Aston Villa have won three straight Championship matches, and Saturday looks like a perfect opportunity to run that to four, as bottom side Bolton Wanderers, who have scored just four times this season, are in town.
I regret to inform you I am back on preview duty.
Villa have won three straight Championship matches, which is very much not normal. Bottom side Bolton are in town Saturday, too, so is it too much to ask for four on the trot?
What to know about Aston Villa
Well, Aston Villa are playing high-calibre players like Albert Adomah and Conor Hourihane every week now, and lo and behold, it’s resulting in some really nice results!
Adomah has been a goal-scoring machine since getting his first start on the left a few games back, and Keinan Davis has two goals in as many games up top. That Villa have won three straight is the league is a big enough deal, but that they’ve done it without a Jonathan Kodjia goal in the stretch is particularly remarkable. For all the snark I like to throw his way — and believe me, it’s a lot — Steve Bruce may have finally stumbled upon something that works with this 4-4-2.
On the whole, Villa have been quite good at times at home (Hull City, Norwich City), and other times generally average (Brentford, Nottingham Forest), so it will be interesting to see how the Villa boys get on Saturday. This will be the third match in eight days for this XI, which also started the Saturday before to get the Championship winning streak going at Barnsley, so it will be interesting to see if Bruce rides the same team again with the possibility of fatigue concerns.
My gut, though, is that with an international break coming up, Bruce won’t hold anything back and will name an unchanged XI for the third time this week — though if he wants to look into a change, I’d consider Scott Hogan (who’s been Villa’s best attacking player except for the whole “actually score the goals” bit) for Davis or Josh Onomah, who scored the fourth goal Tuesday, in for Hourihane or Glenn Whelan. Bruce has good options off the bench, which is a major plus when the first-choice XI is playing so well.
What to know about Bolton Wanderers
This far into a season, there are two types of bad teams: ones that have been a little unlucky and who are likely to see their form turn around, and those that have just genuinely been bad.
While Bolton are a bit of the former, they’re also probably a bit of the latter, too. Wanderers have just two points and four goals from their opening 10 Championship matches, which is something that’s hard to do even if you are just straight-up bad.
Bolton have taken just 96 shots this season, but even then, a 1-in-24 success rate is astronomically poor (for comparison, Villa are scoring on one of every 7.7 shots), and similarly, Bolton’s opposition is scoring once every 6.2 chances — both these mark as the worst in the league, and are likely to regress toward some mean at some point down the road.
Despite all of that, though, Experimental 361 still ranks Wanderers the second-worst team in the division by Expected Goals, and last time out, they were battered on the xG chart by Bristol City in a 2-0 defeat. This really is a team that has little going for it, and is one Villa should handle comfortably.
Villa are (as one would expect) overwhelming favourites at Villa Park on Saturday — the best odds you can get on Bruce’s boys are just 2/5, with the draw between 10/3 and 4/1 dependent on bookmaker. Could you get decent value betting on the Trotters to win? They’re as long as 10/1 at the right site.
Villa have taken care of business three times on the bounce, but this has the feeling of a bit of a “trap game” against a poor opponent heading into the international break. Regardless though, I think this Villa side might actually have the poise required to boss matches like these, and as such, I see a comfortable 3-0 win for the Claret and Blues, with Kodjia getting off the mark by scoring a brace and Hogan finally finding the score sheet off the bench.