Tottenham Hotspur is battling Aston Villa on Sunday for a place in the top half of the Premier League table heading into the next international break. Coming into the game Villa are the hotter team, sitting in front of Spurs on 10 points and coming off consecutive wins. So, what can Spurs expect from the Claret and Blue Army on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium?
Tottenham can expect Villa to be direct
Tottenham has been a bit of a contradiction this season, at times the team can be both overly slow in the build-up and too direct with long balls. The inability to find that rhythm in possession six matches into the season has been a big part of Spurs’ problem.
The root cause of Tottenham’s problems is the lack of identity with the team. This is not a problem for Aston Villa, as Dean Smith’s side knows exactly who they are, which is a team that likes to go forward and attack.
Villa does not look to dominate possession, although they have won finishing on both sides of the possession battle this season. Rather, Aston Villa looks to push forward quickly with a lot of long balls. 16% of all their passes this season have been long balls and 38% of all Villa’s passes are forward.
By comparison, only 33% of Tottenham’s passes are forward and just 12% are long balls. While it has at times felt like Spurs are a long-ball team this season, fans have seen nothing yet, as Villa is going to push the ball forward very aggressively. Of course, Villa has a good reason to hit the ball forward with their dual strikers.
Villa play with two true strikers
It is no longer really vogue in English football to play with two strikers, however, Aston Villa is the real exception to that rule. For the last three games and barring injury, the next 30 Villa have been playing with a twin striker tandem with Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins.
Both Ings and Watkins should have been on Fabio Paratici’s radar this past summer with Ings moving from Southampton to the midlands. Watkins was a start in the Championship two seasons ago as Villa earned promotion, then kept on producing last season in the Premier League with 14 goals.
This season has started slower for Watkins as he missed sometime early in the season but has been getting his shots since returning, while Ings has two goals. What is remarkable is that Villa has nine goals on the season without either Ings or Watkins really kicking on yet. Spurs will want to keep the duo in check Sunday as both can score in bunches and will be looking to get behind and run at what has seemed a suspect Tottenham defense.
Watkins and Ings do not lack for service
While neither Watkins nor Ings are really flying at this point in the season, it is not from a lack of service. Besides being a very direct team, looking to hit the long ball over the top at any moment, Villa manages to produce their fair share of crosses.
Through six matches, Villa averages 22 crosses per match. Left-back Matt Targett averages almost 4 crosses per match and midfielder John McGinn averages more than 4 crosses. With Tyronne Mings typically partnering with McGinn on the right and Douglas Luiz partnering with Targett on the right, Villa finds plenty of support for their play on the flanks.
The backs and Hugo Lloris all need to be alert and ready to command the box or it could be trouble for Tottenham. Spurs have struggled on the defensive end the last month and if they are not a lot better on Sunday, Aston Villa will just be the latest to score multiple goals against Tottenham.
Alternatively, a strong defense and some quick counterattacks to punch back at Villa when they try to move forward quickly could leave the Claret and Blue Army gasping for air.
Either way, we should expect some goals and an open game.