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  • Writer's pictureBruin Sports Analytics

The Dark Horse: Aston Villa

By: Derek Diaz and Elly Goan

Source: Eddie Keogh via Getty Images

Aston Villa is a European football club, specifically based in Birmingham, England that is currently on the rise in the English Premier League. In the 2021/22 season the club finished in 14th place with 20 total clubs in the league. The following season, 2022/23, Aston Villa finished in 7th place and finally in the most recent, 2023/24, season Aston Villa has improved, as of the middle of March standing in 4th place with only 10 games remaining. Their recent success was not strongly expected. Given this surprising success, what are the key factors that have led to Aston Villa's success this season, or overall improvement in standings in the league?

This linear regression map GD vs Position demonstrates the correlation between a club’s goal differential and their position in league standings. The goal differential is determined by finding the difference between the club's goals scored and goals conceded throughout the season. As demonstrated by the graph there is a strong positive correlation between the two factors indicating that as a clubs goal differential improves the club is likely to finish the season with a higher position in the leagues standings. 

The Aston Villa xG by Gameweek graph displays Aston Villa's goals accumulated throughout this season, demonstrated in red, the 2022/23 season in blue, and the 2021/22 season demonstrated in green. As the red line is significantly above the blue and green line, referencing the past two seasons, it can be seen that Aston Villa has had more goals scored this season than in comparison to past seasons. 

The following graph, Aston Villa xGA by Gameweek graph, displays Aston Villa's accumulated goals against, meaning the total number of goals that opposing teams have scored in the most recent three seasons. As all three lines are relatively similar coming to the current state of the season Aston Villa had been conceding approximately the same number of goals this season as they have the past two seasons. 

Given this information demonstrated by the two graphs analyzing the club's goals scored and goals conceded a conclusion can be drawn that since Aston Villa is scoring more goals and conceding a similar number of goals this season the clubs overall goal differential will be greater this season than it was the past two seasons. Based on this conclusion and applying the linear regression demonstrating that a greater goal differential correlation with a overall higher standing in league it is likely that Aston Villa's goal scoring success and consistent defense has had a contribution to improvement in league standings this recent season.

Emiliano Martínez is the goalkeeper for Aston Villa as well as the goalkeeper for the Argentina national team. He is known to be a key component of the club winning numerous awards and specializing in penalty kicks. Above are two graphs, Player Comparisons, demonstrating his average goals against and save percentage per 90, or within the 90 minute game time, over the two recent seasons. Both factors have decreased in the most recent season as he has a lower save percentage and averages more goals against per 90. With the data showing that his performance has actually declined this season. Given this data it can be left to assume that the rest of the club's members' performance has improved, as the team is still continuing to better themselves despite a decline in performance from the club's goalie. 

The kernel density plot displays the percentage of possession Aston Villa had throughout each game and how often this percentage happened in comparison to all games throughout the season. The percentage of possession is determined by whether the team has control of the ball throughout the game, the possession is timed throughout the game and converted into a percentage to display how much possession the team has. This possession kernel density plot demonstrates that last season, symbolized by blue, Aston Villa averaged 50% possession throughout the game frequently with a high number of games having even less than 50%. This season, symbolized by red, the graph demonstrates a similar trend but with an average of about 57% possession and fewer games having a low possession percentage. Aston Villa's increase in possession throughout games this season than last season demonstrates that it is likely the increased possession has a factor in the recent success that they have had this season.

In the summer of 2023 Aston Villa was very active in the transfer market. One of their most expensive signings in the summer was Moussa Diaby for €60 million. Moussa Diaby replaced the outgoing player, Philippe Coutinho. In the 22/23 season Philippe Coutinho performed with an average of 0.16 xG (expected goals) per 90 and 0.06 xA (expected assists) per 90. At the moment Moussa Diaby is performing at an average of 0.29 xG (expected goals) per 90 and 0.28 xA (expected assists) per 90 clearly outperforming Coutinho’s prior 22/23 season numbers. These contributions speak to the likelihood that these events (goals and assists) are to happen. The higher the likelihood the higher output is performed making a direct impact on the increase of xG for Aston Villa as a whole. Given this comparison, the release of Coutinho and signing of Diaby has opened a door for a more impactful player for the club, further helping contribute to more success, specifically a player more impactful in creating goal scoring opportunities or himself goal scoring.

As demonstrated throughout the various graphs there are numerous factors that have contributed to the unexpected success of Aston Villa for this season. Their continuous increase in goals scored and consistent performance of their defense has led to a better goal differential for the season which is a big factor in their standings. The clubs' improvement in maintaining ball possession has improved, demonstrating another strengthened factor. The new addition of Moussa Diaby and his performance far excelling the newly released Philippe Coutinho. There are many recent improvements and strengths that have persisted on the club's team throughout the current season in comparison to past seasons that are strong factors in indicating their successful season. The rise of this club in the past couple years was unpredicted but given a deeper look into the statistics the club is very deserving as they are improving in many aspects and have worked hard for this new and somewhat unsurprising success. 


Eddie Keogh via Getty Images


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