Norwich City v Aston Villa: Improvement under Gerrard can reward away backers

Norwich City v Aston Villa: Improvement under Gerrard can reward away backers

City strapped in for an arduous end to campaign

If Norwich are to make a run for Premier League survival, it could come so late that it is likely to be posthumous, and it’s all but over with a price of 1.261/4 in the Relegation market . Saturday’s 0-1 loss to Manchester United means they are without a win in their last four.

While Tuesday’s fixture is not quite the “Dean Smith derby”, this is a fascinating match-up as the Canaries at least displayed a bit of steel against Ralf Rangnick’s team. However, the lack of attacking threat is a huge problem, and it always will be. The new manager appears hamstrung by the fuzzy thinking of the summer recruitment, a plan designed for Daniel Farke, that now bears absolutely no relevance to Smith, and a process now that appears in panic.

To highlight the difference in approach, Norwich produced 61 winning presses against the Red Devils – their highest figure all season. Under Farke, the average was 42 at home.

Smith has a growing injury list. Grant Hanley will be out for the “foreseeable future” with a shoulder injury, Andrew Omobamidele will also miss Tuesday’s game with a back problem, he’s expected back after Christmas and Mathias Normann and Christoph Zimmermann are not training yet, but Smith is hopeful that both Ben Gibson and Normann will recover in time. Christos Tzolis is out due to Covid.

The Norfolk club remain bottom on ten points with just a solitary home success all season.

Gerrard impact has been immediate

In a short space of time, Steven Gerrard has given Aston Villa fans hope, hope that appeared to be dwindling under Smith with every loose defensive performance. They were always good for conceding a goal on his watch weren’t they?

Liverpool fans must have been reflecting with the Don McClean song that “I’ve Grown Old Missing You” after seeing him back at Anfield for the first time since his playing days, but the former legend managed the occasion well, and try as hard as he did, the focus was all on him, so it will be a nice distraction to get back to business as it were.

It doesn’t’ take a genius to work out Villa have improved immensely in the five games – winning three and losing two (against Manchester City and Liverpool.

According to Jake Osgathorpe in this week’s column, the Villains are one of the warmest sides on the xG model. Under Smith they had a process of 1.66 GA, where as Gerrard has turned that around to just 0.97 GA. Individuals have improved, and they are certainly running harder with increased tackling stats.

The set-up at the back was a marked change for his first game in charge against Brighton, and he has utilised a formation not too dissimilar to the one from his Rangers ‘Christmas Tree’, although it can be divided as five defensive players and five attackers. Harder to beat was the mantra, and it’s worked.

They are priced at 2.1211/10 for a Top 10 Finish and now a massive 30.029/1 for Relegation.

Two plucky draws for Norwich against Wolves and Newcastle preceded their most two recent defeats against Manchester United (1-0) and Spurs (3-0), so I am not too enamoured with the price at 3.259/4 for a home win. They’ve also got a dreadful record against Tuesday night’s opponents and have lost six of their last seven Premier League games against Aston Villa, with the exception being a 2-0 home win in December 2015.

Gerrard’s men look a reasonable price here at 2.3811/8, as on my tissue and predicting the price, I would have gone from a very conservative 1.9520/21 to 2.1011/10, so when there is a differential, it makes them a bet.

It might pay though to wait and be patient with an in-play dart, as 76% of Aston Villa’s top flight goals this season have come in the second half of games (16/21), while Norwich have netted a league-low three times after half-time this term.

Norwich have never won a PL game on a Tuesday before (D4 L11), with only West Bromwich Albion playing more games on a specific weekday without victory in the competition (32 on Tuesdays). It’s a quirky stat, but it’s been a real boon in League One this season for layers of Wigan – as they just cannot buy a result on a Tuesday either.

The hosts still have the worst home record of all teams in the Premier League with just five points from eight games. At least four have come from the new man. But it’s a figure that gives us confidence to back an away win.

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On Saturday at Anfield, Villa failed to manage a shot on target in a league match for the first time since December 2019 against Sheffield United – which is obviously a worry for those that want to get involved with the Over 2.5 Goals on Tuesday evening at 2.1411/10 – the bigger price of the two. Under 2.5 trades at 1.845/6. In five games under the new Villa boss, they’ve hit three from five on the former, but the game plan for Liverpool will be inconsequential compared to Tuesday night; a match they are expected to win.

It must be remembered Liverpool had scored in 25 Premier League matches prior to the weekend, and comparing two attacks is like facing a Kalashnikov to a water pistol.

No team has scored fewer than Norwich’s eight goals in the Premier League this season and I am happy to play on the Under 2.5.

Emi Buendia returns to Carrow Road for the first time since leaving in the summer, and the reception might not be as warm as Gerrard’s at Anfield. Who knows? He starred for Norwich between 2018-19 and 2020-21, and was the Canaries’ leading chance creator (83) and assister (7) during the PL season.

His creativity has left a huge hole and void, and Temmu Pukki’s game has suffered most certainly. I like having a go at laying the shortest priced striker, and while the Finn has five this term, Norwich’s meagre tally of just five at Carrow Road leans me to take him on at around 2.47/5 as a lay.

A more ambitious lay would be Josh Sargeant, who appears to still be getting to grips with the pace of the league. Often caught in possession, the 21-year-old played a lot deeper v United on Saturday. At around 4.03/1 to score at anytime should be higher, but it’s too big to lay for me.

Villa striker Danny Ings has scored in all three of his Premier League games against Norwich, doing so in September 2015 with Liverpool and in both of Southampton’s games against the Canaries in 2019-20. He came on at Anfield with 15 minutes remaining, but he could provide the clinical edge here for a Sportsbook Betbuilder punt.

Ings and Villa to win 1-0 pays a whopping 18/1 for the double.