The Last Five Aston Villa Results Compared to Last Season’s Equivalent
In a new column we’ll be looking at comparing Aston Villa results after every five games to the equivalent games last season, as a way of charting the progress that Paul Lambert will hopefully be making with Villa.
Villa’s first five games of the 2013/14 season looked very menacing, especially with Benteke’s transfer uncertainty and the addition of several players that needed time to gel. While many fans expressed understandable anguish at the fixtures generated by the Premier League computer (and David Moyes though he had it bad!), others felt it was the best time to play the big teams – even if it did mean reliving some of the heavy defeats of last season.
Overall, it’s been a decent start to the season, certainly in terms of performances, starting with Arsenal and Chelsea, while mixed performances at home to Liverpool and Newcastle were more disappointing. Villa’s clean sheet and win at Norwich was pleasing though, and while 6 points from 5 games might not sound stellar, how does it compare to the meetings last season?
Aston Villa results from first five games with last season’s corresponding result in brackets
Arsenal (a) W 3-1 (L 2-1)
Chelsea (a) L 2-1 (L 8-0)
Liverpool (h) L 1-0 (L 2-1)
Newcastle (h) L 2-1 (L 2-1)
Norwich (a) W 1-0 (W 2-1)
Points difference compared to fixtures last season – + 3
Goal difference compared to fixtures last season – +10
Goals scored – 6 (5)
Goals conceded – 6 (15)
It was frustrating to see Newcastle repeat recent history with a 2-1 victory but the results show definite signs of improvement. There’s been a noticeable tightening of the defence, shipping only 40% of the goals Villa did against the same teams last season. A narrow loss to Chelsea (complete with a dodgy decision) was very much in contrast to the 8-0 thrashing received last season.
Five games into last season, Villa had 4 points, taken from an away Newcastle draw and a win against Swansea at home. While Villa might be displaying a few of the defensive issues seen last season, there’s no doubt that in these early stages signs have been promising.
If you want to see how bad Villa were last season, check out the next five games. If Villa lose them all, after the first ten games, they’d have accrued the same points as when they played the corresponding teams last season.
Manchester City (h) (L 1-0)
Hull City (a) (w 2-1 – comparing Hull to Reading)
Tottenham (h) (L 4-0)
Everton (h) (L 3-1)
West Ham (a) (L 1-0)
Certainly it’s a tough start to the season, especially at Villa Park. It’s not going to be easy with Christian Benteke missing most of these fixtures, but any points in the next three home games will be an improvement on last season’s form. It’s kind of essential that they do. Villa surely can’t be left in a situation where they’ll have lost their first five home games. Can they? Come on Lambert! UTV
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So ten games in now (after away draw at West Ham). I’m going to substitute in Wigan for Hull, instead of Reading, because Hull seems like the strongest of the newly promoted teams (I’d also substitute QPR for CP – even though QPR looked much better on paper, their performance was dismal, and Reading for Cardiff).
So from last season, changing the Reading 1-0 away victory to the Wigan away 2-2 draw, we had one point, scored 3 and conceded 11 for a -8 GD. This season, from the corresponding fixtures, we gathered 5 points, still scoring 3, but conceding only 6, for a -3 (which is also our overall GD now).
Even if we left it as Reading being the substituted fixture, we were 3 points from 2 for, 9 against, so -7. Thus, by using this comparison method, we’ve improved 2-4 points and improved our goal difference by 4 or 5.
Using another comparison method, after ten games last season, we were 2-3-5 for 9 points, with a -6 GD (8 for, 14 against). I like this comparison method because it offers a chance to take into consideration how the team progresses through a season, as players gradually get to know each other. Again, we’re slightly ahead of last season’s pace at 11 points. Still five losses, but this season three wins and two draws instead of the reverse. On goal tallies, we’re 9 for, 12 against now, which is one more scored, 2 fewer given up, and 3 better overall.
So, either way we look at it, there is much to improve on, still losing half our matches (in the end, we improved on that slightly last season, finishing with 17 losses rather than 19), and still conceding more than we score. Nevertheless, it appears that we are a slightly better side than last year (and aside from the first 30 minutes against Liverpool, and lackluster performances against Newcastle and West Ham, I think we look better too), with 11 points and a -3 goal difference, which is better than 4, 6, or 9 points with a -6, -17, or -18 goal difference (depending on comparison method).
Of course, playing better in the first ten matches, whether marginally or remarkably better, does not guarantee that we will continue to stay ahead of our own curve. We’ve got to play 28 more games, and anything can happen. A lot may depend on what happens in the January window. If Lambert can acquire a playmaker (or two) to marshal the attack and break down opposing defences, our home form could dramatically improve, and we could see a clear top half finish. If he does not, we may be in a comparable position to where we finished last season, dependent on other teams’ failures to stay up. UTV!
I always start the season with a sense of optimism, even when the most unpopular Villa manager EVER was appointed (personally, I was impressed at how big his balls must have been to take on a job where he knew he’d have an uphill battle from the very beginning. Yes that season was dour, and we didn’t perform, but I never had any doubts we’d be relegated.
Last season, I was ever more optimistic to have appointed a popular young manager, with lots of potential and an impressive first season in the premiership with Lambert. I was excited by the Solskjaer talk, but in the end was pleased with the appointment of Lambert, and intrigued to see how his new, and unheard of, untested “young and hungry” signings would perform.
Yes, last season was difficult, and yes, most of us had to entertain almost unthinkable prospect of relegation. I live in Asia these days, and so I don’t often get the chance to go to Villa Park any more. The only game I had the chance to see was Southampton at home. I was very disappointed with what I saw, and I feared the worst. Nevertheless, in the end we improved enough to avoid relagation, and the second hald of the season showed considerable more promise than the first half. I was still nervous that we’d get relegated, right up until the time Wigan’s doom was confirmed. The important thing was that WE SURVIVED, and our young team gained valuable experience.
Even without our new signings, out team has improved from what it was last season. Admittedly our defence is still shaky, especially with Okore’s unfortunate season ending injury. I have faith the both Clark and Baker can become Villa legends in time, We shouldn’t forget that they’re still pretty young by defender’s standards, and have plenty of time to achieve their potential. I like the look of our new signings so far, and think that as the season goes on they will gel and improve, as the team as a whole did at the later half of last season. Keeping hold of Benteke was obviously a huge bonus, and we’re all looking forward to his speedy recovery, but even without him for the next few games, I retain my optimism in this team and this manager to achieve progress.
Obviously, we’d all like to be challenging at the very top of the table, like we were under the (almost) glory years of O’Neill. Personally, and I know I may be in the minority here, I’ll always have respect for what O’Neill almost achieved at Villa, despite his well documented flaws and mistakes We have to be realistic however. We are rebuilding after some… difficult times. I have faith that we will return to our rightful place, in time, but for now, we have to walk before we can run. I have no fears about relegation this season, and I am convinced that we will do better this season (I’d be pleased with a solid mid-table finish), and continue to build on that in seasons to come. UTV!
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