Analysis: What is going wrong at Aston Villa?

WALSALL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: Martha Thomas of Tottenham Hotspur is challenged by Rachel Corsie of Aston Villa during the Barclays Women´s Super League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Poundland Bescot Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Walsall, England. (Photo by Morgan Harlow/Getty Images)

Aston Villa had very high hopes for this season. The investment was done in terms of recruitment of players and with this squad, they should be able to compete with several high-profile clubs.

We say ‘should be’ because they haven’t done it so far this term. They haven’t picked up any points in the WSL 2023/24 so far, and that’s far from enough.

In this article, we will look closer to the numbers and video to analyse what’s going wrong at the back for Aston Villa. The data has been provided by Opta, and the video and images are courtesy of Wyscout.

Conceding more than expected

Aston Villa have scored four goals and conceded 10, which means that they have a goal difference of -4. According to Opta, they were expected to score 4.3 and concede 6.6. That is an expected goal difference of -2.5. So all in all, they are conceding more than they are expected to do.

This also means that the likelihood or probability of getting points has a negative outcome. They were expected to have 4.42 points after four games, but instead, they have 0 points. This means they have a negative difference of -4.42 and that is a really bad look for the Birmingham outfit.

Aston Villa vulnerable in transition

Aston Villa want to have the ball and be dominant. In doing so, they want to assert their dominance by being on the opposition’s half and have possession-based passing. In other words, they like to have the ball and use a lot of passes to create goalscoring opportunities. This, however, can only work when you are successful in your passing and use that dominance to limit the opposition’s chance of goalscoring. And that’s where it goes wrong for Aston Villa.

In the video above, you can see how Aston Villa are high up in the Liverpool half when they lose the ball. It’s not only that they lose the ball high, but that many numbers are high on the pitch. This means that Liverpool have a lot of space in front of them and Villa need to recover. This is what gets them in trouble.

In the video above against Tottenham, Aston Villa are meaning to press the opposition. Pressing is all about timing, opportunity and location. They try to press the defenders but do that inefficiently and therefore, Spurs can play around the press. By not committing and being unsuccessful, Tottenham can become very dangerous on the other side of the pitch.

Another area of defending they struggle with is the midfield or high press. They have the ball in the middle third and are defensive but are aggressively pressed by Manchester United. They struggle to keep possession of the ball and United take over. In doing so, they pass the ball on a high pace which is too much for the defenders to handle when in transition to defence. This leads to another goalscoring opportunity conceded.

Building solidity

It’s evident that Aston Villa struggle against the bigger teams with their pressing and dominance, but against the smaller sides, they need to collect points and that also means being better in defensive positioning.

Aston Villa could be solid in both attack and defence when they play a 4-2-3-1 as they did against Liverpool and Manchester United, but the accents should be a little different. In the image above, you see how they behave in possession of the ball, which effectively means that they play a 4-1-4-1.

This means that one of the defensive duo in midfield moves up and you effectively get a double-10. In transition, it means that only the defensive midfielders can deal with it together with the defenders.

You can make the defensive positioning more solid by playing an actual double pivot in defensive midfield and letting the full-backs drop deeper on the pitch. You will then have six players occupied with defensive actions and the goalkeeper.

This might come at the cost of attacking numbers, but with the 4-2-3-1 formation that can change into a 5-4-1 or a 6-3-1 set-up. This way, you have a lot more defensive stability and you can also transition more easily into an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, or even a 4-4-2.

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