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What has changed at Aston Villa this season?

To analyse how Aston Villa have improved, I have looked at four areas:

1. Comparison of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

2. Tactical changes

3. New signings

4. Existing players improving

Key Performance Indicators:

Although the increase in shot accuracy may be slight, the relatively large increases in shots per game, goals per game and conversion rate averages is an impressive improvement from last season. Indicated by the highlighted differences in red. In my opinion, there is two reasons why: the signing of O.Watkins (an improvement on Wesley) and the greater freedom of the attacking midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Villa have a had a higher average share of possession In games this season, and with this higher share they have attempted an average of 37.93 more passes a game. They have had a slightly better passing accuracy this season, despite attempting to more passes per game. These differences are seen highlighted in red in the table above. The no change in crossing accuracy, highlighted in green, is an area for improvement. Despite crossing a small number of crosses (3) more per game this season, Villa have the same crossing accuracy. If they improved the accuracy, the larger number of crosses per game will be used more effectively.

The large differences in all three areas, highlighted in red, indicates the Villa defence are much improved this season. A significant reason why may be the signings of Cash and Martinez in the summer. To put into context the decrease in goals conceded per game of -0.65, that equates to 24.7 less goals per season conceded – a very big difference.

Tactical changes:

Dean Smith used a 4-3-3 formation predominantly last season (20 games), despite winning only 5 times with it and conceding a goal more than they scored. Below is an image which shows Villa’s most used starting line-up and formation for last season:

Problems they faced with this formation:

1) The midfield three in this formation tended to be quite narrow, leaving the full backs exposed.

2) Being in a midfield-three limited the attacking potential of players like McGinn and Hourihane.

3) Likes of El-Ghazi and Grealish tended to drift wide or deep, leaving Wesley isolated.

How has this change benefitted Aston Villa?

1) The deep lying, defensive midfield duo provides more protection for the full backs

2) The use of two defensive midfielders allows the m ore attacking midfielders to work higher up the pitch

3) The attacking three behind Watkins, are free to interchange and support Watkins – who is good at holding up the ball

New signings:

Villa had a net spent of £71.6 million, as 8 players left and 14 were brought in. Five of these incomings, worth £74.1 million, have all featured prominently this season. The attack was strengthened with £27 million Watkins, £16 million Traore and Barkley on a loan deal. Whilst the defence was strengthened by £14 million M.Cash and £15 million Martinez.

Existing players improving:

Many Villa players have individually improved this season, I will look specifically at two – McGinn and Grealish. Two players who have been at the heart of the Villa Midfield as they got promoted and then avoided relegation since Dean Smith took over from Steve Bruce.

Although McGinn missed games last season due to injury, when he played he was a key part of the team. He provides energy and defensive work, whilst also supporting the attack - seen by his goal in their first game of last season vs Tottenham. Grealish has grown as a player year on year, has since received recognition from the national team and many pundits. Impressively he was the top goal scorer and assist maker for Villa last season, wh ich indicates his importance to the team.

Statistics and images supplied by WhoScored, Premier League official website and Transfer Market

Article written by Daniel Belsey.

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