Newcastle United host Aston Villa at St James’ Park on Wednesday evening after an impressive 3-0 win at home to a ten-man Sheffield United side and will certainly be going into this game as the favorites – while Villa are fresh off a 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea.
Despite Villa sitting 19th in the table, a win could see them climb as high as 16th and if Villa are to avoid the drop, it’s vital that they pick up three points on Wednesday.
After watching how Newcastle dismantled Sheffield United, I stumbled upon the realization of how poor Sheffield United were against Aston Villa – which left me wondering, how did Villa not manage to beat that side?
The Stats Don’t Lie
‘Ghost goal’ aside, Villa had a surprisingly low amount of possession, 45%, in a game that they appeared to have plenty of the ball. Villa also managed 14 shots on goal compared to United’s five, with six on target for the Villa compared to United’s one… Villa also having more corners than the Blades, boasting an impressive 12 compared to their four.
Despite such an encouraging performance from Dean Smith’s men, this wasn’t matched in any way against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on Sunday.
A Day to Forget
After what can only be as an excruciatingly painful first half of defending and restricting Chelsea to long-shots, Villa fans were surprised to see them take the lead in the form of a Kortney Hause goal, his first in the Premier League.
The goal is made from a beautiful ball which Douglas Luiz whips into the box. In what has been a relatively underwhelming return to football (to say the least) for Aston Villa, Luiz has been a player who has really stood out since the restart, looking much more aware of his surroundings in his ‘6’ position.
It’s safe to say, no Villa fan ever thought Villa were going to hold onto their 1-0 lead they took into half-time – given how Villa made absolutely no attempt to get out of their own third until the 75th minute, there was unfortunately only one realistic outcome.
Villa conceded two goals within approximately 130 seconds of each other, through Ezri Konsa forgetting he is meant to be playing as a right back and Conor Hourihane failing to trackback to stop Olivier Giroud from doubling the damage – unfortunately for Villa, both errors are far too familiar.
I’m by no means an expert, I only have my FA level 2 coaching badge, but playing a center-back at right-back and your best player in Jack Grealish out of position isn’t viable and explains why Villa struggled, not only against Chelsea but throughout the season.
Things Must Change
Most Villa fans are crying out for Smith to change formation to accommodate two strikers, with 4-4-2 being most fans preferred choice. Given that Villa’s full-backs aren’t as well rounded as we’d like, I feel that 3-5-2 is a better system that will get the best out of our players and give the fans what they are romanticizing about, two strikers leading the line.
Keinan Davis and Ally Samatta could well prove to be that timeless ‘strong man and fast man’ partnership up front, Davis’ hold up play has drastically improved and would benefit from a pacey striking partner who likes to play on the shoulder of the defense, like Samatta.
More importantly, it would see Jack Grealish move into a more central role, where he can influence the game much more than he has in recent games.
A Familiar Foe
Steve Bruce will be relishing the opportunity to get one over his former club, whilst this is always an unavoidable narrative that’s been written – Villa must put in a full-blooded performance and fight tooth and nail for three points on the road.
In their previous encounter at Villa Park in November, Villa emerged the victors in a 2-0 win under the lights, with goals coming from a trademark Hourihane freekick and Anwar El Ghazi (assisted by yet another Hourihane freekick). Villa managed an impressive 66% possession against the Magpies, with 17 shots and 8 of those on target, compared to Newcastle’s 11 shots and 6 on target.
On the night, Newcastle backed off against Villa and paid them far too much respect – based on both teams’ performances on the weekend, it’s safe to say Newcastle won’t be paying Villa that same respect as they did at Villa Park.
It cannot be stressed enough how vital three points would be for Villa, with tough games yet to play in the form of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and more… this will be viewed as one of Villa’s more ‘winnable’ games.
Villa must approach this game with a fire in their belly and be prepared for war, if we don’t see that then I fear that Villa won’t beat the drop.
The optimist in me thinks that Villa will have reflected long and hard after what was a disgraceful performance against Chelsea and be prepared to go to battle in the North-East.
So I’m predicting a 2-1 win for Villa – with Jack Grealish and Ally Samatta scoring for the Villa and Alan Saint-Maximin scoring for Newcastle, which is a huge 171.10* with FansBet’s new Bet Builder option, while Villa to win and Over 2.5 goals is 5.50.*
About the Author
Dan Morgan is an Aston Villa season ticket holder and follows the team home and away.
An aspiring sports journalist and football writer, he hosts Heart of the Holte’s podcast ‘The Villa Filler’ as well as writing and editing for Heart of the Holte.
You can follow Dan on Twitter at @danmorgi34
*Odds subject to change
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