Are Aston Villa worthy of staying up? We take a look at the info at hand.
Words: Guy Poxon | @GuyPoxon
The re-opening week of Premier League fixtures wasn’t a disaster, but Villa didn’t manage to tick a much needed win off of the list. To put it in perspective, two wins would have put Villa well clear of the drop zone and would have given Dean Smith’s side control over their fate.
As it happens, Villa will need another bite of the cherry to try and get out of danger, while also relying on relegation rivals dropping points. The reaction by fans was one of understandable frustration as Villa once again failed to secure more stable footing and take a step towards safety.
Interestingly, much to the surprise of fans, Dean Smith cut a relaxed figure after both games. Despite a strange disallowed goal against Sheffield, Villa were the better of two less-than-avergae-looking sides, and against Chelsea Dean Smith pleaded the unfairness of 5 substitutions favouring deeper squads.
However, maybe Dean Smith has reason to believe the points will come.
Aston Villa had the best of chances against Chelsea and Sheffield
The expected goal tally for Aston Villa was surprisingly favourable:
- Aston Villa 1.01 – 0.24 Sheffield United
- Aston Villa 1.57 – 1.14 Chelsea
It’s fair to say that had Sheffield’s very odd (and probably unintended) free kick had stood, Villa’s fate should have earned them at least a draw. That is because Keinen Davis had two excellent chances, one of which was saved by Henderson. And both Hourihane and McGinn had a couple of decent chances which might have borne fruit on another day. Meanwhile, Sheffield posed no threat.
Against Chelsea, the story is a little different. Chelsea had a few strong openings, but not many clear cut chances. Chelsea’s xG tally was more the accumulation of a few decent scoring opportunities rather than two or three vast openings in Villa’s defense. Looking at the goals and both Villa and Chelsea scored from a couple of excellent crosses into the box. Meanwhile, Villa missed chances from Jota and Hause late on (both good chances), while Chelsea’s second was deflected and a bit lucky, as Alan Smith admitted during his commentary. Chelsea’s other chances we’re from range.
As Frank Lampard said, “It was a good game”.
By no means an easy win for Chelsea, despite Villa’s lack of aggression.
To summarise the Chelsea match; Aston Villa had more high-quality chances than the blues, and won on the balance of expected goals. Whereas Chelsea had a couple of good chances and put them both in the back of the net. Perhaps a draw would have a been a fairer result, given Chelsea’s possession dominance and number of advanced positions and shots, but Villa should feel hard done-by for the loss.
Despite losses, Villa are ahead of where they were before lockdown
Before the break, Aston Villa’s total Expected Goals Scored minus their Expected Goals Conceded in the two games against Southampton and Leicester was: 1.14xG – 5.44xGA.
Meaning Villa might have expected to concede over 4 goals more than they scored during those two games. They actually conceded 6 goals more than they scored in those two matches.
The miniature trend couldn’t be more different now that we are on this side of lockdown. Aston Villa have an Expected Goals tally 1 more than their Expected Goals Conceded – and that was against two sides fighting for Europe. So to come away with only one point is pretty harsh on the Villains.
Anecdotally and statistically, Villa are creating more chances than they are conceding at the minute. So it is fair to say that Dean Smith and his staff are having an impact behind closed doors. If Villa can get the rub of the green and keep building on performances, there’s no reason to suggest that results won’t follow.
Improvements to note and the bigger picture
The turn in performances for Villa comes with a few telltale signs of improvement, as well. Hourhane’s return to the starting 11 has brought some danger from set pieces, and the Irishman was unlucky to see his challenge on Giroud deflected into the Villa net for Chelsea’s winner.
Douglas Luis has impressed hugely since making his return to the starting 11. He looks assured in his patrolling of the back line and his quality on the ball was shown by the sublime cross for Aston Villa’s opener against Chelsea. From set pieces, Villa look a real threat and they also look less vulnerable.
Those teams around Villa have played one-less match than the Claret and Blues. However, all of those teams put in underwhelming performances against their opposition and only Watford managed to create enough chances to get their xG tally up to 1 in their game against Leicester. Brighton, for example, should count themselves very lucky to have won against Arsenal, who outstripped Brighton’s xG tally despite Neal Maupay’s unsettling challenge on Arsenal keeper and star performer of the season, Leno.
There is a huge amount of work for Villa to do, but if Grealish and McGinn can regain some of their form, and if Villa’s wingers could actually have a decent game, expect better results to come.