Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Why Villa WILL stay up

As a Birmingham City fan, I'm not going to enjoy making this claim, but I firmly believe that Aston Villa will be playing Premiership football next season. A lot of the more ego-orientated Blues fans would quite happily take some comfort from watching Villa struggling and squirming in the relegation zone, whilst we're drawing with Huddersfield near the bottom of the Championship. I can't say that I don't enjoy watching Villa losing, but if you had to offer me a prediction as to whether Villa will go down or stay up, I would just about say they'll stay up. And here are some reasons why:

Every relegation-threatened team goes through a run of defeats

I like Match of the Day, but the one tiny thing that annoys me sometimes are the pundits. They can never see the bigger picture, or make bold predictions. I don't think I've ever seen a MOTD episode when a team is in the relegation zone and has lost that Saturday, where the pundits predict they'll stay up. 

Almost all they seem to do is analyse the movement and positioning of players, which might be interesting, but most of us well-educated football fans could understand it anyway. When a player/team is playing well, they mention it. When a player/team is playing badly, they mention it. Yet every team that stays up in a season, inevitably goes through a time when they're in the relegation zone.

I accept that Villa's defending has been woeful lately, but people who say they'll go down simply because of a few drastically bad results, I think are losing sight of the bigger picture and how Villa were doing before this bad run. 

Vlaar is returning

In my opinion, it's no coincidence that Villa have started to go on this terrible run of form at a similar time to when Ron Vlaar got injured. He is such a key player for Villa's defence, because he provides them with so much experience. In the 14 Premiership games Aston Villa have played with Vlaar in their side, they've conceded an average of 1.6 goals per game. In the 8 Prem games they've played without him, the average is 2.5. 

1.6 goals per game conceded still isn't an outstanding defensive record, but it certainly dictates a vast, noteworthy difference. It seems strange to put down the failures of a team down to 1 injury, but the experience Vlaar provides, in my opinion, is invaluable, as the stats suggest.

When he fully returns we can expect to see a change in fortunes for Villa, he made the subs bench for their match against Southampton- a return for him looks imminent. They only lost to a wrongly-awarded penalty last week, albeit in a match they should have won, so if they continue to leak goals after Vlaar returns, then I'll think about predicting Villa's relegation.

The team has potential- when the confidence is there

It seems strange that exactly a month ago, Villa won 3-1 at Liverpool and Christian Benteke put in a wonderful performance. It might only have been one match, but it suggests to me that the results the young Villa players get are related to the confidence cycle. When they have the confidence, they can demonstrate fantastic ability, win games and the confidence grows.

But when a result goes badly against them, they lose their composure, organisation so they lose more games and the confidence goes. They may be stuck this vicious cyrcle at the moment, yet one can't help but think that if they win a game, the confidence will come flooding back.

In the next few weeks, they can reach the Capital One Cup final against League 2 opposition- they only have to beat Bradford 2-0 and they'll probably have a trip to Wembley on their hands. If they win that, I would expect the confidence to grow and they can beat Newcastle or West Ham at home, and then who knows? They could even win the cup! I feel that it would take just one result to go Villa's way, and the confidence would then escalate.


At the moment, Villa are clearly trapped in a vicious cycle of confidence and results, but they have some winnable matches coming up. One good result against West Brom, Newcastle or West Ham, all of whom are struggling for form at the moment, would turn the tide. Given this, and perhaps some experience in January, Villa could be several points away from relegation and Carling Cup winners in 6 weeks time. Very few would be tipping them for relegation then.

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