Tactical Twins: How Aston Villa and Southampton Share the Same Approach
Both positive, vibrant attacking forces have received admiring glances this season—Villa for shedding their defensive tag under Alex McLeish and Southampton for replicating good Championship form at the highest level.
Read on to see why these two can be stylistically compared.
Both Southampton and Aston Villa press high when out of possession.
Mauricio Pochettino's philosophies are founded upon hard pressing and a relentless pursuit of winning the ball, and he has the perfect players to carry this out.
Morgan Schneiderlin is an absolute terrier, making 3.8 interceptions and 4.3 tackles per game.
Paul Lambert has instilled a serious work ethic at Aston Villa, and one of the midfielders to thrive in an all-action system is Fabian Delph. The former Leeds United man could still use a tackling lesson or two, but the effort is very impressive.
The Saints are more aggressive all over the pitch than Villa, but they share the same ideas in how and where to win the ball back: Pochettino's charges average a league-high 20.6 interceptions per game, while Villa rank third with 19.5.
Southampton are, without doubt, the more effective in this area, but Aston Villa are trying to play positive football with a lesser squad.
At the time of writing, the two sides average an identical pass completion rate (77.6 percent), while Saints have higher average possession figures.
Both sides look to a midfield metronome—Jack Cork for Saints and Ashley Westwood for Villa—to dictate tempo and recycle possession.
Both holding players have been known to rack up 60 or 70 passes per game with ease and are capable of controlling games single-handedly.
While both sides like to get the ball down and play it, they also boast very technically adept target men to aid them in holding the ball in attacking areas.
Rickie Lambert has confounded many by putting in excellent performances at the highest domestic level, combining his power and close control with superb off-the-ball awareness.
Christian Benteke is arguably even better, possessing the quick feet of a winger in addition to insurmountable body strength.
Despite the presence of the two 6'0"-plus strikers, both sides ideally look to deliver it into their feet and allow them to act as playmakers from the front.
Utilising target men, pressing high and keeping the ball are important to Paul Lambert and Mauricio Pochettino, but the most important weapon they share is searing pace.
In an ideal world, both sides would simply unleash their speedy wide players on goal and let their immense pace do the talking.
Southampton boast an in-form Jay Rodriguez, who can leave defenders flat on the floor and bedazzled by his outrageously fast feet. Opposite him is Jason Puncheon, while Adam Lallana is no slouch.
Aston Villa have Gabby Agbonlahor tearing down the left and Charles N'Zogbia sprinting through the middle—a fearsome sight for any defence. Andi Weimann can also rack up the yards with his unorthodox style of running, giving each team three rapid outlets.