Let's get the obvious out of the way first: there is nothing good about losing 1-4 to Stoke at Villa Park. Remember, this was a Stoke team who had not managed a road win since August. This was a Stoke team who had taken only 7 of the available 45 points outside of the confines Brittania Stadium. A Stoke side who were, with the exception of Cardiff City, the worst in the league when traveling.
So yeah, the loss was terrible and -- quite frankly -- an unacceptable showing. But if we're willing to zoom out a bit and look at the larger picture, the loss doesn't really change anything. We know that Aston Villa are a club who will inexplicably not show up from time to time. We know, too, that they are a club who are capable of beating literally some of the best team's in the world. They sit nine points clear of the drop and there are a lot of teams in significantly worse positions between them and the bottom three.
The Stoke match sucked, but it doesn't really mean anything in the larger picture. There is a very real chance that 34 points could be safe, and an even more real chance that 37 does the trick. But everyone knows the line teams should strive for is 40. Villa will get there. To think that they won't manage six points in their final ten matches is to assume that Villa will put on one of the worst 10-match stretches of any team in the league this season. This club is not that bad.
Safety is assured, which means we can look at other things. For instance, Aston Villa's last three matches. February saw Villa lose three matches (including one to West Ham, for heaven's sake) and draw one. If I had told you on March 1 that Villa would have six points from Norwich City, Chelsea, and Stoke, you'd have absolutely taken it. Villa did just that. In fact, in that time they scored six goals and gave up five. A three-match stretch with Chelsea in the middle and they still improved their goal differential? Again, you would have taken that.
And in that stretch, we saw three goals from Christian Benteke, and a goal apiece from Leandro Bacuna and Fabian Delph (the latter of which will very likely be Villa's goal of the year). Six goals in three matches (18% of the season's total) after a February that saw them score one in four.
The Stoke match didn't represent this club's true talent. Neither did the Chelsea match, to be honest. But it's worth bearing in mind that this is no longer really a club in danger. It was a miserable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but the Stoke affair shouldn't change what we really think about this team.
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