STATS: Aston Villa vs Sunderland

Aston Villa vs Sunderland 15:00

In an enthralling Midlands derby, Villa came from two goals down to secure a draw against West Brom, and host a Sunderland side livid from a contentious red card awarded to Wes Brown.

A product of the highly acclaimed Crewe Alexandra youth academy, Ashley Westwood has become a vital member of Paul Lambert’s side with his ability to recycle possession. This ability was on show on Monday, as in addition to his decisive equalizer, Westwood completed 30 passes in West Brom’s half – this was the most of any Villa player.

Aston Villa may be struggling for goals, but this is in total contrast to their success at the other end of the pitch. Paul Lambert’s men have only conceded 14 goals this term, less that Manchester United, which is particularly impressive when you consider that that they’ve played Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs. A rock at the heart of the defence has been skipper Ron Vlaar, and the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index highlights precisely how effective he has been. In addition to featuring in every minute of the campaign so far, the only Villa outfield player to have done this, Vlaar has maintained an incredibly impressive tackle success rate – attempting 28 challenges and winning 25 of them.

In recent weeks Paul Lambert has compared Gabriel Agbonlahor to Ryan Giggs in that he is a one-club man, Villa through and through. Agbonlahor holds Aston Villa’s record for the number of goals scored in the Premier League era, but this season he appears to have reinvented himself as more of a provider rather than a scorer. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has registered 3 assists, the most in the Villa team, but he has only taken 8 shots.

Karim El Ahmadi started the comeback on Monday night scoring the crucial first goal that set Villa on their way. It was a rare goal from El Ahmadi, who is best known for his willingness to do the dirty work for Aston Villa by breaking up play, and stemming the flow of opposition attacks. This is evident in the fact that he’s been successful in an impressive 80% of his challenges this term.

Gus Poyet was left fuming after a controversial red card to Wes Brown helped condemn the Black Cats to a defeat against Stoke.

Sunderland will have felt particularly addrieved to lose the game, as they dominated for periods of play despite Stoke’s numerical advantage. Sebastien Larsson was integral to this, as he completed an impressive 36 passes in the opposition half – this was the third most in the league.

Likewise, Ki Sung-Yueng demonstrated his passing credentials. In Lee Cattermole’s absence the on-loan Swansea man completed 34 passes in the Stoke half.

It must be pleasing for Sunderland supporters to see one of their academy graduates performing so admirably in the first team. Jack Colback has become a mainstay of the Sunderland lineup since stepping up to the first team – probably best demonstrated by the fact he has completed 983 minutes this term, the most in the Sunderland squad.

Manager Gus Poyet showed his ruthless side by dropping Adam Johnson from the team against Hull a few weeks ago, but he has restored Johnson to the lineup since. It isn’t hard to see why Poyet was keen to thrust the former England man back into the action, as no other player in the Sunderland squad matches Johnson’s 218 attacking contributions (based on crosses, shots, passes in the opposition half and dribbles).