‘Villa had overcome a poor start and poor December period to be exactly where they wanted to be’
What Really Cost Villa
There’s been a lot of recent autopsies on social media of Aston Villa’s failure to be in the final fight for the automatic promotion spots (they are now 100/1), sparked by the local media bemoaning Aston Villa’s poor start to the season and a poor December period.
Yes, both of these factors contributed to Villa not being able to go toe-to-toe in battling it out for the title with Wolves, but in terms of automatic promotion, they are not to blame.
Fulham had experienced a slower start to the season than Villa, and Cardiff City lost four on the trot over the Christmas period.
Villa boss Steve Bruce was often quoted making light of Villa’s early league positions, saying he didn’t look at the league table, until the daffodils come up. Basically, implying that the final few months are the business end, when Villa’s destiny would truly be settled.
“I always say when the daffodils come up the tickly bit starts” – Steve Bruce
As late as February 16th 2018, Villa were in second spot in the league table. Their victory at Villa Park against the Blues, earlier in the week, had put them in the auto promotion places for the first time since they were relegated.
The feeling was Villa were primed for the run-in with injuries clearing up, and that the likes of Cardiff City would fade.
Championship League Table: 16th February 2018
So, in short, Villa had overcome a bad start and poor December period to be exactly where they wanted to be.
In the end though, Bruce’s team would be left eating his own words due to what happened in the daffodil months.
“I always say when the daffodils come up the tickly bit starts,” said Bruce, last season. “And teams who have gone along so well all start getting a bit twitchy!”
Some supporters have spoken about the ‘twitchy’ form after the 4-1 Wolves win being the downfall, results that included losses to QPR (H), Bolton (A), Norwich (A) and a draw against Hull (A). It certainly was, but you can legislate for the odd slip-up away from home, simply due to the slog of the number of games.
Most Costly Two
The reality is you can pinpoint Villa’s ultimate failure down to two recent home results: the draw against Preston and the loss to QPR. Both cost Villa dearly. These were two games the promotion-seeking side were big favourites to win. Both were poor performances by the home side and the visiting teams didn’t particularly play extraordinarily.
If Villa had won both of those two home games, as they were expected to, then they would currently sit second in the league, by one point, with two games to play.
Of course, if’s and but’s are just that, but, yes, that’s all it would have taken. With that in mind, it’s a maddening dropped catch by Bruce and the players.
The losses against Bolton and Norwich, would have been no big deal, ala the one win in seven at the start of the season and the December collapse. Villa could have absorbed all such adversity and still be in pole position for automatic promotion, heading into the final two weekends of the season.
The fact that Fulham are currently 22 games unbeaten and that a newly promoted team like Millwall could go 17 games unbeaten, prove the standard of the Championship isn’t all that, if you get your act together and remain focused.
Villa still have the play-offs, but the club will seriously kick itself, if it doesn’t get promoted this season.