Two of English football’s most storied clubs meet at White Hart Lane on Monday night. Between them, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur have 9 First Division title, 15 FA Cups and 8 European trophies.
Spurs could go third with a two goal win while Aston Villa will be within striking distance of the top six if they can upset Tottenham. Spurs have had the best of recent matches between the two. They are unbeaten since 2008 and won both matches against Villa last season. Rafael Van der Vaart scored four against them in those matches. If his hamstring injury keeps him out, Spurs will miss his tenacity and goal threat. If he is ruled out though, Jermain Defoe will probably get the nod to start alongside Adebayor. Defoe has had limited playing time this season but he has been very effective when he has played.
Villa have consistently lined up with four attackers and two holding midfielders. Even at Man City, Delph and Petrov marshaled the middle of the field while Heskey, Bent, Agbonlahor and Ireland roamed. It would be very dangerous to adopt the same formation against Spurs. Villa have pace and strength in their arsenal and are ideally suited to play on the counter. Aston Villa’s defensive solidity (3 clean sheets and only 15 goals conceded in 11 games) owes a great deal to Stilian Petrov’s ability to read the play. His 45 interceptions are more than twice the number made by Scott Parker (22), his opposite number on Monday night. This accounts for 25% of all passes intercepted by Villa and he has more interceptions than any player in the Premier League.
Villa will most likely line up with Delph alongside Petrov. It is a combination of intelligence and energy, not dissimilar to Spurs pairing of Modric and Parker. Villa’s duo lack the mobility that Spurs have, they’ve been beaten by players running the ball on 84 occasions. This is a dangerous stat for Villa. Few teams run with ball more than Spurs. With Lennon, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe, Modric, Walker and Parker all capable of taking the ball past a flat footed defender, Villa could well be up against it. Those players have made 81 successful dribbles between them, more than Villa’s team total of 64.
Spurs have great strength on both flanks and they have restricted teams from using width against them. While Villa have had 28 aerial duels per match, Spurs have had only 21.
Clearly, opposition sides find it difficult to cross the ball against Tottenham (Editors Note: Although the stats from last season’s game show that Villa attempted 22 crosses against Spurs in the corresponding fixture last season however they have lost Downing & Young so it will be interesting to see this). This reinforces the fact that Villa are best suited to playing on the counter. Spurs have made 1100 more successful passes than Villa despite playing one match fewer. They also make five more chances per game than the Villans. Spurs average seven shots on target per game, Villa only three. If Villa try to play football against Spurs, they will be beaten. If they play on the counter attack, they can line up defensively in an attempt to frustrate Spurs and then catch them on the counter attack. In Bent, N’Zogbia and Agbonlahor, Villa have the pace to threaten on the break.
Signed to replace Downing and Young, N’Zogbia scored nine goals (25% of Wigan’s total), created 67 scoring chances (18% of Wigan’s total) and he made 109 successful dribbles (29% of Wigan’s total) last season. This season, he is yet to score a goal and has created only 17 (16.5% of Villa’s total) chances and made 11 successful dribbles (10% of Villa’s total). Undoubtedly, the step up from Wigan means N’Zogbia is a less important player but Villa fans can rightly expect more from their new winger.
Spurs should feel confident that they can add to their excellent run of form and make it four wins in a row. With Scott Parker covering the in-form defensive pairing of King and Kaboul, they are capable of dealing with the best Villa can produce in attack. Spurs strike force has enough quality to make chances and put them away. Once they are in front, a bench with the likes of Sandro and Livermore can be called on to put the game to bed.
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