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Are Aston Villa missing Fabian Delph? Stats suggest they have bigger problems


Manchester City's Fabian Delph returns to Villa Park on Super Sunday to find his old club in deep trouble, but they have bigger issues than the absence of their former captain, writes Nick Wright...

It's fair to say Aston Villa won't be rolling out the red carpet for Delph this weekend. Their former captain's acrimonious transfer to City provoked a furious reaction from supporters in the summer, and they are likely to make their feelings clear when he returns to the Midlands on Super Sunday.

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Delph has been limited to three substitute appearances at City so far. A hamstring problem ruled him out at the start of the campaign, and he aggravated the injury just a few seconds into England's Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland in September. The central midfielder has only just returned from that frustrating period on the sidelines, coming off the bench in City's win at Sevilla on Tuesday night, but his problems pale in comparison to those of his old club.

Emmanuel Riviere keeps track of Fabian Delph
Image: Delph captained Aston Villa in the 2014/15 season

The axe fell on Tim Sherwood after an eighth defeat in 10 Premier League games left Villa mired in a relegation battle, and new manager Remi Garde witnessed the scale of the task at hand from the stands at White Hart Lane as they lost 3-1 to Tottenham on Monday Night Football.

Villa are bottom of the table and four points adrift of safety having taken just four points from a possible 33, and history shows Premier League sides have rarely recovered from such dismal starts in the past. But among the issues that have engulfed them this season, how highly does Delph's departure rank?

Fabian Delph of Manchester City is attended to by trainers during the International Champions Cup match between Real Madrid and Manchester City
Image: Delph was injured during Manchester City's pre-season tour of Australia

The 25-year-old was one of 14 players to leave Villa in a summer of upheaval which saw 13 new signings arrive in their place, and Sherwood's later team selections suggested he was unimpressed by some of the new faces. But while losing a player of Delph's calibre was an undoubted blow, his replacement, Idrissa Gueye, has actually been one of Villa's most impressive performers since his £9m move from Lille.

The Senegal international is still adapting to English football and hasn't yet shown the same leadership qualities as Delph, but he has a similarly dynamic playing style and the stats highlight a useful contribution in his eight Premier League appearances so far.

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Delph v Gueye: Premier League comparison

Fabian Delph (2014/15) Idrissa Gueye (2015/16)
Tackles per game 2.1 4.0
Interceptions per game 1.4 3.6
Dribbled past per game 1.1 0.6
Aerials won per game 0.7 1.1
Key passes per game 1.3 0.9
Dribbles per game 2.2 2.1
Distance covered per game 11.16km 10.50km

Gueye has been particularly impressive in a defensive sense, averaging four tackles and 3.6 interceptions per game. Those numbers are far higher than Delph's last season, and they also put him in the top five Premier League players for each category.

Villa's defeats have left them woefully short of confidence, but they have only been beaten by more than one goal on two occasions - and Gueye was conspicuous by his absence against Spurs.

Gueye's attacking contribution has not quite tallied up with Delph's last season, but he has completed successful dribbles with similar regularity and his average of 0.9 chances created per game does not fall too far short of his predecessor's 1.3 in 2014/15. For all Delph's plaudits last season, it's also worth remembering he didn't score once and only claimed three assists in 28 league appearances.

Garde's to-do list
Garde's to-do list

We look at the key issues facing new manager Remi Garde at Aston Villa.

Not only has Gueye shown enough to suggest he is more than capable of filling the void left by Delph, but Garde has more pressing concerns elsewhere. Villa's defending is likely to feature highly on his agenda after he witnessed the ease in which Mousa Dembele scored Tottenham's opening goal at White Hart Lane.

The Monday Night Football panel were critical of the positioning of Villa's back four in their analysis of the game, and sloppiness has been a reoccurring theme of their season. Indeed, Opta's stats show only two sides have made more defensive errors leading to goals this season (four), and they also rank third for errors leading to shots (eight).

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Patrick Davison and Alan Smith analyse Aston Villa’s defeat to Tottenham

Garde must find a way to get them scoring, too. Only Stoke City have found the back of the net fewer times than Villa this season, and Gabriel Agbonlahor's meagre contribution at White Hart Lane highlighted their issues in attack. Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew are likely to improve, but Christian Benteke averaged a goal every other game in his three seasons at Villa, and his departure has left a gaping hole.

Delph would surely relish the chance to remind his former side of his qualities on Sunday, but Villa have bigger things to worry about as they look to fight their way clear of relegation.

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