Many had Aston Villa down as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion from the English Championship. Along with the likes of Stoke City and Leeds United.
Among the three of us, Leeds are sitting in the second spot and looking good to go up. Whilst we’re six points outside of playoffs and Stoke are closer to the relegation zone, down in 17th.
We certainly fell short under Steve Bruce after missing out on promotion last season when we were beaten 1-0 at Wembley by Fulham in the playoff final. This season started with just three wins from our opening 11 league games before the former-Manchester United centre-back was relieved of his duties in early October.
These results turned us from being among the favourites to long shots in the English Championship Odds for promotion. Our odds are currently as long as 20/1 with 15 games to go, such is our predicament.
After a slow start under Dean Smith, with two defeats in his first three Championship matches, things started to pick up from November. We managed four out of five wins, which included 3-0 thrashings of Derby County at Pride Park and Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
However, we’ve only recorded two wins in our 11 matches since, dropping back down to mid-table. Middlesbrough, Bristol City and Derby County, all in or around the playoff spots, each with a game in hand, are 6-7 points above. Though realistically, we should still finish above the Rams who don’t look so consistent under Frank Lampard and are due to tire with their FA Cup run which has already included a replay and extra-time. We host the Rams in three weeks’ time.
For us to get back into the top six we need to start turning draws into victories immediately. This needs to happen as early as Wednesday when we’re at bottom-half side Brentford. Currently, we have drawn a league-high 14 times from 31 matches this season.
Could Friday night’s thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United light the fire among the squad that is much needed to get back among the promotion contenders? The Blades were heading for second place in the Championship with a 3-0 lead in the final 10 minutes at Villa Park before goals from Tyrone Mings, Tammy Abraham and then Andre Green four minutes into stoppage time rescued a dramatic and unlikely point.
Our team needs to build on this and what better place to do it than at Griffin Park when the boss takes us to the club he left to join us back in October?
Too reliant on Abraham?
However, we’re becoming too reliant on Abraham’s goals. The Chelsea loanee has 20 goals in his 25 Championship starts so far this season campaign, whilst Jonathan Kodjia is next on the charts with six. Centre-back James Chester is our third top scorer with five.
Unless we can get more goals from the likes of Jack Grealish, Anwar El Ghazi and Albert Adomah then we could come unstuck against the top sides and in the crucial games.
Crucial games against West Bromwich Albion (home), Stoke City (away), Derby County (home), the Second City derby at St Andrews, Nottingham Forest (away) and Middlesbrough (home) follow immediately after. Being eliminated from the FA Cup in round three can only a good thing if we’re to come out the other side of this run of games in or around the top six.
As everyone knows, a couple of consecutive wins in this division changes things immensely and should we pull a few off during our tough run of games over the next month then we’ll certainly be back in contention…