Aston Villa need to start games on a front foot more often than not in these final stages of the season.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
If you have been paying attention to Aston Villa this season, specifically in the opening forty-five minutes, you’ve possibly muttered these sentiments once or twice:
“What’s going on out there?”
“Why can’t Villa string three passes together?”
“Why can’t they get a shot on goal?”
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
There are few identifiable problems with Aston Villa’s first-half performances this season – but one of the larger issues seems to be the inability to retain possession.
In the last fixture against Bournemouth, Villa averaged 2.87 passes per possession in the first half – meaning that every time that one of Dean Smith’s men gained possession of the ball, there were three, or just under, passes before they had lost it again. Whilst Mbwana Samatta may have netted his first Premier League goal in his first Premier League start, the performance was largely choppy, and Aston Villa deserved to lose due to poor passing and a lack of basic defensive nous.
Taking a look at Aston Villa’s last Premier League win, against Watford – the Villans averaged nearly five passes per possession and largely dominated possession in the first half, keeping 63% of the ball. This was better, but still created cause for concern as most fans could ‘feel’ the 38th minute Troy Deeney goal coming.
It’s important to claw back from not having a great start – something that Aston Villa have managed to do in recent performances – but it does seem like Smith’s men are mostly unable to come out of the gates switched on, concentrating and showcasing desire more often than not.
This lays at the feet of the coaching staff. Perhaps some players aren’t ‘buying in’ to the pre-conceived game plan. It’s frustrating to see the side need 20 minutes to get into the right gear.
In all Premier League games to date, Aston Villa have only registered a shot on target in the opening 15 minutes of play a condemning seven times.
In the summer, Dean Smith and Christian Purslow spoke passionately about ‘having a go’ at opponents, no matter who the opposition was. This has not always been the case – and switching off at vital points in games has been an Achilles heel all season.
There’s no better time than now to put these bad habits to bed. Games against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea adorn the fixture list from now until the end of the season – and gifting these sides opportunities will do Aston Villa no favours.
A poor performance and a lost game in the middle of a relegation scrap is expected. A lack of consistency in this league, as we’ve seen, will condemn you towards the bottom of the table. But excuses can’t be made for starting games, or even halves of football lackadaisically.