Just a little recap to start. Under Paul Lambert this season Aston Villa mustered only 12 goals in 25 Premier League matches, which was 10 fewer than any other top-flight club in the same period.
The same number has already been reached in just eight league fixtures following Tim Sherwood’s appointment and it is easy to state that this is the biggest impact that the current boss has had.
Sherwood is setting Villa up to get the ball into Christian Benteke quicker, is encouraging the likes of Tom Cleverley and Fabian Delph to make more forward runs to get ahead of the ball, is giving young teenage playmaker Jack Grealish starts and the freedom to express himself and is generally encouraging Villa to press higher up the pitch.
Benteke has been the chief beneficiary and has scored nine goals in his last seven Villa appearances.
However, simply getting the Belgian back to his scoring best is not the stand-out major change from Sherwood, but the result of the major change.
Instead, the biggest upgrade that Lambert has brought to Villa Park is a new focus on fitness.
Scott Sinclair mentioned that training was tougher and more intense in the matchday programme ahead of Villa’s FA Cup victory over Liverpool and performances are showing that the rewards of this are being reaped.
Villa are by far the worst team across the season in the final 20 minutes of matches, scoring only four goals in this period and conceding 19.
Under Lambert, the Villans only managed three in the entire second half of matches, while in the 18 Premier League matches in which they conceded, 14 goals were let in after the 70th minute.
It is a surprise that Villa struggled for fitness late in games, as Lambert’s chosen tactic was largely to sit back, soak up pressure and look to hit the opposition on the counter attack.
This requires far less energy than the constant pressing that is a feature of teams like Tottenham and Liverpool.
Sherwood’s decision to add Mark Robson and Tony Parks to the coaching staff looks to be paying dividends, both in terms of player fitness and confidence in possession.
With base fitness up, confidence at its highest in a long time, and recent form good, it is difficult to know the limit for Villa over the remainder of the season.
It is 5/1 that Villa beat Arsenal in the 90 minutes to win the FA Cup or 13/5 that they simply lift the trophy by any means.
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