With the three goals shipped against Bolton on Saturday, the focus has fallen firmly back on the defence as further points in the quest for a very attainable 4th spot (I think we can safely assume the top three is locked up) once again slip away.
Looking at the current Premier League table
at our goals conceded, I was interested to see how - adjusted over the course of a season - this compared with recent seasons.
Given our current total of having conceded 21, if we continued at our current pace we would return our worst in terms of goals against, matching the total under Sven in 2007/08 (which included the eight goals against Middlesbrough on the final day), but not a great deal more than 2008/09. However, it would be comfortably our best ever goals for total (we are currently on 29) and finally banishing the paucity of 2006/07:
2009/10 F73* A53*
2008/09 F58 A49
2007/08 F45 A53
2006/07 F29 A44
2005/06 F43 A48
2004/05 F47 A39
*Adjusted over 38 games.
Interestingly though, this places 5th out of the current top six in the table as our number of goals scored is 5th out of 6th in top six (Villa have scored 26) and the number of goals conceded is 5th out of 6th (Tottenham have conceded 22).
So far this season we have conceded (in the league) as follows:
0 - 4 times
1 - 5 times
2 - 3 times
3 - twice
4 - once
We also lead the Premier League in terms of goals conceded from throw-in's, and familiar woes from set plays in general have not yet been eradicated - suggesting that familiarity in the box is still something of a work in progress.
As the stats show, we have, in nine of the fifteen games so far, conceded one or fewer goals - which will win more games than not (having only been shut out once). The problem is that on six occasions we have shipped two or more, with the only victory being against Arsenal, by a margin of 4-2.
There is a case I feel though for arguing though that the increased number of goals scored clearly reflects a more attacking outlook and line-up during 2009/10. At times, with Wright-Phillips and either Bellamy/Petrov/Robinho as the wide players in a midfield four, we are almost adopting a 4-2-4 look. Little wonder then that the defence is suffering as a result of a more attacking approach.
It is clear though - and not an unobvious point by any means - that for success to be achieved this season we need to stop conceding multiple times. This is not to say the defence is without fault, but I would argue that the players who, in recent times, have replaced Corluka and Dunne are individually
better players, yet have not replicated this as a collective unit
thus far - something that, on the evidence of the statistics so far, needs to be the issued rectified if we are to seriously contest for that fourth spot.