Premier League record goalscorer Alan Shearer has made a stunning comparison between Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion, suggesting the pair are worlds apart in their approaches. The two teams are both in the fight for European football this season but the Villans have a healthy six-point lead on the Seagulls heading into the November international break.
Unai Emery has now led his side to 13 consecutive home Premier League victories, including six to start this campaign. No Villa side has managed to win their first half-a-dozen matches of a new season since 1932, emphasising just how spectacular the success of this team is. The achievement sounds even greater when you consider Villa were seen as relegation candidates just 13 or 14 months ago.
“That’s a sixth successive league game that they’ve scored three or more goals in," Shearer said on Match of the Day 2. "They’ve only made eight changes to their starting lineup – they’re in Europe so they’re playing on Thursday, playing at the weekend – when Brighton have made 48. When you compare that, Emery obviously has them really fit and they’re playing really, entertaining football," Shearer said.
Another round of international fixtures has come at just the right time as the Villans have seen their squad stretched, just as Shearer alludes to. Injuries to key players Tyrone Mings, Emi Buendia, Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno haven't helped their case, either, but Emery's desire to keep calm and carry on has been highly successful – and very different to Brighton's motion.
Roberto De Zerbi has made a point to make numerous changes to his starting lineup every match in a bid to give his players optimal rest. What may not make as much sense, however, is the decision to swap goalkeepers Jason Steele and Bart Verbruggen so often. The same could be said about the centre halves as Igor Julio, Jan Paul van Hecke and Adam Webster all rotate to play alongside Lewis Dunk.
Villa's continuity compared to Brighton's isn't the only factor that has contributed to the six-point gap between the two clubs but it's bound to have made a difference. The 6-1 victory at Villa Park will have done the world of good, too. But, as is the nature of the Premier League, Brighton will likely fight their way back into the fold at some point and so Villa must be ready to respond.