It’s finally here.
What we have all been waiting for.
Derby Day. Aston Villa v. Small Heath Alliance.
The build up to this game has a little bit of something extra to it. At least it seems that way. Don’t ‘mind the gap’ in thought, but it would seem that there are a plethora of reasons that Villa can best their neighbours on this day. Villa bounced back after a defeat to Wolves with a win to Fulham, and everything just seemed right about the performance that pushed Villa back into that winning mentality. A panoply of Villa players have already expressed that they know this derby means a lot to the fans, but it means a great deal to the players as well. What a great thing to hear from the players we all support with everything we’ve got, right Villans? The match speaks for itself, yes. But, when Villa players past and present start presenting what it means to them individually it’s enough to put goosebumps on even the most strong willed football supporters. With all of the excitement, anxiety and promise surrounding Aston Villa and their supporters, let us dive into the statistical side of the game, and more so the reasons why the Birmingham City will have a very tough day on the pitch.
Birmingham City come into this game 11 points from 13 games played. Of those eleven points gained, ten of those points have come from games at St. Andrews. It’s a good thing for City that this game is in their backyard, as they are absolutely rubbish playing away from home. There are only two other teams in the Championship that have lost 8 games or more so far this season, and that should be a massive indication that our petulant six-fingered neighbours are nowhere near as good as they are gloating coming into this game. Of course… form and what is ‘supposed to happen’ usually finds itself tumbling out of the nearest window when it’s a local derby. It’s one thing to be optimistic, but it’s an entirely different monster to think that current form and bookies odds are a safe bet.
Small Heath legend and iron-man Paul Robinson will turn 39 years of age in December, and has been speaking to the media in the past few days. He claims that this specific match is ‘all about three points’. Strange coming from a player who has been very vocal about his dislike of all things Claret & Blue in the past and even more so that Robinson has featured in ONE match this campaign for the Blues. What Robinson can count on is a very tumultuous derby day experience if he and his 6.34 average match rating this season decides to grace us with it’s presence on the football pitch. Birmingham have had a bit of a yo-yo act the past couple of weeks. In the past month, the Scum have beaten Sheffield Wednesday, got embarrassed by Hull City 6-1, narrowly beat Cardiff City, and lost 2-0 to Millwall. Now, the law of averages says that our incestual neighbours are ‘due for one’. But, there is math in other places that just doesn’t quite add up.
Birmingham City are only averaging 0.6 goals per game and they have only scored 8 so far this season. They have conceded 21 goals as well, making it 1.6 goals conceded per game. Villa on the other hand have scored 19 goals, are averaging 1.5 goals/game and have only conceded 13. I think it’s a fair assessment that on a statistical level, this game is Aston Villas’ to lose.
30 year old midfielder Jacques Maghoma is the only Birmingham City player that has more than one goal to his name in league play coming into this clash with Villa. After a dreadful game against Millwall last week that saw Maghoma score a 5.7 match rating, it would be wise for Steve Bruce to look how Millwall shut him down for the better part of 65 minutes during that contest. It may seem as though there are no plausible threats to be had from the City squad, but yet again…this is a derby and a very emotional one as well. Another player that our goofy looking neighbours have singled out as their messiah of sort is Spanish midfielder Jota. Jota has 3 assists to his name for City, even if two of those assists came in the same game against Brentford. Although Jota is a very good footballer, and has the ability to crack a game wide open with his individual prowess, getting the job done on his own is going to be a tough battle.
Look for Steve Bruce to be on his best behavior during the contest, as he will undoubtedly be getting abuse from the Birmingham supporters. I’d be a little miffed as well if a former gaffer was managing the local rival, and doing a pretty good job at it as well. Bruce will most likely keep his concrete starting eleven, including Alan Hutton playing Deputy Cafu at left-back in the absence of Neil Taylor through suspension. It would be a breath of fresh air to see Joshua Onomah partnered with Jonathan Kodjia again. While we all like to see Keinan Davis on the pitch and getting better by the application, all signs point towards the idea that if it’s not broken…don’t throw it into the lion’s den. Substitute selection could face a bit of a shake-up as Steve Bruce has been being very playful about the inclusion of certified Birmingham City slayer Gabby Agbonlahor. There seems to be a lot of rift between Villa supporters on if Gabby should be included or not, but let’s face it…if he comes on as a sub, every single player that is on the Small Heath payroll knows that he is capable of turning up to smash their dreams. It may be worth a shot. Another player that may just get a look on the bench is Jack Grealish. Jack knows what the derby means to the locals, and although he is just getting fit coming back from a freak injury, this may just be the medicine to allow Jack to carry on and back into Steve Bruces’ plans as a Number 10.
UP THE VILLA!