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Aston Villa vs Derby County preview: Can Villa halt the Rams?

Do AVFC have what it takes to start Frank Lampard and Derby? We preview the upcoming encounter

Nottingham Forest v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Would it be a fair to say that in regards to the assessment of Derby County, that although they currently sit in 7th in the Championship we were all expecting a bit more consistency?

‘The Rams’ have only managed to achieve back-to-back wins on six occasions this season and having lost the last three in-a-row in all competitions and not having won at all in five whole games, consistency has been a massive problem for Lampard.

It’s not rosier at Villa Park either. Aston Villa have an even worse record in terms of consistency as they have only won back to back games on three occasions all season with the last win coming at home to relegation favourites Ipswich Town at the start of February.

Consistency in getting a winning run together has escaped both Villa and Derby with both clubs employing new managers and both having to partially rush signings through the doors at Villa Park and Pride Park respectively. So what can we expect on Saturday?

Form Guide:

Aston Villa, at home this season:

P17 W6 D8 L3

GF37 GA32

PTS 26

Derby, away this season:

P17 W6 D4 L7

GF21 GA22

PTS 22

Derby are currently scoring away from home at a rate of 1.23 goals a game. Not setting the league on fire by any means. Compare that with, for example, fellow play off hopefuls Bristol City (1.4 per game). Now these are small margins you may argue but in football they mean everything. When we look at Aston Villa at home and the fact we are scoring at a rate of 2.2 goals per game at Villa Park this season you would think I’m mad but the reality is we are conceding at a rate of 1.88 per game so we can see why points, and more importantly wins, are hard to come by.

Probable Lineups & Team News:

Villa will enjoy the much heralded return of Jack Grealish to the matchday squad although he will more than likely have to settle for a place on the bench, though don’t be surprised if he does make an appearance of some sorts.

Lovre Kalinic should return in goal after his concussion has now fully cleared up. Alan Hutton is of course injured so Ahmed El Mohamady may well play at right back as Dean Smith sticks with the 4-4-2 again and this is mainly due to injuries and maybe the lack of ideal playing personnel to play his preferred 4-3-3 in the way in which he wants to in which Jack Grealish and John McGinn are so key. Villa have not lost in the last 6 meetings at home in games against Derby, a run Dean Smith will be keen to keep going.

Tactical Analysis:

In 22 games this season Derby have set up in Lampard’s favoured 4-3-3 shape and this may well be the case on Saturday. Derby are a possession based side who like to move the ball freely across midfield, usually through Tom Huddlestone who sits 10 yards or so in front and in-between the centre-backs and uses those ranging cross field passes to find the advanced Derby full backs. Villa will need to try to step on to him and this may fall to Jonathan Kodjia in dropping deeper to cover him as I expect both Glenn Whelan and Conor Hourihane to be kept busy by Derby’s Holmes and Johnson, the latter coming in for the injured Andy King, Craig Bryson and Mason Mount, on the left of the Derby midfield three.

Derby try to overload in the half spaces with Martyn Waghorn and Bogle on the right and Cole and Wilson on the left with Wilson being an especially tricky player to monitor due to his movement in and around the inside left channel. Villa’s back four will need to be fairly narrow when Derby have the ball in the final third and Adomah on the right hand side of midfield and El Ghazi on the left will have to be very disciplined in their defensive duties and this is an area of concern for me.

Tammy Abraham & Richard Keogh

Below I have detailed how important it is for Tammy Abraham to try to get Richard Keogh to follow him when dropping deeper. Receiving the ball at his feet will open up space behind Keogh for Kodjia and Adomah to run into and be found by that wand of a left foot on Conor Hourihane. If El Mohamady can keep Ashley Cole occupied down the left flank the space could be there for Adomah to exploit.

This will also mean Anwar El Ghazi has repeated one on ones against Omar Bogle down the Villa left hand side but this is all dependent on Villa being able to draw Derby on to them in the game, of course. Glenn Whelan may well be sacrificed in terms of advancing too far into the Derby final third.

Derby’s Threat:

Derby are a big threat on the counter and Villa will have to be aware of this. Detailed below is a situation that could occur from a Villa corner:

Having watched Derby a great deal I have noticed this set up on some opposing corners and they are geared and ready for the ball being cleared to mainly Harry Wilson who is very adept at carrying the ball up field with Derby attempting to create 3v3 situations. Waghorn may well be deeper inside his own half of course but the threat is real and Villa will need to set up sensibly when attacking their own set pieces.

Summary:

A Villa win is very possible given Derby’s current form and if Villa do their best to not succumb to the Derby counter attack and give away silly free kicks in positions Wilson can shoot directly on goal from, in fact set pieces in general in threatening positions, this will go a long way in achieving a much needed win.

Gareth Cooper - gcanalytics.net