes, Gbamin, Richarlison (Walcott, 63′), Calvert-Lewin (Kean, 72′), Bernard.

Their style of play includes possession football, attacking down the right and with width. They’re an aggressive side, but their opponents play aggressively against them – and they are comfortable playing in their own half. They also field a relatively consistent first eleven.

Staying true to their playing style, 82% of Everton’s attacks have come down the left and right-hand sides of the pitch, with only 18% coming through the middle. They’re quite a balanced team, though, and they retain the ball 31% in their own third, 44% in the middle third and 24% in the opposition’s third of the pitch. This suggests a combination of aggressive pressing mixed with the ability to build up play more slowly from the back and through the midfield.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Coming Out Of The Blocks

The Toffee’s are more of a first half team. They register the highest different between xG for and xG against in the first 15 minutes, and continue that strong start through up to the first 30 minutes before they tend to tail off: 

If these trends continue, then you might expect Everton to have more chance of scoring in minutes 1-15, 31-45 and 76+. While Villa might score in minutes 46-60. Granted, these statistics are only based off of both teams’ first two games in the league.

They’re quite heavily skewed by the fact that Everton haven’t conceded or scored many goals, while Villa have played two more high-scoring (and arguably, more difficult) fixtures. But this does highlight potential pockets for natural dominance for each team.

Open Play

Having only scored one goal in 16 shots from open play in two games, Everton don’t look like they have their shooting boots on just yet. Villa do look slightly more potent, with 2 goals from 22 shots (one coming from a corner). Villa’s shot accuracy is much higher, too, at 38% compared to Everton’s 23%.

However, Dean Smith will need to try and emulate Everton’s less-leaky defence. As Villa have conceded 5 from an expected goals against tally of 2.65 from open play, compared to The Toffies’ respectable 1.56. 

Everton’s threats up front, usually come from the combination play between Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Bernard. Richarlison can play as a wide winger, but he drifts into scoring positions quite a lot and has a very good finishing record. Since his move to Watford in the Premier League, he’s been a fantasy league mainstay because of his goal threat. 

Bernard has been impressive during the start of this season, scoring their only goal and continuing to be a threat when cutting in from the left-hand side. He’s less physical that Richarlison, but he’s an equally ruthless finisher and arguably a bit trickier. He gets into good positions in the box to make the most of intricate play and this is often what allows him to pick up the ball in limited space with his close touch capability and find the right finish.

Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne (who is currently dealing with a knock) complement the drifting fluidity of Richarlison and Bernard. Everton’s fullbacks are very dynamic, while solid in defence they both have excellent crossing capabilities and feed off of the space which Everton’s wingers can create with their varied movement. If Richarlison comes in from the left to link up with Sigurdsson, Coleman will often overlap and whip in a dangerous cross. He’s quite a similar player to Frederic Guilbert, actually. 

Sigurdsson glues Everton’s attacks together. His passes leading to shots (1.57 per 90 minutes) are high, only bettered marginally by Bernard, Digne and Gomes. But, equally, he’s a huge goal threat because of his excellent long-range shooting and clever movement. He’s racked up 2.62 shots per 90 minutes. Making Richarlison the only one who shoots more.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

What are Aston Villa’s chances?

If you were to bet your house on it, you might say that Aston Villa will probably lose their third game of the season. This isn’t being negative, but it’s the most likely outcome given the strength of the two outfits. That being said, Aston Villa are a case in point of how the random luck element of football can override teams’ performances. 

The Premier League has made its name on marginal moments of drama and a frightfully competitive league. Everton’s team may be talented, but so is Aston Villa’s – and that’s reflected in Villa’s attacking form in the early part of the season.

Either way you look at it, Everton should win this game and that won’t cause any reason for Villa fans to be concerned, but let’s see if Smith can pull off a bit of a shock. To be fair, this will probably be the toughest test that Everton will have faced so far this season.

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