With hopes of promotion now forgotten, I see no reason why the season should peter out in cruise control. There may only be nine games left of a largely underwhelming and disappointing season but Villa should already be focussing on the 2017-18 campaign.
From being the Championship’s worst form team by losing five consecutive matches, the team is now the league’s top performer, having amassed twelve points from the last fifteen on offer. This see-saw change in results can be viewed as a barometer of the progress we are making. There is a more positive atmosphere amongst fans and a belief that we can genuinely beat any team in this division. I’m sure that I’m not the only one wishing that there were twenty-nine games left instead, to see where we may end up.
That is why these remaining fixtures are vital. They should be used to gain further experience and ideally build confidence to give us the best possible platform to enable us to hit the ground running come August. There are signs that the players are starting to gel and become accustomed to Bruce’s style of play.
Looking at the league table, the biggest reason for Villa’s transitional season has been the away form. Hopes that dropping down a division would bring about a change in fortunes on our travels have proven unfounded. Instead, we have picked up a paltry three wins away from Villa Park. Not only that, we’ve netted eleven times in these fixtures and even bottom club Rotherham United has scored more.
Our home form has been strong and our defence has conceded the sixth fewest goals in the division – befitting of a team in the top six. We have the fifth top scorer in Jonathan Kodjia who needs two more goals to become only the fourth player since Dwight Yorke to hit fifteen league goals in a season. We also have the league’s top two players in assists made – Adomah and Houriahne (although his time at Barnsley accounts for most of the latter’s tally). We have a squad capable of withstanding a full season with only minor surgery required. We have a manager who, after a difficult start, seems to be getting the team heading in the right direction.
It is important that the players don’t down tools now. They must give the fans something to cheer about and keep the momentum going so that next season is looking rosy.