Most of the Headlines went to Manchester United crushing a helpless Queens Park Rangers this past week and rightly so, I suppose, given how poorly Man U has played this last year or so.
Anything good happening to United usually spells trouble for others in the English Premier League.
For me though, I’m taking my analysis to the Aston Villa, 1-nil win, against Liverpool this week.
With that let’s take a look at Aston Villa, two different ways – compared to the other teams in the EPL and dig a bit deeper, statistically (team performance wise), into their great start.
For starters; here’s my standard Composite PWP Strategic Index filtering out all games where a team has passed the ball less than 450 times (the EPL League average):
While not blazing saddles, by any stretch, the positive from this is that Aston Villa are on the giving end as opposed to receiving end.
In the four games played, Aston Villa have not once exceeded the 450 pass barrier – but in every game the opponent has.
So there is consistency of purpose with respect to the general attacking strategy given the expected higher volume of passes by the opponent; at least that’s what I would offer given Paul Lambert is a pretty switched on Coach.
In the four games Villa have played their highest percentage of possession was against Hull City – do many of us consider Hull City a passing team?
They had 55.78% of the possession when playing Villa. Oddly enough that is the lowest amount of possession, by any opponent against Villa, this year – and Hull City have scored the only goal against Aston Villa this year! Hmmm…
Anyhow, the lowest level of passing accuracy, by Villa, was against Liverpool (63.09%); the 1-nil thrilla; otherwise, all the other games have seen Villa meet or exceed 70% in passing accuracy.
Bottom line here, in attack, Aston Villa show frugal play and measured penetration; 7th best in the EPL (26.13%).
And they have been able to create and take shots that have at least a 21% chance of being on target – while also averaging 50% goals scored success based upon that volume of shots.
Very frugal and very productive… all round a solid team performance in attacking so far.
Now let’s take a look at this same Index for all teams who have passed the ball greater than 450 times this year:
So with a frugal, but effective and efficient attack, how have they performed in defending against teams who pass as many as 200 times more, in a game, than Villa do?
Opponents so far have been Stoke City, Newcastle United, Hull City, and Liverpool.
As noted, those opponents are averaging over 450 passes per game – the actual average Villa have faced is 581 per game with a high of 743 passes, faced, in the game against Liverpool.
With respect to opponent penetration – Liverpool again was best in penetrating Villa’s Defending Final Third – nearly 36% of the total possession Liverpool had resulted in penetration of the Villa Final Third – that’s 12% greater than the overall average for every team in the EPL this year… my oh my… Liverpool really was on the offensive this game!
Perhaps what really drives home the aggressive nature/execution of Liverpool this game was their 71% completion rate of passes within the Villa Final Third. So not only were Liverpool frequent in their penetration – they were accurate as well.
Yet, when the scope narrowed, and the sphincter got tighter, Liverpool put just 1 of 18 shots on goal (5.56%) terrible; simply terrible.
So while Villa ceded possession and penetration (high passing accuracy penetration) they didn’t cede time and space that resulted in Liverpool getting more than one shot on goal… I’d offer that’s a pretty effective zone defense.
Through either filter Aston Villa have done well. It’s early days though, and this analysis probably has more value later this year when more data points are available to confirm/refute early prognostications.
For now I’d offer Paul Lambert is running a Counter-attacking / Direct attacking scheme – and to date, it’s been pretty effective so far.
How long that success lasts is hard to tell; they play Arsenal next and it’s likely they will face as many as 800 passes in that game.
And so you know – Arsenal have not started out as slowly as Liverpool.
In looking ahead to that game…
Arsenal average 9.92% Shots Taken per penetrating possession while Liverpool average 14.72%.
And both average nearly the same amount of Shots on Goal percentage (33.01% to 33.61%) yet Arsenal convert that same percentage of Shots on Goal to Goals Scored 37.50% of the time while Liverpool only manages to convert those Shots on Goal to Goals Scored 25.63% of the time.
That’s a 12% difference in success rate for Goals Scored – as noted in all my research from Major League Soccer, patience, in creating time and space adds just as much, if not more value than the location on where the shot is taken…
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