Aston Villa vs Man City
By Dean Gregory
A late suckerpunch against Liverpool has left Villa outside the top ten and continuing their turgid form. The momentum gained at the start of the season has well and truly run its course by now, and they look destined for a simple mid-table finish. Next up is league leaders Manchester City, one of the ‘Greedy Six’, who have since been pressured out of their membership of the ill-judged idea of The Super League.
City are sitting pretty, eight points clear at the top the table with six games to play. They have all but wrapped up the title by this point, in what could potentially be their final Premier League campaign.
Leeds United have recently picked up four points in back-to-back games against Manchester City and Liverpool, will Villa really be left with none in comparison?
Aston Villa – D D L W L
Man City – L W W W L
Dean Smith on proposed Super League
“Everybody knows that we’re only custodians. I’m a custodian as the manager of the football club, our owners are custodians of Aston Villa Football Club, as are everybody else.The club will be here long after I’m gone. As custodians, we’re here for the supporters. Football is nothing without supporters. Supporters are why we have football clubs.
“Everyone who’s involved in football – Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp – they will have been football fans before they became players, managers, chief executives, owners.
“The idea that we can stop competition is ridiculous. The whole of football needs to stand up to it. Players and managers have not been involved in any discussions, it’s been at an executive level. That’s why I believe it’s not for the good of football, it’s a commercial venture.”
On facing Man City
“We have to work extremely hard to match them. They’re very good with and without the football. If you play in front of them, they’ll press you like many of the top teams do now. They’ve got players who are more than capable on the ball.
“I went to the FA Cup semi-final and I thought Chelsea were excellent against them, restricted them to a few chances and we have to do that as well. If you can do that, then with the ball you can create chances against them. It’s hard to do that but you can.”
Pep Guardiola on proposed Super League
“I can give you my opinion on what I know today but there is just a statement and no more than that. I would love the president of the committee to go all round the world and explain the reason why.
“I support my club, I know the people and I am part of this club but I also have my own opinion. I would love to be clear when we have all the information. That’s why for all of us managers in the six teams it is uncomfortable.
“But it is not sport when the relation between effort and success doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter if you lose? It’s not a sport. This is another issue.”
Man City line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Gabriel Jesus up front alongside Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling, with Bernardo Silva, Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, and a back four of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ruben Dias and Oleksander Zinchenko.
They continue to dominate games with a massive 60.9% average possession, and a pass completion rate of 89.1%. 634 (91%) of all passes per game are played short, with Pep Guardiola’s quick passing tiki-taka style a staple of every side he’s ever managed. It is ingrained in City’s DNA at this point, and there is no-one in the league better at it.
They are relentless in attack; they take 15.8 shots per game, 66% of which are within the 18-yard box, showing their ability to cut through defences but also their willingness to attempt from range if necessary. They attack via the flanks, showing no particular preference for either (38% left, 34% right) then cut the ball into the middle to shoot; 70% of all shots are taken centrally.
City have scored 67 goals from 68.14 xG. These are impressive numbers with very little discrepancy, showing why they find themselves so comfortably at the top of the table. More impressive is the fact they have only conceded 23 goals from 25.93 xGA, giving them a goal difference of +44.
Their dominance is clear, but then a club valued at £924.30 million (via Transfermarkt) really should be.
One to Watch
Considering the attacking prowess of Man City, it is somewhat surprising to find that their leading goalscorer for the season is midfielder Ilkay Gundogan with 12 goals to his name. He has chipped in with a single assist too, despite one expecting assists to be his more likely contribution. His runs from deep continue to catch out defenders who are too focused on the trickery of Jesus, Sterling and Mahrez to notice him.
Aston Villa 3-2 Man City – 28-09-2013
Karim El Ahmadi, Leandro Bacuna and Andi Weimann were all on target the last time Villa beat Man City in the Premier League.
Man City 2-0 Aston Villa – 20-01-2021
A controversial opening goal from Bernardo Silva, which saw Rodri run back from an offside position to dispossess Tyrone Mings in the buildup, more or less summed up this game.
How it could play out
Despite their abysmal form, Villa still manage to stay in games against the so called big six, leading Liverpool 0-1 going into half-time before succumbing to an inevitable loss very late on. This can be seen as encouraging, as Villa sides of the recent past would have most likely rolled over and had their bellies tickled.
Losing against sides so well established and who are expected to be competing at the top of the league consistently should not be disillusioning; perhaps the fact that it seems to be is evidence of Villa’s continuing rise as a club, and is a sign they are heading in the right direction.
Football still faces an uncertain future thanks to the greed of clubs like Man City; if their selfish plans are re-visited, what will Villa have to do to keep up? More pressingly, will Villa’s owners, who thus far have backed up their lofty ambitions with their wallets, begin to doubt their investment as a result?
The fact is this – clubs like Man City threaten to undermine everything that makes being a football fan great. Seeing plucky little Villa beat them as underdogs would be an effective way to show them their folly, while also demonstrating perfectly what it is about football that makes it truly worth watching.
Villa face this challenge once again without captain and talisman Jack Grealish, making an already difficult task even more so. Still, given all that is going on right now, victory would be nothing short of karmic justice.
Aston Villa 1-0 Man City
Probably not. Precedent, form and logic are not in Villa’s favour. But when have those things ever stood in the way of a good story?