Well, we're officially on the downhill side of the season. The transfer window is closed and latched, and there's no turning back now. Last week, we took a look at what everyone thought of the moves made by Gérard Houllier and Randy Lerner in the window. The consensus was approval, with some room for improvement.
But now it's time to look forward to the rest of the season. With the easiest stretch of schedule we've had all year coming up, what can Villa achieve? Can they build on the momentum that was evident before the Tuesday loss to Manchester United, or will they crumble as a result of falling 3-1?
This week's question: How do you think Villa fare with the rest of the season? Where in the table does that put them when all is said and done?
As always, be sure to leave your answers in the comments below!
Aaron: I'd say the most realistic position would be somewhere between 10-12, with an outside shot at falling somewhere below that and a slightly better shot at finishing a few spots into the top half. It's important to consider the context of the situation Villa are in at the moment; yes, we're 14th, and that certainly doesn't feel like the position a club capable of pushing for the top eight would find themselves in at this point in the season. But Villa are only five points out of 8th at the moment, with one of the easiest slates of remaining games in the league and a few teams ahead of them whose form has been slipping as of late. The club has been playing much, much better the past month or so and if we see those performances continue it wouldn't be out of the question to see them take a whole lot of points down the stretch. The table is still ridiculously tight between spots 7 and 16 and at this point it would not at all surprise me to see Villa pull an Everton and ride a strong finish to competition for Europe towards the end. Again, I don't think that's the most likely scenario but I think it's far, far more likely than any serious relegation concern.
Like Kirsten (note: see below) I really want to see what Houllier can do given a better idea of what he has in-house and an entire summer transfer window to work with. I don't think he's in any real danger, but if things fall apart towards the end then it's anyone's guess. A strong finish on the other hand seems like it would not only assure his position but make further investment by Lerner a bit more likely, perhaps even an addition similar in magnitude to that of Darren Bent. Obviously the last three-plus months of the season aren' likely to be as tense and full of tangible meaning as the past few years, but Villa are finally playing some entertaining football and there's still a lot of youth that needs development getting a fair bit of playing time. We might not be pushing for the Champions League this time around but there's still a lot to play for.
Gareth:I don't fear the drop as much as I did when January started. As we've said over and over, we've got some exciting new players, and we're still learning how to play football under Gerard Houllier. I would imagine that the squad is not finalised yet, and there will be some comings and goings at the end of the season. After all, this is a transition season, as evidenced by how many kids we've had to chuck into the lineup due to injury or severe lack of talent*.
When the year's over, I think Villa will be on the lower end of mid-table, around where we are now. I don't think the consistency is there to put a good run together, especially considering how this club has had a bad habit of underperforming in the spring. As for our remaining cup competition, I don't think we'll win it. If Notts County eliminates Manchester City in their replay (which they won't do) we'll have a good chance of beating them. However, another appearance in an FA Cup semifinal is a big ask, and I don't think it will happen. Which is for the best, really.
Kirsten: To be perfectly honest, I'm just waiting for this season to be done. I want to see if Aston Villa keeps Gerard Houllier and I want to see what he can do in the transfer window. This season has given me a taste of what it's like to be a midtable club and quite frankly, I'm not too thrilled with it. I still love watching Villa but there's no real push for anything right now. I'm pretty sure we're going to finish right around the middle and while that's better than relegation, it's also not very exciting. But where we'll be next season? That has the potential to be very exciting indeed.
Robert: I was tempted to say I can see a European spot in our future, but I did a bit of calculating and I'm not so sure now. I looked at the rest of the schedule, and came up with 24 points in the league. There's some room for improvement there, but I also may have been optimistic on some other matches. So let's call it a decent guess. 24 points would put us at 52 for the season. Over the last four seasons, 52 points has averaged to approximately 9th place. Not quite Europe, but hey, given where we were, it doesn't seem too bad.
And I think I like that 24 point prediction, so that's where I see us ending up. 52 points and either 9th or 10th place.