Aston Villa started strongly on Sunday, but couldn’t keep up with Leicester City and were eventually put away convincingly. Here are some things we can take from the performance.
1. A successful gamble
Manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated his new deal by changing the lineup and formation for the first time in weeks, opting for a diamond with no real wide midfielders.
It was certainly a gamble. Villa love to overload out wide with fullbacks and wingers together, leaving Chilwell and Pereira with a lot to do. The Foxes were up to the task though, with Ricardo in particular making an outrageous 8 tackles.
James Maddison vs. Aston Villa:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 8, 2019
21/24 final third passes
9 ball recoveries
7 fouls suffered
5 chances created
2 tackles won
Creative masterclass. pic.twitter.com/GOODXbN70B
The payoff was all kinds of space in midfield, with James Maddison the biggest beneficiary. The young playmaker was back at his best, using his extra time on the ball to run the game.
Maddison was a constant problem that the Villa defence had few answers for. From an impressive 93 touches, he completed more than 90% of his passes and produced a game leading 5 keys passes, including a fantastic cross to assist the second goal.
2. Now he scores as well
The Foxes have scored some great looking goals on their current run, including a few more on Sunday. Both of Vardy’s were assisted by excellent long passes, but the real beauty was provided by Jonny Evans.
The Northern Irishman span away towards the back of the box and met Maddison’s cross with a towering, looping header into the far corner that reminded almost everyone of Robert Huth’s winner against Tottenham in the the title winning year.
I was just trying to think ‘get a good contact’. There was pace on the ball and I knew I didn’t really have to put much into it, so just sort of guided it back across the goal and like I say, thankfully it went in the top corner - Evans told lcfc.com about his goal
It was a great moment for Evans, the only member of the regular starting XI who was yet to score this season, but his play at the other end was still more impressive.
Çağlar Söyüncü usually grabs the attention, and his exciting play usually warrant it. Evans’ biggest strength is his positioning, which if anything makes the game less exciting, but at that end of the pitch that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
3. A budding partnership
The other big change to the formation was the shift to two up front, with Kelechi Iheancho partnering Jamie Vardy. The pair haven’t had many opportunities alongside each other, but put out a great advert for more time together.
Both obviously put in great individual displays with two goal contributions each. Vardy kept his streak alive with two more goals and Iheanacho provided an assist while taking his own tally to four goals in four appearances.
That sublime pass from Iheanacho to Vardy after he nutmegged his opponent is the iheanacho I know during his U17 days— Engr Dray | I Stan MESSIX (@Dray4lyf) December 8, 2019
While the young Nigerian has struggled at times as a backup to Vardy’s role in the team, he’s looked much more comfortably working with him, and the two seemed to have developed a good understanding.
Iheancho is very comfortable on the ball, and his vision and passing ability were clear to see. He can easily fit into this possession style team, and it’s great to see him getting chances alongside the leading scorer.