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Albion Analytics preview: Aston Villa

The full statistical breakdown ahead of tonight's Premier League clash at the Amex.

By Liam Tharme • 13 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk has scored a goal in every season since 2014 for Albion.

Albion welcome Aston Villa to the Amex knowing that avoiding defeat would stretch their unbeaten run in the Premier League to six games for the first time.

Robert Sanchez and the defence had gone 7 hours, 39 minutes without conceding before Johann Berg Gudmundsson scored the equaliser for Burnley last Saturday. Maty Ryan (7) was the only Premier League goalkeeper to make more saves than Sanchez (6) in the last game week, with Brighton defending diligently to ensure the spoils where shared and stretch the unbeaten run to five.

Breaking the game into six 15-minute chunks, Brighton have out-shot opponents in five of those time periods, only shooting less than their opponents in the first 15 minutes after half-time. Fast starts in recent games mean Brighton have now scored more first half (13) than second half goals (12) this season.

Aston Villa's 1.5 non-penalty Expected Goals per game is the fourth best of any Premier League side, while only Manchester City can eclipse their 5.5 shots on target per game and 145 dribbles into the penalty area. Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins are the Villa dangermen on Saturday. Combined, they account for 44% of Villa’s goals and assists this season and Grealish has assisted Watkins for four goals, the second most fruitful assist-goalscorer combination in the league. They are also Villa's top two for shot-creating actions, final third pressures and touches in the opposition box. 

Joel Veltman's defensive diligence on the right could prove key for Brighton to thwart Grealish's ball-carrying. Against Burnley, the Dutchman recorded the most clearances (5), blocks (4) and the third most pressures (11). No Brighton player tackles more per game in the defensive third than Veltman (1.9 attempts), and the Dutchman ranks highly among Premier League defenders this season.

This year, not only are Brighton in better form but they have the more impressive underlying numbers. Villa (10.2) only slightly edge the Seagulls (9.6) in Expected Goals generated, with Potter's side conceding half the number of goals (5) that Dean Smith’s side have in 2021 (10). Only Arsenal (4) and Manchester City (2) have conceded fewer goals this year than Albion.

Lewis Dunk headed home at Burnley for his third of the season and has now scored in each of the last eight years for Brighton, dating back to 2014.

Compared to English Premier League central defenders this season, Dunk sits second for headed shots (15) and third for accurate long passes (102). He is among the top five for fouls won (15) and fewest times dribbled past (4), completing over 83% of attempted tackles this season. Dunk is also inside the top 10 of his positional counterparts for opposition shots blocked (15) and interceptions (24).

It was from Pascal Gross' corner that Dunk scored, with head coach Graham Potter claiming that the German is in the best form under his management, a statement backed up by statistics. This season, his per game averages for open play passes plus crosses completed into the opposition box (2.77), tackles + interceptions (2.31), ball recoveries (8.38) and minutes per goal involvement (184) are his best when compared to his previous three campaigns.

Compared to other Premier League seasons, solid recent results mean many of Brighton's current metrics are either their best-ever or second best at this stage of a campaign.

It was Brighton's No.13 who set up the winner in the reverse fixture and, across the current unbeaten league run, Gross tops the Brighton charts for chances created (16) and Expected Assists (1.41). He may benefit from Villa's vulnerabilities against crosses, with Villa breached the fifth-most (51) of any Premier League side this season from open-play crosses into the box.

Ben White fed Gross to assist the winner at Villa Park, one of three goals and 22 shots he has been involved in this season. Ranked against Premier League central defenders this campaign, White is part of the top 1% for dribbles attempted per game, among the top 5% for shot-creating actions and sits inside the top 10% for pressures and progressive passes received, testament to his strong start to top-flight life.

In total, Brighton have given over 9000 combined minutes to players who started the season aged 23 or younger, a figure which has comfortably surpassed last season's total (7411), with 15 fixtures remaining. Alexis Mac Allister, 22, made his 10th Premier League start last time out at Burnley, and the Argentine is the Premier League's top player for deep completions (non-cross passes within 20m of opposition goal) per 90 minutes over the last five games, averaging 3.45 per game. The versatility of Brighton's No.10 in the final third is eloquently demonstrated through his shots taken and key pass per-90 figures, which are identical for league games in 2021 (1.72).

Brighton will face one of the meanest travelling defences with Villa shipping just 10 goals in 11 away games this season, winning six of those fixtures and keeping a clean sheet in every win. Testament to this strong defence is Emiliano Martinez, who tops the league's goalkeeping charts for shots saved from outside the area (35).

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