Following the return of Premier League football, Aston Villa have managed just two points from four matches. Sitting in 19th place, the club remains deep in the relegation mire and look in serious danger of returning straight back to the Championship.
With 6 games remaining but only goal difference separating the club from safety, can fans justify remaining hopeful of an escape which their form this season scarcely warrants?
The obvious answer would be no, on the evidence of their performances in recent weeks, but there have still been flashes of brilliance which leave room for optimism.
Villa’s performance in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, for example, was very encouraging having taken a lead into half-time. In a similar vein to much of the rest of the season, lapses in concentration allowed Chelsea to score two quick-fire goals which cost the team any share of the points. Despite this, Villa did go toe-to-toe with a Champions League team and must take this as clear evidence of the potential that remains within the squad. Time is of the essence of course, but if a similar performance could be reproduced against ‘lesser’ sides it would give Villa a fantastic chance of picking up the victories they sorely need.
Unfortunately for Villa, their next two league games are certainly not against weaker sides with a trip to Anfield at the weekend followed by a home game against an in-form Manchester United. The team must hope they can continue to overperform against the elite teams and confound expectations which leave them at 2/7 to be relegated in the Premier League betting.
Perhaps there is also hope that having already been crowned champions, Liverpool may take their eye off the ball. As for United, whilst they appear to be making rapid improvement they are still a side which has lost eight league games this season and Villa must back themselves to cause an upset. Failing that, the club may find themselves cut adrift with just four league games remaining.
If Villa can remain in contention going into their final four games, there will be much greater room for hope with Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and, most importantly, fellow relegation rivals West Ham standing in their way. The first three opponents all have their own strengths but as they will be unlikely to have anything left to play for, Villa must hope they can pick up vital points with some of their opponents having one foot on the beach.
A final showdown against West Ham stands out as a potential relegation-decider and Villa would certainly be delighted if they’re still in contention on the final day. Currently, West Ham sit just outside the relegation zone on the same number of points as the Villains but with a precious game-in-hand. Their form, however, has also been extremely poor and Villa must hope for that to continue. If they can reach the last day with the possibility of safety in what would effectively be a relegation play-off, Villa would still have their fate in their own hands against a fellow struggler.
Despite the current malaise making room for hope difficult for the Villa faithful, the fine margins separating the club from safety must give the squad and management the belief to keep persevering and fighting to rediscover their form. One moment of inspiration could be all it takes, one victory could provide the platform for a final season push for survival. With talents like Jack Grealish and John McGinn on the books, the club can still be optimistic despite the odds.
Come on you Villa!