Changing of the Seasons
From a Aston Villa point of view, being top dog in the form table for the month of September, calmed the storm clouds that was building above Steve Bruce
It was vital to get points on the board against teams that should be beatable for an expensively assembled squad. Villa moved up into the play-off spots, for the first time since being relegated.
The cynical though, suggested tougher games would come in the following couple of months against fellow teams with promotion and play-off aspirations. Plus, there was the small matter of a couple of local derbies to take care of.
The transition from Summer to Autumn has been as smooth as Villa would have liked though.
In terms of October, the international break reduced the number of games played. In September, most teams played six games, while this time it was four. With Villa’s Wednesday match against Preston falling into November, they only played three.
If Villa win at Deepdale, they would only be the 10th form team for the past four weeks in the division, which gives you some context to how quickly fortunes can change in a month.
Villa loss against Wolves and picking up only a point against the Blues, while far from fatal has dented the momentum they started to gather the month before.
Villa are still obviously well-placed, but they now have new challengers for the play-off spots and above. Most notably in the shape of Derby County, who finished the month as October’s form team, winning all four of their fixtures.
Derby have impressively beaten both Leeds and Norwich away from home, and as a result now leapfrogged Villa into fifth in the main table.
Championship Form Table for October 2017
Another expected challenger at the start of the season, Middlesborough, have also moved back above Villa, after finishing the month with the fifth best form in the division.
Struggling at the start of the season, Boro are the only team with a squad that is valued above Villa’s in terms of transfer fees. They also still have the clot to invest in the January window, if they fancy their chances for promotion.
One place above them for October form was QPR, who have beaten both Wolves and Sheffield United in consecutive home matches. Both visitors were top of the league before they arrived at Loftus Road.
QPR now move into the top-half of the league table proper and it will be interesting to see if the double victory will act as a spring board for any play-off ambitions.
November could be the month that determines whether Villa will be an automatic promotion contender or just a play-off team.
There’s five games (including three at Villa Park) that they could win:
Preston (A), Sheff Wed (H), QPR (A), Sunderland (H), Ipswich (H)
Villa still have just to find their stride, so you can’t feel comfortable about saying they’ll see off any team convincingly.
It’s time for Bruce to move up a gear (or two) though.
If Villa can finish top four or so in the November form table, going into the crazy Christmas period of seven games between December 1st and January 1st, we can all go into the new year, with a rare feeling of optimism.