It’s McGinning to look a lot like Christmas as Aston Villa travel to the Molineux to face Wolves in the Premier League.

Words: Guy Poxon | @GuyPoxon


Dean Smith will have learned a lot over the last couple of weeks, having played the two best teams in the country back-to-back, both providing difficult and necessary lessons for Aston Villa.

One of these lessons was around defensive consistency – and Villa might learn a thing or two from Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux on Sunday.

The Midlands’ current league leaders have had a meteoric rise over the last few seasons – coming from dropping into League One obscurity, to Championship mediocrity, all the way to 7th in the Premier League last season and earning quite the reputation in the process.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Lone Wolves in attack

Formation: 3-5-2

Predicted Line-Up: Patricio (GK), Bennett, Coady, Saiss, Jonny, Moutinho, Neves, Dendoncker, Traore, Jiminez, Jota

Wolves haven’t yet reached the performance levels of last season in this campaign – other than the successful return to their bogey team at the Etihad a few weeks back – as they currently sit 12th in the table.

Nuno can’t quite seem to get the attacking play clicking. Wolves are bottom half of the table in terms of xG, despite having dangerous players dotted around their attack. In terms of actual goals scored, they’re mid-table.

Digging a little deeper, Wolves’ Premier League goals have mostly come through Raul Jiminez and Adama Traore (4 and 2 respectively) – to be fair to Wolves though, they also have three other players sitting on an xG tally greater than two, but all three (Jota, Cutrone and Doherty) have only managed three actual goals between them.

Villa saw a preview of Patrick Cutrone at Villa Park during Aston Villa’s last Carabao Cup outing, where he looked lively – scoring a good finish and providing clever movement up front for Wolves.

However, it really is just Jiminez and Traore that seem to have found their shooting boots this season.

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Defending in packs

In typical Nuno style, Wolves’ strange form upfront is countered by the ever-solid defensive performances at the back. This season, Wolves are 7th for the fewest goals conceded, and that is complemented by their low xGA (Expected Goals Against) – which is also 7th in the league.

Nuno’s men are hard to beat – as Dean Smith eluded to in his pre-game press conference.

What is good news for Aston Villa is that Wolves’ key man in defence is injured – Willy Boly. He’s racked up a rating of 7.35 so far this season, which is streets ahead of other natural centre-backs like Bennet, Coady or Jesus Vallejo.

Head to Head: Who wins the hunt – the lions or the wolves?

Looking at how the teams match up, based on two line-ups without Jack Grealish and Willy Boly:

WolvesAston Villa
Average rating6.76.9
Average age25.925.2
Average height182.4184.4
Shots per game10.813.3
Goals per game1.31.5
Conversion rate11%10%
Aerial duel success45%465
Dribbles per player0.80.8
Pass success %76%79%

Clearly, this will be an even match-up with both teams at nearly full strength.

(Photo by IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Midfield battle will be key

Both teams boast excellent players in midfield, but Wolves tend to play the ball around their midfield slightly more than Aston Villa – Nuno’s men put 46% of their passes through the midfield area of the pitch, compared to Villa’s 38% in this space. For Villa, they tend to play 5% more passes in the defensive half, and a couple more passes in the opposition’s third. 

This suggests that Wolves will want to keep the ball ticking over in midfield a little more, and Aston Villa might look to deploy Nakamba tactically to break up play through the middle. Indeed, this sort of game suits the Zimbabwean – Nakamba’s made 26 tackles in just 7 appearances for Aston Villa this season, with a further 11 interceptions. 

Against Liverpool, he managed 5 tackles and 2 interceptions which is one of his highest tallies in a single game so far. Needless to say, that if he gets close to that form on Sunday it might break down Wolves’ game plan at home.

It’s McGinning to look a lot like Christmas

John McGinn will be fuming. Sure, he’s racked up 7.52 rating this season, with 3 goals and 2 assists, but John McGinn has high standards and the flying Scot hasn’t scored since 28th September against Burnley. 

That’s four games ago, and his last goal drought lasted exactly four games long before he then scored in consecutive games – this is a terrible analysis based on nothing more that superstitions, but McGinn likes to score in important games and you can’t help but think his infectious grin might be beaming at the Molineux on Sunday.  

In the midfield between the two teams (assuming Grealish is out), McGinn looks the danger-man of the fixture. He has the highest rating – 7.52 compared to second place Moutinho on 7.08:

McGinn 7.52

Moutinho 7.08

Nakamba 6.97

Hourihane 6.75

D. Luiz 6.57

Ruben Neves 6.52

Dendoncker 6.47

Clearly, Villa’s midfield win the form-based advantage in terms of past performances, here.

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