1.Selection & Formation
Formation wise Villa usually line up in a 4-4-1-1 setup. The injured Emile Heskey definitely misses this one whilst Shay Given is doubtful as he continues his recovery from injury. Robbie Keane has arrived on loan from LA Galaxy and with him only being available for 6 league games as part of the loan agreement you would imagine he would start this one, probably at the expense of Stephen Ireland.
2.Tactics & Strategy
Only Stoke and Blackburn record a lower average possession figure than Villa (43%). Our hosts will look to play lots of direct ground passes to instigate counter attacks using the speed they have in wide areas. They are thus probably better set up to pick up points away from home when sides will attack them more and afford space in behind. Creativity wise, N’Zogbia and Petrov make the most key passes per game (1.6) with Agbonlahor (5) the most assists. Barry Bannan is a class act and arguably the squad’s most creative player but has been mostly out of favour since his drink driving incident.
Villa has an abundance of pace in their ranks with the likes of Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia on the flanks and Bent through the middle. Last season at Goodison for example, Bent grabbed 2 goals with 1 (left) from his excellent movement which enabled him to evade Distin and engineer a one on one situation with Howard. In the recent home defeat to Liverpool the team completed a combined 68.13 miles – the highest mileage of any top flight side that weekend -so endurance is also a quality Villa possess.
The club have suffered in recent years due to the management changes at the club. The direct play of Martin O’Neil was replaced with the more fluid game of Houllier and with McLeish now at the helm their squad represents the remnants of different footballing ideologies and they have a look of a team which doesn’t really have a defined identity yet. In a way their woes are not too dissimilar to ourselves with a key reason for Villa’s decline being significant player sales (Young, Milner, Downing) and not replacing them.
Villa have conceded over 50% of their goals this season from set plays – the highest percentage in the top flight – and this is quite surprising given the obvious aerial capability of Dunne and Collins. Goals have been hard to come by for Villa also. They record just 3.1 shots on target per game which is the 2nd lowest in the league. Not surprisingly then, they have lost their last 4 league games at Villa Park scoring just one goal in the process.
I would imagine Moyes will look to keep a deeper defensive line as he did against Spurs to deal with threat of Villa’s pace in counter attack situations. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Drenthe will start this one – you would imagine so given that he is our most creative talent and should be fresh having only got a short run out on Wednesday night. Injury wise, Distin is likely to miss out so you would imagine Duffy will come in for his first Everton start, unless Moyes chooses to switch Neville inside and bring Coleman in should the Irishman recover from injury. Jack Rodwell is probably the most likely to come back from injury with Jagielka, Osman & Hibbert definitely out. As noted in point 4, Villa has an Achilles heel at set pieces so Cahill, who has an excellent goal scoring record against Villa, may be retained.