A rare outbreak of positivity at Aston Villa over the last month is suddenly being suppressed by a lingering unease that they aren’t quite free of relegation danger, a suspicion supported by their Betfair odds to go down shooting in from 19.0 to [7.2].
Though Villa have averaged over a point per game under Tim Sherwood and have an FA Cup final against Arsenal to look forward to – in which they are [3.95] to prevail – the distance between them and the drop zone is only two points. Here’s why they remain wary despite having a decent run-in…
The unforeseen Leicester and Hull bounces
Whenever your team are just above the bottom three, the easiest source of reassurance is to remind yourself that the sides below are even worse. However, Hull and Leicester are proving to be more competitive than most assumed, with the Tigers climbing above Villa with successive wins and the Foxes able to do the same if they follow four straight victories with a point or more against Chelsea.
The precedent for pre-Wembley wobbling
Hull were tenth last January but closed the campaign in 16th, with the bulk of the damage inflicted between winning their FA Cup semi-final and contesting the final, as they collected one point from five matches. Wigan were restricted to one league win in five during that period the year before as they drifted into the Championship. Even a club as mighty as Liverpool lost their two home outings in this timeframe in 2011/12 to West Brom and Fulham, and Villa clearly can’t afford such a slump.
Their dream fixture list getting a little trickier
Three of Villa’s last four encounters are at home and they have no top-six opponents remaining, yet there is cause to believe that at least two will be tougher than they first envisaged. Next opponents Everton – who they haven’t beaten in eight attempts – are unexpectedly one of the division’s form teams, while final hosts Southampton have been invited by labouring Liverpool to snatch fifth. Fading West Ham have still done enough to defeat Villa’s relegation rivals Sunderland and hold QPR, so aren’t a complete pushover, and Burnley have lost a mere three in ten against bottom-seven foes.
Their form not actually being all that
The Sherwood effect might have Villa fans looking forward to a second trip to Wembley in six weeks, but it has only delivered four points from their past five Premier League matches, which is less than Hull, Leicester and QPR in that spell, and equal to Sunderland, who have a game in hand on them.