Complete Preview returns as Aston Villa return to Villa Park to face Burnley off the back of their 3-2 defeat to Arsenal.
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Aston Villa return to Villa Park off the back of a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League and a mid-week game against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Carabao Cup.
For many, this is seen as a must-win game based off Villa’s current form – but the game simply isn’t going to be that easy. Burnley are a well-oiled and strong side under Sean Dyche, despite shouts that his tenure at the helm of the club has become a little stale.
Ahead of three ‘winnable’ games, Aston Villa need to get off on the front foot on home turf against another set of clarets – their second game against another side with a similar colour scheme in a fortnight.
Stale Style or Strong Style?
Burnley don’t have a sexy style of play, but Sean Dyche is most definitely a savvy tactician. Most importantly though, his side are well drilled in what they’re expected to do – and that’s perform in a counter-attacking 4-4-2.
They play in waves, with their strongest periods of the game coming early into the 90 – perhaps in the first thirty minutes or so, and the last half an hour. Unfortunately for Aston Villa, this is where they’ve been the most at risk of conceding.
Burnley take most of their opportunities or at least have been doing so this season in the first and final thirds of the game. In the first half an hour, they’ve taken twenty-four shots across their six games, and have taken the same amount in the final half an hour. The Turf Moor outfit do tend to quiten down in the middle third of the game.
Interestingly, Burnley are most at risk in the second half of games though, where they’ve conceded 48 shots on their goal compared to their 36 in the first half.
For a side that don’t have ‘attractive football’ attributed them, seven of their eight goals this season have come from open play – their two forwards know how and when to get shots off and their midfielders know how to get the ball into the forwards. Only one goal has come from a corner.
Fans of Fantasy Premier League know how good the partnership of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood can be.
Their forwards have a habit of picking up second balls and finding team-mates that are less under pressure – Dwight McNeil has been the main perpetrator of this in the 2019/20 season – and then playing it to a team-mate who’s under less pressure, which is usually Wood or Barnes.
It’s a case of not being able to focus on just one of the aforementioned – Aston Villa’s defence will need to be switched on to both the New Zealand forward and the Anglo-Austrian. Barnes has been taking an average of 3.76 shots per 90, whilst Wood takes just under two shots a game on average – but they’ve scored six goals between them so far – that’s leaving just two goals out of their eight for this season for other members of the Burnley squad.
Limiting their chances is something that is easier said than done – but it’s something the Aston Villa defenders are going to have to work on this season. They’ve got an xG of 5.04 between them – which is impressive – they’re pretty much par for the course in scoring good opportunities.
‘Scapegoat’ to ‘Superstar’
Ashley Westwood wasn’t the most appreciated Aston Villa player in recent years, but has gone from strength to strength for Burnley since his move there.
He’s their latest Player of the Season, and he’s acting as the side’s prime creator this season – a far cry from the ‘crab-passing’ that some fans attributed to him in his time at Villa Park.
Westwood doesn’t have the most assists this season, Erik Pieters and Dwight McNeil share that status currently, but he often plays dangerous balls for Burnley’s forwards to latch on to.
In Burnley’s side, Westwood is the most likely to grab an assist based on the quality of the passes he makes – holding their highest xA of 1.6 and their highest xA per 90 at 0.27.
It’s not even that his passes are super-accurate either, he’s averaged a 77% pass success rate so far this season and a 44% pass accuracy for his long passes. It’s more the number of passes he’s making. In his six appearances so far, he’s racked up 235 passes – two more than what prime creator for Aston Villa Jack Grealish has made – but the range of dribbles and ball-carrying attributes from Jack, and ‘ball-quality’ from Westwood is what sets the two players apart.
Dyche also likes to make a point of dragging a forward off the pitch to add a more defensive-minded player into the fray, as well as instructing Westwood to take a deeper role.
Aston Villa’s Game Plan? Look Out for the Left
Four of Burnley’s assists this season – for over half their goals – have come from their left hand side.
Their young starlet Dwight McNeil has impressed, putting in 27 crosses with a 37% accuracy – but more importantly, he’s been adept at dribbling past his opponent. The England youth international has managed to beat his man over 60% of the time in his six games this season.
New signing Erik Pieters hasn’t had a bad start himself. Coming from Stoke, it looked like a pretty underwhelming signing – but the left-back has picked up two assists this season. Whilst they came in their first game of the season, a 3-0 win against Southampton, he’s still proving to be an astute signing by Dyche.
With 13 crosses so far this season, Pieters has a 30% accuracy – not as impressive as McNeil – but when you put the 10 accurate crosses from the winger and the four from Pieters, that’s fourteen goal-scoring opportunities from the left hand side alone.
They both sit just under Westwood for their xA metrics too. Frédéric Guilbert will have his work cut out for him in this game, and he’s going to need help from whichever winger is ahead of him, and probably Bjorn Engels too.