Do The Villa Stats Lie?
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.