The FourFourTwo Preview: Aston Villa vs Tottenham
As the phrase goes, “After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the sh*t cart” – or in this case, after the lunchtime Manchester derby at the Etihad comes a match between two bottom-half teams hopelessly out of form.
ASTON VILLA FORM
- QPR 2-0 Villa (Prem)
- Everton 3-0 Villa (Prem)
- Villa 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-0 Villa (Prem)
- Villa 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Spurs 2-0 Brighton (LC)
- Spurs 1-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Spurs 5-1 Asteras (EL)
- Man City 4-1 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 1-0 So’ton (Prem)
It’s not a particularly good time to be a fan of either of these sides, whether you’re in the same corner as the Prime Minister, Prince William and Tom Hanks, or cosying up with Chas and, indeed, Dave.
Tottenham started the season with four consecutive wins in all competitions but since then have taken just five points from seven league games, fewer than any other Premier League team except Burnley, who seemingly exist just to ruin this kind of statistic.
Mauricio Pochettino hasn’t hit the ground running as much as crash into it without a parachute, and some detractors (or ‘idiots’) are already suggesting that after three or four months, it’s time for a replacement. Well, you can’t rule anything out with Daniel Levy – except, perhaps, stability.
However, Aston Villa fans can only laugh mockingly at such supposed difficulties. It’s not unreasonable to say Paul Lambert’s men only look dangerous on the counter, and in their last two games at least, the defence hasn’t been solid enough to soak up pressure first.
Then there’s their form going into this game. Villa have lost their last five matches to nil, all by at least two goals, and also happen to have lost their last five meetings with Spurs to nil, all by at least two goals.
The last time the Midlanders found the net against Spurs was in May 2012, when Gareth Bale was at left-back and Emile Heskey was still alive.
And the last time they beat Spurs – 13 meetings ago – Martin Laursen was playing, Darren Bent scored for the losing side and 33 of the 36 players involved would go on to leave their respective clubs. Twilight was just a book. People were looking forward to Quantum of Solace. You get the point.
But Spurs have a habit of sending underperforming teams on a good run (see West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle) in recent weeks. Oddly, this match could be just what Villa need.
Lambert says Alan Hutton and Philippe Senderos – who have both been unexpectedly competent so far this season – will miss out with ankle and thigh injuries respectively, but Nathan Baker is expected to be back from his hamstring pull. Fabian Delph and Libor Kozak are long-term injuries.
Hamstrung Aaron Lennon is doubtful having been withdrawn early on Wednesday, and ankle-knacked Nabil Bentaleb probably won’t feature. Kyle Walker is still out, too, which means...
Key battle: Gabby Agbonlahor vs Kyle Naughton
Naughton has two jobs, presuming he returns to replace the deputising Eric Dier at right-back: keep Agbonlahor quiet, and put in some testing crosses on the overlap, as he did in midweek against Brighton.
Agbonlahor has two jobs (apart from trying to swallow that sneeze that’s been building for 28 years): keep Naughton quiet, and provide better service. In the last three matches combined, he has created 1 chance, found a team-mate with 1 of just 3 crosses and had only 2 shots himself (and when he played as a striker against Arsenal he made just 5 passes, 4 of them from kick-off – but that’s another matter).
The Villa man has been relatively tidy, recording high passing completion rates, but needs to do more to threaten opposition defences.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 3-0 Villa (PL, May 14)
- Villa 0-2 Spurs (PL, Oct 13)
- Villa 0-4 Spurs (LC, Sep 13)
- Villa 0-4 Spurs (PL, Dec 12)
- Spurs 2-0 Villa (PL, Oct 12)
Having made the mistake of saying, “It’s true that White Hart Lane is a little bit tight”, Pochettino – who follows previous managers and Mousa Dembele in making that observation – is being accused of blaming all Tottenham’s problems on a missing few yards of grass.
The Argentine is quickly discovering the fickle nature of the London media, and a section of Spurs' support. Still, he’s less likely to give a heckling fan his gilet and ask him to do a better job, as Tim Sherwood did the last time Spurs faced Villa.
Lambert is also having to contend with unfair claims: namely, that Villa’s slump in form is linked to his new contract, signed immediately before a five-game losing streak.
Lambert has his faults and the contract extension was arguably premature, but to suggest he’s some kind of bespectacled Emmanuel Adebayor is as insulting as it is wrong.
Facts and figures
- Adebayor has scored more goals against Villa (7) than against any other opponent in the Premier League.
- Tottenham have not drawn any of their last 37 Premier League games 0-0 - the longest run of its kind among the 20 current PL clubs.
- Villa have scored just 1 goal in their last 6 Premier League matches against Tottenham, including failing to score in the last 4 meetings in a row.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A counter-attacking team hosting a side that struggles to break down defensive teams – this won’t be a classic. But despite their horrific run, both this season and against Spurs, one goal is enough for Villa. 1-0.
Back 1-0 at 11/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication