Why Aston Villa’s Defence Needs Protection

There’s something special about Aston Villa being back in the English Premier League: the fans, the stadium, the history. It feels right.

Seeing Wolves finish in seventh—a position that earned them the honor of spending their Thursdays playing in the Europa League—should make fans of newly promoted sides hopeful that there could be more to Premier League life than just survival.

Aston Villa fans know all about European glory.

First things first. If this team wants to stay up, it needs to protect the back four.

Engels has been solid and Mings outstanding. The latter has quickly earned an England call-up after some impressive displays at the back.

Wesley’s hold up play is reliable, but he can only do so much out of possession. Grealish is doing all he can to take the pressure off with his composure on the ball and slick passing. However, he isn’t the type to fly in with a last-ditch tackle to preserve points for his team.

Douglas Luiz has lofty expectations due to his price tag, but whether he can provide defensive stability remains to be seen. He completed just one tackle in the first three games.

The reality is that Mings and Engels are bound to have a bad game. The chance of a mistake at the back increases with so much traffic headed their way.

The trip away to Selhurst Park is a prime example. With Palace notorious for performing poorly at home, three points were there for the taking. With a back four adequately protected, a talented front six had the chance to shine in possession.

Trezeguet left his teammates with much to do after taking down Zaha. It was his second yellow for another unnecessary challenge on a player far from the goal. With just nine minutes gone in the second half, his teammates had to carry on with ten men.

Eventually, a ricochet led to a prime chance for Palace and Ayew made no mistake.

The season is long, and Villa can’t afford to give the opposition so many chances to attack. The team was compact without the ball against Everton, but three goals conceded in the last twenty minutes against Spurs suggest fatigue.

No team averages more clearances per match.

Premier League teams are expected to need to defend for long stretches with the amount of attacking quality at the top of the table, but breaks are necessary. Defenders and midfielders need to be able to step in and make a tackle before the opposition can whip in a dangerous cross or pull off a cheeky one-two.

Aston Villa ranks sixteenth out of twenty teams with 9.3 tackles per match. Only Wolves are worse at winning the ball in the final third.

Villa will have to do more as a team to limit opposition chances. They’ll need their wingers and midfielders to win the ball back more often. To survive the English Premier League this time around, they must build around their solid center-back partnership, not expose it.