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Aston Villa vs Bristol City tactical preview

Gareth Cooper is back to check out the x’s and o’s of Bristol vs Villa.

Sheffield Wednesday v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

So it came to pass that Aston Villa did indeed manage to get their 7th win in a row against a Rotherham side that tried their very best to rough Jack Grealish as much as possible with Grealish having the last laugh in scoring a superb winner after an Ahmed El Mohamady cut back. After a missed Tammy Abraham penalty and a Tyrone Mings second yellow and subsequent red card for a handball that saw Rotherham dispatch the penalty kick, Villa played as though they still had eleven men on the pitch with John McGinn playing like two men himself and dragging Villa over the line to a hard fought three points.

Now, Bristol City will pose a different set of problems for Dean Smith and Villa today. so I will take a quick look at how he may look to hurt the Robins.

Form Guide

Bristol City v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Lee Johnson, it must be said, has done wonders once again this season with a team that its fair to say at the start of the season possibly wouldn’t be favourites to get into a playoff spot - but City, having picked up an average of 1.58 points per game, find themselves just a single point behind Villa in 6th with a whole game in hand to boot. Villa, similarly to Bristol, are picking up 1.60 points per game having played that single game more. Needless to say the overall current form guide for the last six games is very good reading for Villa.

Aston Villa - P6 W6 D0 L0 GF14 GA4

Bristol City - P6 W3 D2 L1 GF10 GA8

The last 5 meetings between the two clubs have seen a direct share of the spoils with City and Villa sharing two wins a piece and one draw.

In the table, Bristol City currently sit on 65 points with 34 of those points coming away from their home of Ashton Gate and in scoring at a rate of 1.43 goals per game away from home its easy to see why! They do tend to concede at least a goal a game, in fact in the last 6 games they have conceded two goals on three separate occasions and haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of those six games. However, having only lost 5 games away from home this season along with winning 10 of them, Villa will need to be on top of their game.

City’s Expected Goals figures tell us that they are just above average with an xG total of 52.92 and are exceeding that having scored 54 goals so far this season and in defensive terms they have an xGA of 48.26 and have actually conceded 44 goals, 4.26 goals less than is expected.

Injury News

Rotherham United v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
Mings was sent off against Rotherham
Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Villa will still be without Kortney Hause as his abdominal injury sustained in the Sheffield Wednesday game has still not fully cleared up. Tyrone Mings is suspended, so Mile Jedinak should continue to deputise at centre-half alongside the returning Axel Tuanzebe. Alan Hutton is fit and available after having trained for the last 10 days without any issues but may well find himself on the bench. Glenn Whelan may well come back into the starting eleven and his steel will be needed against Josh Brownhill and Marlon Pack in the City midfield.

Bristol City have no new injury concerns that have been made public with Lee Johnson being very coy in the build up to the game.


Bristol City v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Bristol City have favoured either an orthodox 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1 this season with the latter being employed in the last game - resulting in a win at home against West Bromwich Albion. I don’t expect that to change. The reason being is that City’s Adam Webster may well be given the job of dealing with those infamous Jack Grealish bursts into the half space areas in midfield. City right back Jack Hunt’s 5 assists this season have proved very useful with 4 of them coming away from home and he does look to get forward and provide crosses. Former Villa and Derby striker Andreas Weimann has 10 goals and 5 assists this season and will be a thorn in the Villa side and he will play on the right of midfield as he did against WBA. Famara Diedhiou is a big burly striker who has 11 goals so far and he will look to hold the ball up and bring the likes of Eliasson coming in off the left, Weimann also coming in off the flank on the right and midfielders Pack and Browhill, into play.


City tend to adopt a non-aggressive style and use the offside trap a fair bit possibly due to the fact centre-backs Tomas Kalas, who is on loan at City from Chelsea, and another former man Nathan Baker do lack recovery pace and when players do get in behind them they have struggled. City also have a weakness defending down their right hand side possibly due to the attacking threat Hunt poses and Weimann being much more attack minded than he is defensively.

Going forward Lee Johnson likes his side to often play down the left flank with right winger Niclas Eliasson and right back Jay Dasilva combining well to create chances for Diedhiou and Weimann coming in from the right hand side but due to this attacking threat I think Villa could use it to get some joy themselves.

Counter Attack

Above is a common defensive shape from Aston Villa that would happen in open play if Bristol City were in their attacking phase of play. Notice how the Villa back four are very narrow - practically on the edge of the 18 yard box - with wide men Anwar El Ghazi and Albert Adomah marking the advanced City full backs. Weimann will play inside quite a bit as will Eliasson, although he is a more traditional wide player. Due to this Villa full-backs Neil Taylor and Ahmed El Mohamady can play narrower due to the threat from out wide moving inside and the aforementioned Adomah and El Ghazi can drop deeper if needed and it is this defensive set up with Grealish, Whelan and McGinn doing their defensive duties, that Villa ‘should’ find themselves in the perfect shape to transition from defense to attack.

The City full backs like to get forward and wide and with the pace of Adomah and El Ghazi and the guile of Grealish and McGinn the counter is very much on as shown in the graphic above. Weimann, due to coming inside, cannot recover to help out his full back Hunt and possibly the same applies for Eliasson and Dasilva. If balls are played up to Tammy Abraham and Villa can get players either side of him - even beyond him - in the areas shown by the arrows in the graphic it can create a potential overload in a 5 v 3 or 5 v 4 situation. I have already highlighted the lack of pace in Kalas and Baker but nothing is ever as straight forward. Of course this is just one method Villa may use to deploy, but as long as the Villa defense can deal with the Bristol City set piece threat a home win could well be on the cards.


Gareth Cooper -