For the first time in a while, it seems as if Aston Villa have a coherent plan to move forward — or at the very least a stated goal to push up the table. CEO Tom Fox told BBC WM a couple of weeks ago about the club's new plan; and his belief that Villa should be "finishing seventh or eighth consistently," something I wholeheartedly agree with.
But is it really feasible? It's nice to talk about it but what steps will have to be taken to get there? Is it logical? Do the finances work out? Where do they improve the squad? And what happens when Benteke leaves? These questions — and more — are ones I'll try to sort out this week as we see whether Villa's European goal is a pipe dream or potential reality.
Today we'll take a look at the basic — slightly naïve — view of whether or not their logic makes sense.
In short? It does.
Villa currently sit 12th in the Premier League table in advance of tonight's Stoke City v. Chelsea fixture — a Stoke result would see Villa drop a place. Regardless though, with 20 points through 17 games (and enough of those without Benteke!), Villa should be in a good spot to survive fairly comfortably and to stay mid-table. There's a good chance the Villans can play out the rest of the season and not fall below 13th in the table — it probably won't happen but they're good enough to do so.
So, we'll operate on the premise that Villa finish at or above 45 points this season with a mid-table, yet lower-half finish.
That brings us to next season. With a few signings and the continued progression of players like Fabian Delph and Jores Okore (it presumes the former doesn't leave the club which is kind of a big "if" right now but we'll assume it happens for the sake of the discussion), it's not inconceivable to think that Villa could take that step up north of the 50 point total and into the top half — a little bit of progress, the type you would expect from a young team continuing to make improvements.
The next year? That's 2016-17. Things could change a lot between now and then (*cough* ownership and Benteke *cough*) but let's assume we're operating in this slightly naïve universe in which we're not worrying about these things (we'll worry about the latter later on but probably not the former because, well, it changes everything). If Villa have more than 50 points the year before, it's not out of the question to think that the squad could push forward to the cusp of 60 points, vaguely pushing the European places for most of the year before finishing seventh or eighth — where Fox believes the club can be.
That puts Villa at least back in the conversation and in a spot where they can push on and get into Europe; exactly the plan. The logic is there and from a financial point of view, I think the club is inching closer to being self-sustainable as we talk. Darren Bent's ridiculous wages come off in the summer and perhaps that's enough to let the club spend a bit more moving forward — and as West Ham have shown this year, it just takes a couple of shrewd signings to elevate a mid-table side to challengers for the top four.
Ultimately? This is something worth pursuing — and not necessarily something to scoff at, something to dismiss out of the blue. It looks like it could be potential reality — but we'll see more as the week goes on.
Tomorrow, we'll come back and see where Villa could improve the personnel on the pitch and on the touchline to become more competitive and where they might run into issues. See y'all then.