Aston Villa have a few problems to worry about. Here are three big ones, and then a nice stat to leave us all on a happy note.
The number of minutes that he has been on the pitch since Christian Benteke last scored. Coming into the season, it was widely expected that Benteke would be Villa's strongest scorer and would again lead the team in that stat. But since a 67th minute goal against Newcastle on September 14, Benteke hasn't managed to find the back of the net in nine appearances. Now, I don't think it's time to panic about Benteke. We've all seen his ability to score at a fast clip (four goals in the first four league matches as an example), and if he has a spurt such as that we'll quickly forget this dip.
But it's beginning to be an worrying trend. In the match against Fulham, Benteke looked particularly keen to score, and was pushing harder than I've ever seen him do. At some point the frustration with not scoring will lead him to taking even worse chances in an effort to get some goal. And while the first few matches of this were easy to chalk up to "lingering effects of his injury," he looked quite healthy on Sunday, so I'm not really buying that anymore.
The question is: is this a blip (I think so) or a more troubling sign? If it's the former, it may actually be a bit lucky. Benteke's value has never been lower, so there's a great chance of Villa keeping him in the January window. It's sort of depressing that we've been reduced to looking for the transfer-related bright spot in poor spells from our players, but what can you do?
Villa in Four
The craziest match in the EPL this year
Looking at what happened in the Southampton-Villa match, the stat sheet of which will give people headaches for years.
Aston Villa's percentage of accurately completed passes, good enough for 19th in the Premier League. The only team who are worse are Crystal Palace with 73%. Last week, I talked about the fact that Villa seem to have a knack for winning games in which they have particularly low possession. In the comments, Schmizzy asked if there was a bit of perspective bias in that analysis. And it was a good question. Villa were just coming off of the inexplicable but thrilling win over Southampton, and it seemed like even the worst numbers were good.
And I stand by the idea that maybe this is a team made to win low-possession games, but if there is a flaw in that reasoning it comes from this number. If you're not going to have the ball for much of the match, you've got to be smart with it when you do. 15 matches into the season (nearly 40%), there is little evidence that Villa know how to be smart when they have the ball. Even Fabian Delph, widely regarded to be the team's best player right now, only has a success rate of 82%. That's a full 11 percentage points lower than the best in the league (Manchester City's Javi Garcia, at 93%).
If Villa have a need in the January window, it's a smart-passing midfielder who can link up the surprisingly solid defense with the theoretically good attack. Giving up the ball 25% of the time you try to pass it is a really bad thing for a team to do.
The number of yellow cards received by Aston Villa this season. Enough to make them the third-most penalized team in the League (even when you account for reds, of which Villa have received zero). At nearly two cards per match, we might start seeing more one-match bans like Fabian Delph's against Manchester United piling up. With the injury trouble this club have had, that's a potentially big problem. Delph is our go-to guy for yellows, so much so that I made this earlier in the season:
You know you have a problem when I make a gif for it happening so often. But he's getting better, and the yellow on Sunday was his first in a month-and-a-half (October 20 against Spurs). Nevertheless, it'd be nice to see Villa stop making so many reckless challenges and control themselves a bit.
The points taken by Aston Villa from losing positions. Good enough to be tied for second (with Manchester United and Stoke City) in the league. This includes two come-from-behind wins (Arsenal and Manchester City) and one draw from a losing position (West Brom). Without those seven points Aston Villa would currently be sitting in 19th place. And this number doesn't count the points from a match like Southampton, since Villa were never losing that one.
Interestingly, Chelsea lead the league with 11 points from losing positions, including 3 wins and 2 draws. Take away those points and Chelsea are... tied with Villa. That's more disappointing than I anticipated.
Ok, let's try this again. Interestingly, Aston Villa have lost zero points from a winning position, the only team in the league who can say that. That's better, now, isn't it?
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