Date: 28th April 2009 at 10:07am
Written by:

Do the stats lie

I am a strong believer in that there are three reasons for Villas fade away in form. In no particular order, fatigue! Starting the season in July and losing our left back before the start of the league is one.

Secondly losing Martin Laursen as an inspirational leader is another. We have lacked leadership on the pitch since his injury. Strange then that Okey Cokey has been largely overlooked because he was purchased chiefly because of his ability to be a vocal leader on the pitch.

Thirdly (and imho most importantly)and linking in with Laursen’s injury, we have changed from the successful 4-3-3 (4-5-1 some call it) formation. This has meant we have stopped playing with Petrov in the holding role in front of the back 4. This happened almost simultaneously as Laursen was injured and when the weakened defence, most needed the added protection a holding midfielder provides.

Having two excellent wide players who work tirelessly, but who hog the touchlines, leaves Petrov and Barry too much ground to cover in the middle of the park. We got away with this when Laursen was playing most weeks because Laursen was so good. However without his brilliance, whichever central defence pairing we have used since, have not got the ability to play without the support a holding midfielder provides. Result is we have been shipping goals. So it is partly the lack of quality to best suit that formation and partly the fault of playing the wrong formation.

I have looked at the starting formation for all 34 league games this season. On 21 occasions we started with a recognised two man strike force. This was a combination of 2 of either Carew, Heskey or Gabbi. These 21 games resulted in 6 victories, 7 draws and 8 defeats for a total of 25 points. An average of 1.19 points per game. Over a season this would be enough for a lower mid table finish.

The other 13 games were played with just 1 recognised striker, 4 attacking midfielders and Petrov providing the holding role in front of the back 4. This resulted in 9 victories, 3 draws and just 1 defeat (Middsbrough). This was also a game that Petrov missed, emphasising his value as the holding midfielder. This is an average of 2.31 points per game. This is more than the 2.26 per game average that Manure have to be top of the league.

So in hindsight I would say the stats would say that MON found the winning formulae. But after buying Heskey as cover for Carew, who then returned from injury, had three front players vying for 1 place. He has since persisted with playing at least two strikers every game, rather than leaving 2 of his big names on the bench. This change exactly matches the dip in results and has happened over a large portion of the season, not the odd game.

So the stats do not lie imho. Had we persisted with the 4-3-3 formation, not only could we be chasing fourth spot, we might actually be going for the title.



18 Replies to “Do The Villa Stats Lie?”

  • Great article mate , have been arguing this point about the formation with my mates for ages , and now i have some stats to back it up . The only thing i will not agree with is the fatigue side of things , these players get top money all year to perform all season and if the season starts in july so be it ,they should be fit enough to compete all season from the first game to the last.

  • Very interesting read. If petrov always played and we played 4-5-1 we would be champions!!! 🙂 Also the tiredness has played a huge part in this and getting money doesn’t stop players legs from getting tired. Your body can only get so fit and no amount of money can chage that!!

  • Very well put argument, seems everyone else can see it other than MON. Gabby’s loss of form coincided with him having to play up front with Heskey. Shame the sack of spuds has been used instead of either Sidwell, Nige or Gardner to help the midfield out, especially against Chelsea where they always pack the midfield which was also the start of our bad run.

  • I do not think players suffer from physical tirdness so much, as mental tiredness. We are a a reasonably young team and the mental demands of coping with a long season are immense. Learning to cope with pressure takes it toll but they will all be better for it next season.

  • Good article, the thing is, both Gabby and Heskey can play on the wings, so its not like he has 3 strikers because 2 could act as cover for Milner and Young as well as Carew (for example).

  • the decline in form has coincided with MON playing Young and Milner in the same side. When he doesnn’t as at Blackburn we occasionally win.

    Not that it matters of course the only reason for the drop in form is the lack of quality on the pitch and the inability of the manager to compensate for it over a season.

  • It’s also coincided with the loss of Laursen, (but you can always fit something to an agenda) the clutch going on my car and an increase in the immigrant population, I blame the poles!

  • What is also remarkable is that, when we were playing 4-5-1, it was Sidwell who was the third midfielder, and in almost every game he played, he was at best a passenger, and at worst a liability. Having lost Laursen, I’m sure even if we’d persisted with 4-5-1 we’d have suffered a little, but as the writer points out, a holding midfielder would help to paper over any cracks.

  • But I wouldn’t advise anyone to hold their breath in anticipation of a return to 4-5-1. Ironically, it was O’Neill’s ineptitude in the transfer market (going into a season with just 2 strikers) rather than tactical acumen that saw a switch to 4-5-1. O’Neill is a fan of 4-4-2 (which isn’t a bad thing of itself), and a fan of Heskey, so 4-4-2 it is. Prepare for more dodgy defending and ineffectual attacking, and the qualifying rounds of the shiny new Europa League.

  • Sidwell always got involved when he was playing and put himself about. Even if the quality wasn’t there, he seemed to do a role by annoying the opposition or making runs into the box. Even if they were dummy runs and noone passed to him, he still put off the other team.

  • While the stats point to the 4-3-3 (4-5-1) formation being superior Than the 4-4-2, for Villa, it’s just not that simple. You take no account of the opposition for either set of games. Then there is also home and away status to consider and also opposition form.

    Stats can give an indication but the analysis is not sophisticated enough to provide definitive proof.

  • oh in comes AVFC48 with another well thought out argument… Good article shame 48 can’t be bothered to think beyond his gob.

  • God give me strength Jongekki. Do I have to prove my point even more. The 13 games we started with 4-3-3 (4-5-1) are as follows. At home they were Blackburn 3-2. Boro 1-2. Manure 0-0. Fulham 0-0. Bolton 4-2. The Arse 2-2 and West Brom 2-1. This is a record of played 7, won 3, drew 3, lost 1. We scored 12, conceded 9 and earned 13 points. Away it was Wigan 4-0. The Arse 2-0. Everton 3-2. Wes Spam 1-0. Hull 1-0 and Sunderland 2-1. That is played 6, won 6, scored 13, conceded 3 earning 18 points. So overall 6 of the games were against teams in the top 8. So apart from Murderpool and Chelski we played everbody in the top 8 with that formation and were unbeaten. You really are clutching at straws if you think Villas downturn is not significantly contributed to by the change of formation. I understand that judgement over a couple of games can be affected by the details you mentioned, but this blows that philosophy out of the water. We took on the best with that formation and couldn’t be beaten. And if Sidwell had not given the ball away two minutes from time against Boro, all 13 games would have remained undefeated.

  • you are 100% right about the formation
    the trouble is MON came across it by accident and has gone away from it by accident too

  • Or it could be that in the first part of the season we proved we were really good, then we lost Laursen, got tired and the rest of the league thought they had better raise their game against us. The only way to prove the theory is to play all the games again with a 4 3 3. Second best way it to play the final 4 games with a 4 3 3. Anyway, playnig 3 of the bottom 4 in the final 4 games means 12 points for us – doesn’t it?

  • Stats can be made to prove anything – 72% of people know that! I agree that the 4-3-3 formation has suited us better this season, but there is not guarantee that we would have won any of the matches we lost just by playing that formation. There are so many other things to consider as Jongekki is getting at – everything from pitch conditions to weather conditions to injuries (ours and the oppositions) etc. BUT in saying that, I don’t quite understand why we don’t revert back to 4-3-3 when it cleary was working for us a lot better than 4-4-2.

  • Playing 3 of the bottom 4 is a worry rather than 12 guaranteed points I’d say RiF. Clubs with nothing to lose playing for an all out win.

  • Alot of fans moaned when Mon first went to 433, saying it was to negative with just one up front it seems that most Villa managers cant please the supporters. AVFC4ME IS RIGHT there are so many other external factors in football, its not just the system although in my opinion it has a big part.

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