Last updated December 12th, 2020
Two West Midlands sides lock horns when Wolverhampton Wanderers host Aston Villa in the Premier League at Molineux on Saturday (12:30pm; TV: Live on BT Sport 1).
Ten places separated the two teams last season, with Wolves finishing up in seventh, while Villa avoided relegation by just a single point down in 17th. The way the new campaign has started suggests they will be much more closely matched come the end of 2020-21.
That is mainly because Villa appear to have improved significantly. They accumulated less than a point per match through both the first and second halves of last season and also had some of the league’s worst underlying numbers. They were better after the lockdown than before, but still nothing to write home about despite it being enough to beat the drop.
The sample size is still pretty low, but Villa have accumulated 15 points across their nine matches so far this season, well ahead of last season’s rate, and have combined that with top-five underlying numbers. A second summer of heavy investment – only four teams laid out more money on a net basis in the off-season – seems to have helped push them up a level.
Dean Smith’s team began the season with four wins on the bounce, including a stunning 7-2 thrashing of champions Liverpool in which Jack Grealish shone and new signing Ollie Watkins helped himself to a hat-trick. Despite good metrics and the positive vibes around the club, it is worth noting that they have now lost four of their last five in the league.
Aston Villa were not in action last week, as their match against Newcastle was called off following a COVID outbreak at their would-be visitors. Their last match was a 1-2 defeat away to West Ham in which they really should have at least taken a share of the spoils. A couple of good chances were missed, while Watkins struck the crossbar from the penalty spot.
Still, Villa come into Saturday’s match just two points behind their hosts despite having played two matches less. Both the big British bookmakers and the statistics sites suggest the two teams are likely to be similarly intertwined for the remainder of the campaign. One model currently has them predicted to end the season level on points.
Wolves have finished seventh in each of the last two seasons and have made a solid start to the new campaign that only sees them a point away from that mark at this early stage. Seventeen points from 11 matches looks good given they only picked up 13 from their first 11 last season. Aside from a 0-4 defeat away to West Ham, their other three losses have come to sides who finished in the top five last season: Manchester City, Leicester and Liverpool.
The last of those losses came on Sunday, a 0-4 reverse at Anfield. Wolves started quite well, but they were never really in the game once Liverpool went ahead 25 minutes in. Three further goals followed in the second half to wrap up a comprehensive defeat.
Things look alright at Wolves, although coach Nuno Espirito Santo may be concerned that they have so far been less impressive at both ends of the pitch than they were last season, scoring less and conceding more. The Liverpool defeat was the third time they have let in three or more goals in a match and if they were to continue conceding at their current rate, they would be on course to concede around 10 more goals than they did last season.
The impression provided by the top-line numbers is reflected in their metrics, which are more mid-table than top-seven at this stage. They made a slower start to last season in terms of results, but their metrics were still stronger than they have been this time around.
Wolves won home and away to Villa last season, but even if there are some doubts as to whether Villa are as good as their early metrics suggest, pitting one of the league’s strongest attacks against a Wolves defence that so far hasn’t looked particularly solid could well produce an away win for Villa on Saturday. So JustBookies’ WWFC vs AVFC betting tip suggestion for this preview is:
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