Villa drifting down
Aston Villa appear to have been performing like a stereotypical mid-table team in late season, losing their rhythm with nothing to play for.
Having been ninth at the start of April, Steven Gerrard’s side have drifted down to 15th after picking up just one point from their last five matches.
The slump is more than a little worrying and Gerrard has not held back in his criticism of the team’s performances but Villa still look pretty safe, starting the weekend eight points clear of the drop zone with six games to go.
With only two goals in Villa’s last five games, Gerrard could shake up his attack by bringing in Danny Ings or former Norwich star Emi Buendia.
He is still without Bertrand Traore, Morgan Sanson, Kortney Hause and Lucas Digne, with Ashley Young continuing to deputise for Digne at left-back.
Norwich on the brink
Norwich have looked doomed from very early in the season and all hope is virtually gone now. With five games to play, they are 10 points from safety and will be relegated if they lose here and Burnley win at Watford.
The appointment of Dean Smith in November, following his departure from Villa, looked like it was done with one eye on bouncing back from the Championship and the Canaries have been hurtling towards that scenario after taking only four points from their last 10 games.
Smith could get a boost with the return of striker Josh Sargent but Lukas Rupp is struggling with a knee inury, while Adam Idah, Ozan Kabak and Andrew Omobamidele are out for the season.
This is the second time Gerrard has faced his predecessor in the Villa hotseat, the first having ended in a 2-0 win for the Villans at Carrow Road in December with goals from Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins.
Villa’s recent run looks bad, but defeats against West Ham, Arsenal, Wolves and Tottenham were in keeping with the trends of their results under Gerrard. The plain fact is that they are extremely poor against top-eight sides.
Their record against that group since Gerrard took charge is W0 D1 L7. By contrast their figures against the rest of the Premier League in that time are W8 D2 L3. The problem for Gerrard to solve, if there is to be a push up the table next season, is how to improve their performance levels against the better teams.
In that light, it is no surprise that Villa managed to grind out a goalless draw at Leicester last week as the level of opposition dropped after that run of defeats. The standard falls massively here against the basement club and that points firmly to a Villa win at 1.412/5, looking more at the longer-term trends than recent form tables.
Villa’s record against the current bottom eight under Gerrard is W5 D1 L1, including their 2-0 win at Norwich in December.
As bad as Villa have looked in recent weeks, Norwich have been worse, having beaten only Burnley (2-0 at home in Sean Dyche’s last game in charge of the Clarets) since the start of February.
Their only other wins in 2022 came back to back in January against two other relegation battlers, Everton (2-1 at home) and Watford (3-0 away), and it is clear that the Canaries lack the quality to threaten most teams in the Premier League. Ten of their 21 points have come against the bottom five.
Villa have been playing at a low level recently, which gives Norwich some hope, but Gerrard’s determination to end the season in better form appears to have been taken on board by his players judging by their efforts to secure a clean sheet against Leicester last week.
With Norwich obliged to be positive in their position, this could open up for the home team if they have the right attitude again and the selection is a Villa win with over 2.5 goals at 2.166/5.
A Villa return to winning form is likely to be sparked by Philippe Coutinho, who has contributed four goals and three assists in 13 Premier League games.
He takes up more advanced positions in home matches, where he has scored in three of his six appearances.
A Bet Builder with a Villa win and Coutinho to score at anytime is available at odds of 2.427/5.
The case for this match being on the high-scoring side is pretty strong, even without the onus being on Norwich to attack if they are to have any hope of survival, and over 2.5 goals is trading at 1.774/5.
Norwich rank third for matches with over 2.5 goals (61%) and Villa are just behind with 59%.
Although Norwich’s figure drops slightly to 56% on the road, where they have been poor overall, Villa’s home rate for over 2.5 goals is 67%.
In addition, Villa trend slightly to over 2.5 goals under Gerrard at 57% (12 out of 21) but the home figure under him is 70%.
The next goal they concede will see Norwich City become the first team to concede 70+ goals in three different Premier League campaigns, with the Canaries previously doing so in 2004-05 (77) and 2019-20 (75). Villa to win by at least two goals is available at 2.166/5 by backing them off -1.5 on the Asian handicap.