Complete Preview is back once again (for the Renegade Master) to give an insight into what to expect as Aston Villa travel to Carrow Row to face Daniel Farke’s Norwich City.
Norwich are not a bona fide ‘Premier League team’.
Aston Villa have faced the Canaries only 16 times in the Premier League – only double the amount that they have faced Birmingham City in the top league. If that doesn’t tell you that Norwich City are not known for their Premier League acumen, then god knows what will.
It’s a strange fixture and one that feels indicative of the times.
Norwich are perhaps at one of the highest points of their recent history; a good solid club, an attacking manager and a young and likeable squad. On the other hand, Aston Villa are still very much in recovery mode after a turgid few years under hellish regimes.
Winning seven, drawing five and losing four against the Canaries gives Aston Villa the historical advantage – but that won’t count for much against the Champions of England’s Second Tier.
Daniel Farke has continued the quick, attacking combination play into this season and it has earned him some admirers in high places – with Jurgen Klopp stating he was ‘mightily impressed’ with Norwich – and for good reason.
We Need to Talk About Teemu Pukki
Teemu Pukki has surprised most people with his electric start to life in the Premier League. He has scored six of their nine goals, which is over 66% of their tally – but is impressing with his all-round game too.
With a 77.5% passing percentage, he is proving his ability to link up the play, which is why he’s managed to get two assists so far this season, and an average of 1.1 key passes per game.
His key goal threat comes from a relatively specific area. He is a Fox in (and just around) the Box. 13 of his total 15 shots which have been on target – meaning they were scored or saved – came from inside the box, whilst the other two were from just outside.
Pukki is a specialist with his movement around a box, and he has a great ability to score half chances too. Of the six shots that he has scored from, four of these goals had an xG rating of below 0.1, meaning that he’s adept at tucking away the difficult chances.
The best way to stop Pukki? Try and push him into wider positions, even if it means he can get closer to the goalkeeper, and restrict his ability to get himself or play a ball into, a more central area. His conversion rate within the box drops considerably when his shots were taken from outside the width of the six-yard box, dropping from a 56% conversion rate inside the width, to an 8% conversion rate outside the width.
A One Man Teemu? Not a Pukking Chance
Todd Cantwell has earned praise for his two goals and two assists in seven appearances too. Usually deployed on the left wing, his versatility has seen him switch and appear on the right this season as well. He’s still only 21-years-old and does show some inexperience at times.
Cantwell takes 2.5 bad touches per game and is dispossessed 1.9 times every 90 minutes too. That’s considerably higher than Anwar El Ghazi’s stats, for example, at 1.2 dispossessions and 1.5 dispossessions. His stats are also much higher than Jota’s and Trezeguet’s.
The pick of the lot, however, is the ever-reliable Emiliano Buendia. An incredibly effective player, with four assists to his name that has racked up a 7.26 average rating so far in the Premier League.
Buendia’s dribbles and key passes per game are much higher than Aston Villa’s wingers, sitting at 2.6 and 2.4, and show how direct his attacking style can be. However, for all his strengths, he makes three poor touches per game and is dispossessed around four times on average. This suggests inconsistency or trying to do too much.
When they’re on song, Norwich’s wide outlets are lethal, but they can certainly have an off day.
Formation, Style, and the Pay Out
Predicted Norwich XI: McGovern [GK], Aarons, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis, Leitner, McLean, Buendia, Stiepermann, Cantwell, Pukki
Norwich play a 4-2-3-1 with an emphasis on having young attacking full-backs and wingers, a centre-attacking midfielder, and a forward.
Their style isn’t quite paying off in the Premier League just yet, as their defensive balance isn’t quite right and their backline takes some battering most weeks. You have to admire what Norwich are doing, but it’s not entirely paying off for them – yet.
They are earning plaudits for their attacking play, but their xG tally is mid-table despite all of their intent, and is very similar to Aston Villa’s. Their xG against is exceeded only by West Ham and bottom of the table Watford. This would explain why in all of their games so far, their xG tally has only been better than their opponents just once, their 3-1 win against Newcastle. From an xG perspective, it looks like Norwich have overperformed.
Over-performing is almost a skill in itself in football – just ask Leicester City fans! Aston Villa shouldn’t rock up to Carrow Road and expect anything other than a very tough game against potent opposition.
What about Aston Villa?
For all of Norwich’s deserved plaudits, Aston Villa are going a bit under the radar – but that’s because some of the results have been poor. Performances have been good, at least for 70 minutes of most games, and it’s fended off major criticism from pundits.
For example, listening to the Monday edition of Guardian Football Weekly, there’s a paraphrased quote from the show where they say:
“I think Villa will be fine. I can’t see them struggling. The have some really talented players – John McGinn is a brilliant footballer and Jack Grealish is good too.”
Imagine our shock.
Whilst you can’t always rely on pundits, every so often they add some much-needed context to stories – and this weeks it’s that Aston Villa are really close to turning performances into wins.
For example, Aston Villa’s xG tally in matches suggests that they should have scored more than Bournemouth and West Ham at least. And that ignores the dominant display against Burnley, and dodgy decisions against Palace, and to a lesser extent, Arsenal. Villa are also underperforming against their expected points too.