Don’t look now, but Aston Villa are playing like a top four side. Unai Emery’s project is pushing the Villains to heights they couldn’t have imagined. One of the hottest offenses in the Prem may just push Villa to the Champions League.
Despite his previous blunders at Arsenal, Emery is showing what he can do with clubs that are seen as mid table. Villa are outplaying the likes of Chelsea and United, as they aim to secure a Champions League spot.
Without a doubt Villa’s greatest strength, the attack is outperforming all early metrics. Their goals per game exceeded their expected values with the tied for second best attack in the Prem. Emery has revived the 4-4-2 to create exciting football.
Villa’s team is not full of stars, despite the fees doled out for certain players, instead the team is the star. Every player is welcome to join the attack, as the scoring duties are shared between all. Smart transfers have allowed for the team to build an elite side.
Emery was at one point almost banished from the Prem, but there’s certain former top side clubs that could use him. If Villa end up making the Champions League, it will be another impressive feather in Emery’s cap.
Very few managers have been memed as Emery following his dismissal at Arsenal. Villa were a dumpster fire under Gerrard, as the club was recoiling from the loss of Grealish.
Flash forward a year and not even the most optimistic Villa fan could have predicted their rise. Built around a solid midfield, Villa’s attack has exploded to rival City. A team so dependent on one player has morphed into a team.
The numbers do speak for themselves. As of this most recent matchday, Villa have outscored their expected goals by six, with only Arsenal and City outperforming them. Their 31 goals place them behind only City, as they’re averaging 2.4 goals per game.
Not only is it a prolific offense, but also an efficient one. They’re averaging .13 shots per target with 37.2% of their shots being on target. Smart shot selection is also important to Villa, with the majority of their shots coming within 16 yards.
Everything about this attack screams elite. Emery is getting this side to find smart ways to score without just peppering the goal and praying for a goal.
Additionally, Villa currently sit third in terms of shot creating actions per 90. 26.5 sca/90 yields combined with the 2.4 goals per game yields .09 goals per sca. Numbers are one thing, but Villa is still getting results on the pitch.
The pure numbers show an attack that is exploding in an efficient way. Villa’s attack is more similar to the likes of City than other mid-table sides.
An all lives matter offense would be the only way to describe Villa’s offense. Everyone contributes with only Ollie Watkins separating himself.
Watkins’ form propelled Villa through some parts of the season so far. However, seven other players have joined the ride. Of those seven, six of them have scored more than 1 goal.
Outside of Watkins, there is still no other truly great creator. New signing Moussa Diaby has yet to find his Leverkusen form in Villa, but has helped the team with his assists. Fortunately for them, eight total players have contributed at least one assist.
A 4-4-2 is not a formation that is often associated with attacking football. It’s a boring formation that is meant to whip balls into the box for the strikers.
Ever the creative, Emery has made this formation exciting. The wingers don’t just exist to whip balls into the mixer, but are invited to cut in. By allowing the wingers to be threats from the wing, it opens the game more and forces the defense into tough positions.
Despite the attack getting all the attention, the midfield anchor of Kamara and Luiz is the platform this team is built on. Both players excel at pushing the team in transition and are willing attackers. This just overloads the opposing backline and forces collapse.
Emery’s implementation of a rather boring formation could have spelled disaster for Villa, but it’s made them the team of the season. A balanced attack yields a high flying one.
Arsenal and City’s title race takes all the headlines, but don’t sleep on Villa to make some noise. This doesn’t mean that they’ll actually challenge for the title, but could push for the Champions League. Emery and Villa have changed their perceptions to make this team both exciting and threatening.
Featured image: Sky Sports