There’s a gap opening between the bottom side in the league and the teams directly above them. Life at the foot of the table is worrying for everyone, but it’s beginning to enter a full-on crisis situation for Aston Villa.
An almost unbelievably bad six points from 16 games – only three draws and one win – has left last season’s FA Cup finalists propping up the table. Having bagged only half the points that their closest colleagues in the top division have managed to secure so far this season, Villa seem to have already played their trump card – they sacked Tim Sherwood in October in order to bring in Remi Garde to captain the ship of the doomed.
Garde is a very well thought of coach, a man who laid the groundwork for the success that Lyon have enjoyed over the past few seasons under Hubert Fournier, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir and Samuel Umtiti coming to the fore as quality players who will probably move on to bigger and better things than Ligue 1’s ‘best of the rest’ in the next few seasons. Garde built a side at least partially capable of holding its own against PSG – as we saw in 2014/15 – and did it at a club that had to sell its best players in order to stay afloat financially.
It sounds familiar doesn’t it? Aston Villa may not be in particularly dire financial straits at the moment, certainly not nearly as bad as Lyon, but they have lost three very good players over the summer. ‘Concrete’ Ron Vlaar, lost to injury, Christian Benteke, lost to Liverpool, and Fabian Delph, lost to serpentine greed. And Garde has been charged with getting them out of it using a group of young and talented French players.
But it’s hard to imagine a chalice more spiked with poison than than that of the Villa job at the moment.
Villa are playing so badly, they are so low on confidence and they are so far behind the rest of the league at this point that it’s difficult to see them beating the drop. Instead of attempting to avoid relegation, the remainder of the season is starting to look like an attempt to beat Derby’s record-low points haul! Surely Villa can manage six more points from now until the end of the season? Surely… It might come to a point where Villa will no longer be playing to win and will simply be playing for pride.
It would be a sad end to a long stretch of Premier League football – the club hasn’t been relegated since 1987. But in all honesty they have flirted with the drop for the last few seasons.
The irony is that Villa, for the moment, need to make up eight points in order to stave off the drop. Admittedly their goal difference might necessitate even more points than that. But Tottenham are still considered title contenders even though they’re nine points behind Leicester.
That’s not a double standard. It’s just a simple fact that teams at the bottom of the table seem less likely to win games – that’s why they’re at the bottom of the table – whereas teams at the top seem more likely to win. The idea of Spurs making up nine points doesn’t seem ludicrous, whereas the idea of Villa making up a gap of more points than they’ve even managed to earn so far makes it that bit out of reach. Proportionally, it’s the equivalent of Spurs having to make up 27 points.
That, too, is the wrong calculation, things aren’t that dire for Villa, and a run of confidence-breeding wins could see them become very competitive in the relegation battle. After all, seven points is cut to one after only two wins. But it does illustrate the size of the mountain that Villa have to climb. The gap at the bottom of the table is now starting to look very difficult to bridge.