There are many thoughts currently buzzing about the heads of Aston Villa fans. Will Villa still be a Premiership outfit next season? Is Paul Lambert the right man for the job? Can the club hang onto the brilliant Benteke, even if survival if achieved?
One of the most frustrating questions however is why Aston Villa can’t defend corners?
On paper it is a very valid query. Villa currently hold an unwanted title of possessing the worst defence in the Premier League. Each week it seems more and more likely that any promise shown by Villa will be quickly ramshackled by an alarmingly frequent inability to defend from corners. Only last Saturday Aston Villa threw away a precious three points, conceding an injury time equaliser, courtesy of Fellani’s lofty afro from a corner. Villa’s failure to deal with corners also ranked high in the blame stakes when it came to the humiliating ‘Capital One’ Cup semi final defeat to league Two Bradford.
Such has become Paul Lambert’s young teams incapability’s within their own box that it would be no surprise to few if opposing managers actually instructed their players to ignore shot’s at goal in favour of playing for a corner. The outcome of which would be more likely to result in a goal.
The statistical truth on the contrary however, suggests that Aston Villa are not actually as bad at defending corners as some may think. Quite impressively, and dispelling popular belief, Villa have managed to successfully defend 160 corners in the league this season. That is a feat surpassed only by four other teams, those being Sunderland (162,) West Brom (166,) and QPR who top the list with a massive 183 clearances.
The real problem with Villa is the enormous amount of corner kicks that they afford the opposition. With 168 corners faced this season, only West Brom (170) and QPR (191) have given away more. Compare this with the three teams that have given away the least amount of corners, Man City (97,) Spurs (103) and Liverpool (108) and the relative current league positions speak volumes. The obvious moral here is that if you invite pressure into your defensive territory then it is inevitable that you will concede goals.
The fact that Villa have only conceded 8 goals from 168 corners is quite remarkable if given reasonable thought. In fact on average the opposition team requires 21 corners to score from that particular set piece against Villa. Statistically you are more likely to score from a corner against Fulham, Swansea, Man City, and very nearly Man Utd, than you are against Villa. Perhaps surprisingly it is champions Man City that are the weakest at defending corners. On average they concede every 16.2 attempts, yet the fact that they give away the least amount of corners in the division means that it damages them only minimally.
Out of likely interest for any readers wanting to know which team defends corners the most efficiently then the answer is Martin O’Neil’s Sunderland. They are yet to be on the sickening end of a corner this season, and if the opposition wish to breach Stoke City’s team of monsters from the corner flag it will take an average of 156 attempts.
The lesson learnt here, for those with any dealings of a claret and blue persuasion, is that Villa need not worry so much about actually defending a corner. Of greater concern should be how Villa can stop gifting the opposition so many attempts to score from a corner. Paul Lambert has 13 games left to sort it out.
image: © ell-r-brown