Aston Villa are out of the relegation zone, but has their darkest period passed? Michael Lintorn investigates…
Victory over West Brom pushed Aston Villa three points clear of the bottom three – at least until QPR and Burnley play – and they prevailed in the most euphoric way with a last-gasp penalty.
They have drifted to 2.8415/8 to be relegated, yet is it premature to believe that everything will be rosy from now onwards? Let’s look at both arguments…
WHY DEFEATING WEST BROM MARKED LIFT-OFF
They have a dream home finish
Sherwood has targeted five more victories and it isn’t ridiculous to wonder if they could achieve them all at Villa Park, where little-to-play-for mid-table floaters Swansea and West Ham, underperforming Everton and worse-off-than-Villa QPR and Burnley are the remaining visitors.
This is kind of Villa’s thing
In each of the previous three campaigns, Villa were largely rubbish and dusting off the Championship ground guide but eventually scrambled their way to 38-plus points – why will this be any different? They had a point less than their current 25 after 28 matches in 2012/13, yet won five of their final ten to climb to 15th.
There are plenty of alternatives
Six teams are averaging less than a point per game and Villa arguably possess more quality than Hull, Sunderland, QPR, Burnley and Leicester. Sherwood has bossed 25 Premier League fixtures, but Chris Ramsey, Sean Dyche and Nigel Pearson are all new to this too, with weaker point tallies and squads.
WHY DEFEATING WEST-BROM WAS A ONE-OFF
Their atrocious away form
Though Villa placed higher in the away league table than the home edition in the past three seasons, they can no longer rely on their road record bailing them out if they under-deliver at the occasionally toxic Villa Park. The strugglers have lost six in a row away, all to nil, netting two in 12 on their travels.
The distraction of the FA Cup
If Aston Villa beat West Brom again on Saturday, they are in the FA Cup semi-finals and juggling that excitement with a relegation scrap is a precarious task. Finalists Hull managed a mere four points from their final eight games last term and Wigan went down while winning the trophy in 2012/13.
They’re not prepared
In amongst Sherwood’s many more quotable recent remarks snuck this slightly troubling omission: “We’ve got a group of players who are not really suited to a relegation battle.” Given that the manager has never coached a club in this position before, that universal inexperience is concerning.