Villa in Four Numbers: A revived attack helps a lagging defense

Laurence Griffiths

Looking at the newly-resurgent Aston Villa attack and wondering why the defense can't stay strong.

Today we're back to looking at current Aston Villa numbers rather than considering the historical dominance of Aston Villa over West Bromwich Albion.

3

Well this one is a bit obvious, isn't it? The number of goals that Christian Benteke has scored in the last three matches. We all realize what's happened, but it's interesting to put it into context. Benteke has scored 37.5% of his goals (in all competitions) in 15% of his matches in which he has appeared. It seems that it was just a matter of getting going for Benteke, who had a scoring drought of 885 minutes before his goal against Arsenal.

It's interesting to see how quickly things have turned around for the Belgian. Since the Arsenal goal he has constantly looked like a threat to score: positioning himself well and making sure that he's got numerous opportunities in every match. Compare that to the Benteke we saw during his drought, and it's astonishing. During that stretch, he often looked clueless. There was plenty of talk that perhaps last season was just a fluke.

Nevertheless, Benteke has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to match last year's 19-goals-in-league production. But 12 goals in the remaining 15 matches doesn't seem as insane as it did three weeks ago. Maybe he can crack 20.

7

The number of goals Aston Villa have scored since the Arsenal match began. Benteke's goal seems to have lit a fire under more than just the Belgian. To put this in perspective, Aston Villa have scored 27% of their goals in only 13% of their matches. What's more compelling is that few of the goals have seemed cheap: they're all well-deserved and -taken. (With Bacuna's being an obvious, and hilarious, exception).

Andi Weimann, in particular, has looked improved over the stretch, and his work points to the larger issue: when the attack is running at full speed, it's quite dangerous. In the doldrum period between November and the Liverpool match, Villa's attack looked lethargic, and unable to create anything. The goals in both the Liverpool and West Brom matches came largely as the result of the frantic counter that we saw Villa use so effectively in the beginning of the season.

And it's a good thing that the attack seems to be firing on all cylinders again, because...

7

The number of goals that Aston Villa have conceded since the Arsenal match began. To draw the parallel between this and the previous number, that's 22% of their conceded goals in the same 13% of their matches. Jack and I talked about this on the podcast yesterday, but it seems as if the former strongest part of the team (the defense) is slipping just as the squad's weakest part (the attack) is surging.

And yes, the defense is undoubtedly slipping a bit from its stellar early-season form, but I think this is an example of a number lying a bit. Included in those seven goals are the penalty Liverpool got from Luis Suarez's dive and the absolutely terrible own goal that Fabian Delph gave up on Wednesday. I don't think you can chalk either of those up to the defense, so things aren't quite what they seem. And derbies always produce crazy results, so the three conceded don't seem too bad.

Nevertheless, with the defense is now (largely) healthy, and Everton will be without a number of their first-choice attacking options on Saturday. Now would be as good of time as any to see the front and the back sync up to produce a stellar game.

1.75

The average points taken per match by Aston Villa in the month of January, their best such number in a month since September. It's easy to be a bit hesitant about getting excited about Aston Villa again, but all signs point to the team playing significantly better football and doing so in what looks to be a sustainable manner. There will inevitably be some bumps in the road, but if we assume just a bit of regression (let's say 1.5 points per match), Aston Villa would still look fantastic come season's end. With those numbers, they would take 22.5 more points on the season. Round down to be conservative, and the final tally becomes 49. That would be their best result since the 2009-10 season.

If they can keep up the 1.75 points/match pace, they'd end up with 53 points on the season. And if this really is a turn around, and they could shift to 2 points per match, they'd hit 57.

Now, that's obviously a bit insane. But it would be amazing, wouldn't it? Well, let's put it in perspective. If Villa played out of their minds and got 2 points per match for the rest of the season, they'd still only finish 4 points above Manchester City if the latter team quit football and forfeit all of their remaining matches right now. So yeah, Villa dug themselves a bit of a hole in the first half of the season. Good grief.

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