Going into January 2017, despite a stuttering end to 2016, Aston Villa still had a shot at promotion via the play-offs. It would take a decent January period of results, which the addition of new signings should only help in providing a solid foundation for an end of season push.
Most supporters expected three or four additions, if Villa owner’s early tweets addressing the January window were anything to go by. The prospect of fresh signings, as well as re-energising the club and addressing various shortcomings in the team, would also hopefully lift the games of those players who places were under threat.
The January window proved to be pretty dramatic with eight players in and eight players out. In the short-term, there were of course dangers it may unsettle the first team, but the slump in form that was to come, even by Villa’s standards in recent seasons, was quite unexpected.
In the past six games, only the hapless Rotherham have posted a worse series of results and that’s only by virtue of scoring one less goal.
The Villa Park Curse Returns
The one saving grace of Villa’s season that gave the team some hope was remaining the only unbeaten home team in the division. Throwing away a 2-0 lead against Preston seemed to open the doorway to the back-to-back defeats that followed.
While unbeaten for the early part of the season, Villa’s tendency to draw, pegged them back to having between the 4th and 6th best home form in terms of points. However, the recent results in the past month at Villa Park have seen the team alarmingly drop to be only the 12th best home team in the division.
A struggling Ipswich were the first victors at Villa Park, despite only registering a single shot on target – it was enough, against a team that squandered several chances. Then came Barnsley, whom Villa had bought arguably two of their better players off.
if Villa are struggling, the fact that teams with far less resources – Villa have spent more in the last two transfer windows than Barnsley have in their entire history – and form, have managed to pick up three points at Villa Park is head scratching stuff.
On paper at least, Villa’s team has looked solid enough, but the finger has increasingly pointed at manager Steve Bruce’s tactics. Has he been positive enough? Why has he failed so far to get Villa playing as a team? His reputation in past successful Championship campaigns after all is built on turning 11 players into a battling and cohesive unit.
The worst case scenario of an expensively assembled team trying to gel and find its flow, would be an equal mixture of wins, draws and loses. In short, a pretty average set of results, yet 2017’s offerings so far have been nothing short of shocking.
Along with Leicester City, Villa have the worst form in 2017 in all the four English football leagues. At least the Foxes have Champions League football to raise their spirits and offer up as mitigation.
Registering worst form than even Rotherham and a Zola-led Birmingham City, now has Villa supporters glancing over their shoulders at the relegation picture. Seven points seems to be a safe buffer zone and surely there are three worse teams than Villa?
Or are they? The fact that Wigan, who are currently in the bottom three, have won three out of their last six games suggests the teams in the lower regions are starting to wag their tail, realising what is at stake.
If Villa don’t find any momentum soon, then the unthinkable may become a reality and if these players don’t have the heart for a promotion push, then it’s unlikely they’ll have it for a relegation battle, as their confidence drains further.
The overall picture is worrying, that’s why, as the cliche goes, the Villa players must start to focus on each game at a time. That begins at Newcastle, a game they should still feel they can get a result from.
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