Aston Villa: First Full Season

Having steered the club away from relegation and to 10th place, I had hopes of a top half finish this year. I’d enforced and improved the club with important signings and cleared out deadwood and players who I didn’t think were cut out for my tactical plans.

Premier League

This year I was aiming for a top half finish. We managed 10th last year so anything higher than that would’ve been progress. We were tipped for an 8th place finish, so I set that as the benchmark.

We kicked off the season with a 2-1 defeat at home to Man City. Two early goals made me think were going to get a hammering, but we nabbed one back and managed to hold them off. Not a terrible performance to start off with.

Our first victory of the season came in our next game against West Ham where we won 4-0. a much more pleasing performance all round as the goals all came from new signings, Ontiveros, Ings(2) and Roussel.

A defeat by Arsenal was followed by six unbeaten games before Man Utd’s ability to score late goals brought us back down to earth. In fact, late goals were to be our undoing on a couple of occasions throughout the season. I think I know where I’ve gone wrong on that one though.

We did have some brilliant results, beating Arsenal 6-4, two of their goals being penalties, Everton 4-0, Tottenham 2-0 and a 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace where Ajer scored a hat-trick. We were quite unlucky in a few games and towards the end of the season, we were in fairly poor form losing seven of our last ten games.

That said, we did enough over the course of the season to finish above our predicted 8th place by finishing one point ahead of Liverpool to nab 6th place. Really happy with the league placing, but not so happy with some of the form over the season. Fourteen defeats was quite telling and a couple of better results could have seen us finish in fifth. However, what will be will be. We were in a relegation battle when I joined, so it’s a massive improvement.

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Although it’s not highlighted here, I actually managed to get into the Europa League as Man Utd and Chelsea played in the FA Cup final. As both had already qualified for Europe, I got the available place. Europa League, here I come!

Cups

As usual, I rotated for the cups this year and we were knocked out of both competitions at the fourth round stage. Norwich dumped us out of the Capital One Cup 3-0 and Man Utd trounced us 5-1 in the FA Cup. Not important, I wanted to do well in the league this year.

Team

I was going to talk about my tactic a bit more here, but I’m thinking I’ll do a post about the style I’m using at some point soon. It’s been a busy couple of weeks so I’ve not played as much as I’d like to.

I will mention some things that will come up in future though. Going to take a quick look at the team stats for a second. Sorry if this bores people but it really shows some hard info about our style. If you can’t be bothered with stats, skip the next bit.

In the league this season we..

  • Had the lowest percentage of possession in the league with 41.29%.
  • Completed the lowest number of passes with 11,139, which averages 293 a game.
  • Won the most headers with 2433, 300 more than second place Watford.
  • Scored the third highest number of goals.
  • Scored the most goals from corners and IFK’s.
  • Had the highest shots on target ratio.
  • Had the lowest number of dribbles per game.

You can read into that what you like, but what I take from it is, we hit it long and we use our target man a lot. People are very possession obsessed on FM and it’s good to be able to show that you don’t always need the ball. Definitely enjoying the direct game. We play better without the ball as I think we get a bit antsy when we have it too much.

Players

Out of my signings, I think it’s safe to say that Javier Ontiveros and Danny Ings did very well, contributing massively to the team with a combined 21 goals and 17 assists. Charles Roussel had a good season, nabbing 8 goals and 6 assists by playing mainly as a Target Man. Roussel was the man the ball hit time and time again. He ended the season with the most key passes, one ahead of Kylian Mbappé.

Ings and Ayew ended the season as joint top scorers on 13 a piece. Mbappé was our highest rated player with an average rating of 7.40 from 30 games.

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I still have some improvements I’d like to make to the squad in the summer. Not a big splurge on players, but some reinforcements in areas to challenge for first team spots. Will have a look at my summer transfers in the next post. Thanks again for reading.

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6 comments

  1. Well, I would say you effectively cloned Leicester. 😛 As one of the more shameless possession hogs you’ll meet, I’ll point to the statistical averages. High Possession correlates to higher probability of both attacking well and defending well. Cruyff’s maxim statistically holds true. Now I don’t play possession for possession’s sake. But I will say, “If we have it, they can’t score.”

    There will always be outliers of course. And the beauty of football is that there are dozens of viable styles that, with the right players and belief, can win. The only ‘winning formula’ is the system that maximizes the talent on hand, and minimizes the chances your own weaknesses can be exploited.

    That said, I’ll always be a possession hog. 😛

    1. It was part of the inspiration, although Big Sam more so. Fear not, it wasn’t a diss on possession hogs. It’s just not how I see the game. I’ve had games where I’ve convincingly had loads of possession (not on this save) but I sometimes don’t see the point if the result isn’t what I hope for. Definitely one of the best things about football is that it’s so subjective and that there’s no right way to play. As you say, the best way is the way that maximises the talent on hand, and that is what I’ve tried to do.
      That said, I play nothing like this in the third full season. But that’s a sneak into the future.
      There’s a blog post being written just now about my use of the target man. Expect it to drop by the end of the week 🙂

  2. You have done very well in the league, plus taking Villa in to Europe next season should be a challenge. Got to admit I am a possession hog also but I like to read about all styles and think you have done very well.

    1. Aye, Europe will add some extra competitive games, although I’m not sure if that’s a help or a hindrance. The style is interesting. I’m never focussed on possession, I’m a clean sheet hog usually 😛

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