Aston Villa has had a very lackluster season and it’s a season that in my mind is going to end in relegation. They are a side that is in serious trouble. After announcing near £54 million losses last month, the team now sit just 8 points outside of the relegation zone. For any team this is not an ideal situation to be in, but safety should be more than manageable. We must remember though that THIS is an Alex McLeish-led team, a team led by a man who inspires absolutely no confidence at all. The Villa supporters have a right to be upset since it was just a season ago he oversaw the relegation of their rivals Birmingham City. The only difference between this season and last is that the teams at the bottom of the table are much worse off. Through 29 games with City McLeish mustered a mere 31 points and the team languished in 19th place, a single point ahead of Wigan. This season Villa have managed to put up 33 points through 29 games, which may be an improvement, but certainly not what fans were expecting.
Or maybe they were expecting this the way they protested before the opening game of the season? Are fans of Aston Villa clairvoyant? No, they just knew a bad situation coming when they saw it.
Things have been in a bit of a decline at Villa since the departure of Martin O’Neill. After three successive 6th place finishes, they slipped a bit last year finishing 9th in the league, their lowest since ’06-’07 when they finished 11th. But being in the top half of the table, especially for a club like Villa, is a completely respectable position to finish in. Half of the league would be thrilled to end the season in the top 10. But after a series of unfortunate health related events that forced Gerard Houlier to quit managing, Villa were in a transition period. The hiring after Houlier was a crucial one and the higher ups at Villa got it absolutely wrong. Alex McLeish is a perennial underachiever as a manager who has had most of his success coaching one of the top two teams in Scotland. Even when he was manager at Rangers the fans couldn’t wait for him to leave. The few successes he has had as a manager are outweighed by some of the astonishingly awful runs of form he puts his teams through. Take last season for example, a league cup win for City coupled with a heartbreaking relegation on the final day of the season. These are the sort of trends that have defined Alex McLeish’s career.
I feel confident in saying that Aston Villa are going down at the end of this season. It might be a bold prediction but they’re definitely not as well off as some may think they are. They have a tough end of the season with home games against Chelsea, Stoke, Bolton, Sunderland and Spurs. Their away fixtures don’t get much easier with trips to Liverpool, Man United, West Brom & Norwich City. Just last season McLeish’s side threw away a five point lead with five games to go, so Villa fans should be feeling queasy with an 8 point lead and 9 games to watch it disintegrate. The Villans have also picked up McLeish’s nasty little habit of losing their strikers. The only proven help Gaby Agbonlahor has up front the rest of the season is the corpse of Emile Heskey. Add in the fact that Blackburn are making a strong push away from the drop and Wigan appear to be on their yearly escape run, the one team that could be keeping Villa out of the drop is Bolton. Personally I would tip Bolton to make an inspired run at the end of the season and secure their safety. You never want your season to come down to how another team performs, in football you need to make your own luck or you’re never going to survive.
At the end of the day if Villa does go down it’s going to spell disaster for the club and Alex McLeish will have succeeded in taking down both members of the Second City Derby. Who knows, maybe if Roy Hodgson loses his job McLeish could go for a Birmingham hat trick and relegate West Brom as well. I guess a man can always dream.