Following an incredibly frustrating night against Burnley, in which Aston Villa traveled back to Birmingham with no points, now they must prepare for a trip to the other end of the country as they face a Southampton side that are pushing for a top six finish.
Despite conceding three goals to a team awfully reluctant to attack, Villa fans should remain optimistic for the second half of the campaign. Let’s take a look at why Villa should feel confident ahead of their match against the Saints.
Villa and Southampton are both currently on 29 points. However, Villa have one game in hand and a far more superior goal difference. Southampton will see this game as a vital step in keeping their European dreams alive. They need a win to prevent them from falling into mid-table, with Leeds only three points behind them.
Southampton are the most clinical team in the league, a statement made clear by subtracting their total expected goals (xG) this season from the actual number of goals they have scored. A positive difference indicates a team have scored more goals than expected of them. On the other hand, a negative difference indicates a team have been wasteful in front of goal, scoring fewer than expected.
Impressively, Southampton have scored almost 10 more goals than expected.
Southampton also like to play on the front foot, as seen by their number of successful tackles vs the number of successful pressures they have applied onto the opposition.
This suggests Villa must be thoughtful in the way they attempt to convert defence into attack, as Southampton will be applying pressure all over the pitch.
Reasons for Optimism
No team have dropped more points from winning positions—47—than Southampton since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl in 2018.
Southampton are also in a poor run of form, having only won once in their last six league games, drawing twice and losing three matches.
Villa should also be encouraged by the recent acquisition of French midfielder Morgan Sanson from Marseille, secured for £16 million. It is likely that the midfielder will get some minutes on the pitch this weekend.
Despite losing their last game 3–2 to Burnley, Villa still demonstrated great attacking intent as the below xG graph shows. They are able to create good chances, but they will need to be more ruthless and clinical in converting these chances into goals if they want to leave the south coast with any points.
xG FULL TIME— Graph Roots Football (@graph_root) January 27, 2021
Burnley (0.67) 3 - 2 (2.55) Aston Villa
Goes to prove that there is only one stat that counts.
Despite being by far the dominant side, Villa walk away with nothing.#AVFC #BFC @TheVillaVision pic.twitter.com/j0MFIs4MHB
Ryan Bertrand will be available for the Saints following his recent suspension, while the game may come too soon for Kyle Walker-Peters in defence. Nathan Redmond may also be in contention for his first start since October following his second-half substitution against Arsenal last time out.
Villa may look to rotate the side that started away to Burnley due to a heavily congested fixture list. Trézéguet, Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traoré will all be battling for a spot in the starting line up.
Morgan Sanson will likely start on the bench but could possibly be seen in the second half.
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