Villa Red Alert
With only three points separating Aston Villa and Everton from the drop zone, the bottom of the Premier League table looks as competitive as ever. Bottom placed Leicester have showed enough grit not to be cut off and remain only three points from escaping the bottom three. At the moment, if you were a betting person, picking out the three to go down this far out is a tricky business and what happens in the rest of the January transfer window could play a big part; it’d probably be easier betting on the Cheltenham Festival in March. The big question is considering Villa’s issue with scoring goals, will they be in the relegation shake-up?
The Relegation Candidates
For Aston Villa fans looking at their side’s current form, a pressing thought might be whether there will actually be three teams worst than them at the end of the season. Of the nine clubs that are currently most at risk of relegation, Everton are perhaps the most surprising, given their form last season. With a team of packed full of quality, it would be more surprising still for the Toffees to end the season being relegated. A couple of wins in the next few weeks would soon turn their season around.
Both Crystal Palace and West Brom have recently appointed new managers and then immediately recorded victories. There are good reasons to expect that Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis can improve the positions of their respective clubs and record mid-table finishes. Both made their managerial changes at just the right time.
This leaves five teams below Aston Villa that are looking distinctly wobbly. Sunderland are showing some of the same problems that Aston Villa are in terms of their attacking play. The difference is that the Wearsiders are still showing an ability to grind out a point when facing the elite teams. That may be enough to see them finish ahead of Villa.
Burnley have had pretty much the opposite season to Aston Villa. They went ten games without a win at the beginning, but are now showing increasing signs of improvement. That’s a much preferable position to be in than starting off with a series of wins and then sliding into a funk. At the moment, Burnley are the team that looks more likely to achieve safety. They also have a manager who is up for the fight.
Hull City had a bright start to the season just like Villa. That now feels like a long time ago and it is difficult to choose between the two sides as to which is more likely to be relegated. When Villa visit Hull in February, the game could already be something of a six pointer.
Meanwhile, Queens Park Rangers face about as difficult a close out to the season as you could imagine. Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton and West Ham account for five of their last eight fixtures. This is going to make it extremely difficult for them to pick up the points they need to overtake Villa. Harry Rednapp seems to have lost his midas touch, so this is one team you’d expect to finish below Villa.
Finally, Leicester have struggled all season and currently know it’s going to be an uphill task getting off the foot of the table. They need consistancy. One week they beat Villa at home, then next they lose to Stoke. Maybe that says more about Villa than it does the Foxes?
One thing for sure though, they will need to pick up a few wins in the next couple months not to be cut adrift.
So, are Aston Villa a serious consideration for the Championship next season? Well, that’s why there was a demonstration from some fans this this. The threat is real. A team that has only gained 38, 41 and 38 points in the past three seasons is flirting with the an also inevitable outcome.
Firing blanks with only 11 goals in 22 games league games this season is the prime reason for concern. Could you imagine Villa beating Sunderland this season 6-1? Nope.
A new signing to give Villa genuine width would be a move in the right direction. A lot seems to be resting unfairly on Carles Gil’s young shoulders. He’s still a buy of potential rather than a player that is some one you can bank on, but the spark he could bring could be vital, since Lambert obviously doesn’t trust Grealish.
If service to Benteke is resumed, Villa should be – to quote Lambert -‘fine’, but it’s unlikely Lambert will be registering much more than that his previous Villa end of season points totals this time round.
If no points are picked up in the next two games against Arsenal and Chelsea, they’ll certainly be a big question mark hovering over Villa’s safety in the Premier League this season as we enter February.