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Expected Villa: Analyzing a third consecutive AVFC league win

Aston Villa won for the third straight time in Championship action Tuesday night, thrashing Burton Albion by a 4-0 scoreline. What’s the big statistical takeaway from the win?

Burton Albion v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Albert Adomah of Aston Villa celebrates scoring his team's 2nd goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on September 26, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Welcome to Expected Villa (xV), a post-match column on the stats behind Villa’s results.

One of the reasons I really love looking at football through a mathematical lens is that it allows us to sidestep our conventional, results-based bias to take a look at how the match actually played out. Did it play out exactly how we saw? Which moments are emphasized?

Aston Villa thrashed Burton Albion 4-0 last night for their third win on the trot. This is… neat?

It’s late, I’m tired, and Villa won big. Let’s keep this nice and short.

Steve Bruce will still need to prove himself in October

To be honest, it’s quite sad that three on the bounce, in this division for Aston Villa feels as odd as it does. But hey, this is where we are.

When the fixtures run Barnsley (A), Nottingham Forest (H), Burton Albion (A), nine points shouldn’t be a far-fetched idea — it should be the goal, with seven a good expecation. None of these teams are going to finish in the top half this year — Barnsley and Burton are serious relegation contenders, while Forest have cooled off after a quick start — and clearly neither will Bolton Wanderers, who come to town Saturday.

This recent run, assuming it’s capped off with three more points at the weekend, is enough to simply absolve Steve Bruce of his early-season sins, and is still not enough to prove he’s the man that’s going to take Villa to the top of the table. After the October international break, Villa have Wolves (A), Fulham (H), Birmingham City (A), Preston North End (A), Sheffield Wednesday (H). This is one interesting run — it includes four teams that are either currently in or are expected to work their way into the promotion hunt, plus Blues in the derby.

These matches will determine the season’s outcome, not the ones Villa have been playing.

And, to bring us back to a statistical point, we’re also just seeing Villa start to see their “luck” balance out. The Claret and Blues were certainly the better side Tuesday night, but they were far from dominant on Experimental 361’s xG chart, just nicking the advantage by 0.21 xG. While I’d contest this is a case where the xG model lies to you a little bit, Villa were probably a little fortunate to bag four Tuesday night — though that’s taking advantage of your opponents’ mistakes, which is something a good side does.

Over the course of the year, the Cardiff City and Reading aberrations aside, Villa have been an above-average side, and their spot in the table now reflects that. The challenge is showing they can be a good, if not great, side.

Albert Adomah on the left wing, who could’ve known?

Thanks for letting me indulge myself a little.

Because of injury and poor performance at the left wing, Albert Adomah has finally gotten the chance to stake down a spot in the Villa XI, and it’s the second-best personnel decision this year behind Conor Hourihane, which was also a bit of a forced move from Bruce. Since Adomah’s insertion into the XI, he’s only gone and scored four goals. Not bad, eh?

When the season started, and Gabby Agbonlahor was starting on the left while Adomah was on the bench, I started to think about how Bruce could get Adomah into the side. What I discovered, along with some help from the rest of the 7500 crew, was that playing Adomah as an inverted winger on the left made a lot of sense, because it allows him to cut in on his great right foot and test the goalkeeper.

Villa are really dangerous when playing 4-4-2 because they can genuinely put five goal-scoring threats on the pitch at the same time: Adomah and Robert Snodgrass can each cut in and fire a goal, Jonathan Kodjia and Keinan Davis will both bag them up top, and Conor Hourihane or Josh Onomah can move up from the centre of the park to get a goal.

It’s not what Bruce necessarily wanted to do, I don’t think, but he’s stumbled upon a potentially lethal group here. It’s been ages since Villa had a balanced scoring attack where they didn’t rely on one guy to get a bunch of the goals (well, aside from 2015/16, when there was no attack). This is really nice, and will be crucial to long-term success.

Pay the troll toll

Here’s your lesson in crowning managers to soon, I guess? Have a great rest of the week. UTV!