Aston Villa have had a horrendous start to the Premier League season, gaining just five points from their first 14 games – but what does history tell us about the seriousness of their situation?
Optimists will say there is obviously still a long way still to go, and in recent seasons both Sunderland and Leicester City have shown that a dramatic late scramble for points can get you out of trouble after a poor start.
However, it’s worth noting that Leicester had twice the amount of points after 14 games last season than Aston Villa currently have, so their position was at least a little less daunting.
In fact, Villa are the 15th team in the last 10 years to have failed to reach double figures in points at this stage of the season – and only four have avoided relegation.
No team in that time has had less than the five points Villa currently have after 14 games, but the two who previously did (QPR in 2012/13 and Sunderland in 2005/06) only went on to win another 30 points between them in the remainder of their campaigns.
Aston Villa will, though, prefer to focus on the four teams who did manage to turn around an atrocious start to secure survival. The good news is that it can be done. The bad news is that it takes something very special.
As the above breakdown shows, for teams to recover from a similar start to the season that Villa have suffered, you essentially need to suddenly morph into a top-10 team for the rest of the season.
It’s tough to predict exactly what Villa need to do between now and May to get out of trouble without knowing how many points will be needed to finish 17th or higher. However, history can offer a clue.
The days of 40 points being the magic total for survival are long gone. Only once in the last 10 years has a team needed that many points to avoid relegation, and that was Wolves in 2010/11. The season before that, however, just 31 points would have seen you safe.
Over the last decade, the average points total needed to stay up has been 36. To reach that total, and all it would do is give them a chance, Villa would require 1.3 points per game for the rest of the season.
That’s still just about manageable. Teams have done it before to escape. It’s actually no better than West Brom have managed so far this season, so it’s not time to press the panic button just yet.
However, the next six games will probably define Villa’s season. They have what looks like two very tough games coming up against Southampton (A) and Arsenal (H) but then three huge clashes away at relegation rivals Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland in the next four. A home game with West Ham is the other.
That gives them a great chance to get points on board whilst also hitting their rivals’ hopes too.
They also, though, highlight the urgency that their situation demands. Anything less than six points from those six games – and remember that would represent a remarkable upturn in form for a side who have managed just five points in the previous 14 – and their situation worsens in terms of what is statistically required.
Perhaps even more worrying for Villans wanting to draw inspiration from Leicester and Sunderland’s recent escapes, both of those clubs had 14 points after 20 games, while Wigan in 2011/12 had 15, and Wolves had 18 in 2010/11. Therefore, anything less than nine points from the next six games will leave Villa requiring an unprecedented effort to escape relegation in the second half of the season.
Great escapes have been a feature of the Premier League in the last two years and time may appear to be on Aston Villa’s side.
But history certainly is not – especially if they don’t manage to effect some serious improvement absolutely immediately.