After seeing the below table do the rounds on Twitter last night, it was too good not to get a mention here. Yes, folks, when it comes to socking to the ‘New Sky Four’* Aston Villa are the best team in the land.
In a nutshell, plucky performances and decent results against the current top four teams has pretty much saved Villa from relegation this season. In contrast, the team have been punching well below their weight when it comes to playing the teams in the bottom half and middle of the league. Certainly, any calibre of team has been able to turn up and pick up points at Villa Park. It hasn’t been pretty, but our record against the top four is a promising silver lining to build on.
In any given season, in terms of ambition, Villa should be in the same bracket of Spurs, Everton and Newcastle, able to challenge the top teams on their day and also be in for a sniff of a cup or Europe.
Over the past couple of seasons, when I’ve mentioned the Spurs comparison, there’s always a few fans that will say Spurs are out of our league. Yes, they’ve enjoyed better recent times than Villa, but that’s only very recently. For all the Gareth Bale-funded additions to their team this season, their current position in the league is mainly down to being able to consistently beat the weaker teams of the league.
If you want to know why Spurs have bottled a top four challenge once again this season, you only have to look at the below table of team’s records against the top four. Spurs have picked up just one solitary point.
Contrast that to Villa’s 10 points, and you could almost start dreaming as a Villa fan, that if we could just take care of the teams in the bottom half, we’d be pushing for Europe.
For Villa to beat the weaker teams in the league is a realistic goal, for Spurs to leave the dents on the Top Four that Villa have done is arguably a tougher task.
Villa’s chief problem is they are just too god damn random – able to beat the top of the league and then lose against the bottom, the next week.
The reality is of course, Villa’s 10 points against the top brass have been vital in lifting us out of a relegation mire.
Villa obviously operate better as a team when they are being dictated to, which is normally the case, when playing the top four. This gives Villa the chance to play to their strengths of their potent counter attacking threat under Lambert. It’s not in the ego of most of these teams to show constraint when playing Villa, thus it leaves them open. Manchester City’s visit to Villa Park was the best example of that. They were almost naive in losing 3-2.
Brendan Rodgers played a much cleverer game when Liverpool visited earlier in the season. He put the shackles on his full backs and it reaped rewards with a disciplined 1-0 win.
Villa’s no fear approach to the top four isn’t just limited to just these 10 points, there could have been more, if Suarez hadn’t dived to complete a 2-2 comeback and Villa had more of the rub of the green with ref decisions at Stamford Bridge.
Villa are the only team out of the 16 to boast a positive goal difference against the top four, an impressive statistic considering there’s been seven games played. They’ll obviously need a positive result against Manchester City, the only game left where they face a top four team, but you just never know with Villa.
While there is much for Paul Lambert to do in terms of tweaking his team and making them consistent, the very fact they’ve done so well against the big boys, shows the scope and potential this Villa team may possess. UTV
* ‘New Sky Four’ is basically Liverpool replacing Manchester United