Aston Villa’s home record could propel them into the Champions League

More than a year ago, Aston Villa was disoriented under Steven Gerrard as he struggled to get the best out of the vast attacking talent at his disposal.

The club panicked to find a proper replacement in time, but they fortunately landed on a proven European winner, Unai Emery.

Since his arrival in October last year, Aston Villa has tremendously improved and turned into a winning machine – recording an astonishing win rate of 63% in the Premier League. During this period, Emery has turned Villa Park into one of the most feared away grounds as they remain unbeaten at home for the past 12 games.

As the club pushes to establish itself as a regular competitor on the European stage, maximizing home advantage will be crucial.

A statistical deep-dive 

What makes Villa dangerous at home is not only their record but also the manner of their victories. They have been dominant on both ends of the pitch – scoring at least two goals in ten of those matches and restricting the goals conceded to a maximum of one.

The divide between the accumulated goals scored and conceded over Aston Villa’s stellar run represents the extent of their dominance.

Referring to the expected goals for (xG) and against (xGA) helps to measure the quality and volume of a team’s chances on both ends of the pitch. This tool provides a ‘truer’ picture of a team’s performance, as goals can, at times, pose a false narrative.

For example, Brighton concluded the 2020-21 Premier League season by finishing 16th in what was Graham Potter’s first season in charge as head coach – scoring just 40 goals, which was only 14th-best compared to their peers.

The raw number suggested that Brighton had a lackluster attack. However, upon inspection of the underlying data, it was evident that the offensive players were missing their chances as they recorded ten fewer goals than they should have, according to the xG.

It underlined that there was no inherent issue with Potter’s tactics, but rather, the players were underperforming in front of the goal.

Furthermore, if teams were ranked based on the xGD (expected goal difference), Brighton would storm up the rankings and finish fifth.

Therefore, looking at the results at only face value does not provide the full context.

Of course, the final score matters at the end of a football match rather than the underlying numbers, but the example above highlights that it is a reasonable metric to lean on to identify the over and underperformance of a team over a period of time.

Coming back to Villa, the expected goals data suggest that there has been a slight overperformance, which is standard for any team that is playing well. Therefore, the underlying figures corroborate their commanding margin of dominance reflected by the goals tally.

Compared to the ‘Big Six’ clubs in the Premier League, Aston Villa boasts the third-best unbeaten home record – barring Liverpool and Manchester City, the Birmingham-based club impressively ranks as the best of the rest.

(Aston Villa’s unbeaten streak at home is among the best in the Premier League after the tenth match week)

Maximizing a team’s home advantage is crucial to accomplish any success in a season, that is, for most teams, at least.

For example, in last season’s closely fought race for the Premier League title, Manchester City and Arsenal were fairly even in their away performances – with the former accruing 37 points and the latter scoring marginally better at 39.

However, the striking disparity was in their home performance. Manchester City won 52 points at the Etihad, whereas the Gunners only accrued 45 points at the Emirates.

Furthermore, teams that fortify their home advantage have a higher probability of qualifying for a major European competition – the Champions League or the Europa League – as reflected by the statistics below.

Since Emery’s appointment, Aston Villa has won 78% of their home matches – currently placing them in the top bracket of more than 70% home wins – which makes them 90% probable to qualify for the Champions League and 100% likely to enter the Europa League.

However, the big caveat is that Villa will have to maintain an impressive form throughout the season – only Manchester City, LiverpoolManchester United, and Arsenal have been successful in achieving this in the past five Premier League campaigns.

A drop into the 60% to 70% bracket will immensely bring down their chances for qualification to the Champions League but still provide the Birmingham-based club a decent opportunity to cut it.

A better picture arises when looking at the likelihood of Europa League qualification, as falling between the 60% to 70% bracket provides a whopping 78% probability of breaking into the top 6.

As mentioned above, if Emery manages to guide the Villans to a historic home-win record, the statistics suggest they are guaranteed qualification to the Europa League.

Aston Villa is on the right track

Unai Emery’s appointment has proved to be one of the best decisions made by the Villa hierarchy in recent times, followed by a series of nifty player signings that includes the highly rated Moussa Diaby, Pau Torres, and Nicolo Zaniolo.

The four-time Europa League winner has put the ambitious club on the right path to fulfill their lofty aspirations. Although there is a long way ahead in Aston Villa’s journey, the early signs of promise have filled the atmosphere in Birmingham with hope and jubilation.

This history-rich club has endured a sustained duration of turbulence over the past decade. However, Emery’s arrival has instilled a renewed sense of purpose and direction that many teams in the Premier League crave and admire.

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