Seven wins in eight games, and only one goal conceded during those matches. Normally that would be promotion form, actually, league title winning form! However, Aston Villa still remain nine points away from a play off place due to two dreadful spells this season where the team won one game in 10 on two separate occasions, firstly over September/October and then over January/February. The second run in particular hurt a lot more due to Villa now being (fairly) close to closing the gap on their rivals. If Villa had just managed to pick up a couple of draws in that run, it would be paying dividends now and there would be more of a feeling that a playoff place could be in reach.
Unfortunately, its just ifs and buts…
On further reflection, I doubt that Villa would have gone on search an awful run if Jonathan Kodjia hadn’t been away at AFCON. His 18 goals this season, including seven in his last eight would have caught the eye of Premier League suitors. He has scored 41% of Villa’s total goal haul and whilst its great Villa have a reliable goalscorer, its becoming more evident as the weeks go on that without Kodjia, Villa don’t offer a threat. The January purchases of Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury have been steady, but both need to offer much more of a goal threat if Villa are to be promoted next season, which really has to happen according to CEO Keith Wyness. Villa’s investment has been significant, and its not secret that Villa can’t maintain their Championship status for too long.
The team is very settled at the moment, with Keith Wyness stating last week that he only expects to see ‘two or three new faces’, which should balance out Villa’s huge investment in the past nine months. Villa are craving stability at the moment, so if your cup is half full, its easy to claim that another season in the Championship wouldn’t be the worst thing for Villa. More time to bed in a new squad of players, and continue to put pride back into the club by going on long winning streaks, like Villa are doing now.
Villa are now going into games expecting to win, it really shows how confidence is crucial to winning football matches. There hasn’t been a huge shift in the type of play, but there has been in the mindset. The players are a lot more confident, and the best example of this is young goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone. His first 6 weeks at Villa were dreadful, and made several individual errors which costs the team points, this then led to a scared defence and midfield. Fast forward a month, and he is part of a team that has won 5 consecutive home games for the first time since 2009, has an assist and MOTM awards to his name in recent weeks.
With the season coming to a close, Villa have two Midlands derbies to look forward to, with a trip to Burton Albion on Saturday coming first. With Burton fighting for survival, Villa will have to be at their best to come away with three points!