Are Aston Villa really the worst team in the league?

Is this a stupid question seeing as Villa are now 10th and were 2nd only a few weeks ago? Maybe, but the underlying numbers tell a different story. Villa currently sit bottom of my Expected Goal Difference table.

If asked, most people would class Villa as a ‘counter-attacking’ side. However, Villa are taking far more blows than is good for them and not landing anywhere near enough themselves. Take a look:


I looked at the footage from their last couple of games (Chelsea and Man City). Villa put next to no pressure on the ball. When the occasional player does press, no-one follows. The players seem happy to hold off in order to keep shape and jockey rather than challenge. But it just results in chance after chance being conceded:


This is also reflected in Colin Trainor‘s work over at Statsbomb. Colin’s latest piece looks at a metric he calls ‘Passes Per Defensive Action‘.  Basically, Villa are allowing the opposition over 30 passes before getting a challenge in. It’s crazily higher than any other team in the league. Villa are averaging just 38% possession of the ball so far this season. I’ve gone back over 5 years in the Premier League and can’t find any side with less ball.

A lot of this is driven by the quality of opposition Villa have played (add Liverpool and Arsenal to the two above). Having looked at earlier footage, Villa weren’t nearly so passive. I’ve picked out examples where getting closer and putting pressure on the ball as more of a collective has actually led to them creating chances of their own:


I only have access to highlights, not full match footage, but it looks like the decision to sit off came after conceding three in 3 minutes v Arsenal. Prior to that, it was more a reaction to being ahead in the game and contentment to defend a lead. They were certainly more aggressive early on v Liverpool and Arsenal.

It wouldn’t be uncommon in football to make a knee-jerk reaction to being blitzed out of a game within 3 minutes. It’s embarrassing when it happens and most managers would then play conservatively next up against the two best teams in the league. But what does Lambert choose to do against Everton – another side who’ll want to dominate possession?

Everton are desperate for a win after a poor start to the season and have key players missing or out of sorts. Another interesting factor is Villa’s shot on target rate. It’s absolutely abysmal. Sooner or later it has to get better. Villa’s best chance here is to get proactive again. If they don’t, it could be another long afternoon, and right now Everton don’t deserve that kind of respect.

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