Villa v Sunderland stats: Tireless El Ahmadi an important figure
Having come back to secure a point at the Hawthorns on Monday night Aston Villa continued their never-say-die start to the season to keep morale at the club at a high. WhoScored.com, who offer the largest online database for detailed football statistics, suggest why Paul Lambert's side should be confident come Saturday and highlight a player who could prove pivotal once again this weekend.
Now unbeaten in three Premier League matches, Villa will be confident of stretching that run when they host bottom club Sunderland. The Black Cats are the only Premier League team yet to win a match away from home this season and have lost each of their last five matches on their travels, failing to score in the last four.
This fixture last season will bring back fond memories for Villa fans, as Paul Lambert's young lions ran out emphatic 6-1 winners back in April and will be aiming to emulate that sort of performance on Saturday. The Villans will know not to underestimate their opponents, however, as that thumping victory was the first time the sides had been separated by more than a single goal since returning from the Stadium of Light with a 2-0 win back in 2009.
Sunderland were unable to keep a full compliment of players on the field that day and that's not been uncommon for the Wearsiders in recent times. In their last two league away matches Poyet's side have seen three players sent off, much to the dismay of the Uruguayan. The visiting fans will be wary then that they've seen one of their men receive their marching orders on each of their last three visits to Villa Park.
The Black Cats have still managed to take the lead in four of the last six league meetings away at Villa, but with Lambert's men having picked up more points from losing positions than any other side this season (7), there'll still be cause for confidence if the hosts were to fall behind again. In the current campaign Villa just don't know when they are beaten, and their battle when falling behind has been superb.
It's no surprise then that two of the side's statistically calculated strengths from WhoScored.com include 'coming back from losing positions' and 'stealing the ball from the opposition'. The man who ignited Villa's latest comeback was Karim El Ahmadi, and the Moroccan has certainly been key to the team picking up the latter of the two aforementioned strengths.
After a debut campaign disrupted by injury and international duty, the 28-year old has been a key figure for Lambert thus far, with only captain Ron Vlaar and keeper Brad Guzan making more league appearances (11). The hard graft that El Ahmadi has put in to force his way back into the manager's plans is there for all to see, and he's been a crucial ball winner in the midfield thus far.
Of all players to make at least five Premier League appearances this season only Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey have made a tackle more often than the former Feyenoord man (every 18.3 minutes). His average of 4.3 tackles per game thus far is a huge increase on the 1.6 he managed last season and there's little surprise that his WhoScored.com rating has rocketed from 6.41 to 6.98 in turn.
Elsewhere the tireless midfielder has proven as bullish and strong in possession as he is when attempting to win the ball back for the Villans. Indeed, of all midfielders to have started at least five matches in central positions this season only two (Frank Lampard and Mile Jedinak) have been tackled fewer times per game than El Ahmadi (0.4).
With just five Premier League sides averaging more tackles per game than Villa (20.8) and Sunderland (20) this season, the home side will need to be up for the battle this weekend. In El Ahmadi they have a man who has proven to be exactly that this season.
Find yet more statistics on Aston Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.