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Aston Villa can improve hugely in the first half of the season

If we look at corresponding fixtures, Aston Villa can put a lot of distance between themselves and last year's team in the first half of the season.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Last season I introduced the corresponding fixture table. It was a good way for me to keep track of how that Villa squad was doing in comparison to the one from the season before. I've decided to keep track of things again, so I figured I might as well write about it, too.

The concept is very simple: take a look at how Aston Villa did in a particular match last season and compare it to how they did this season. For instance: In their trip to Stoke last year, Villa lost 2-1 and thus got zero points on the day. When they open the season at Stoke in a couple of Saturdays, we'll be able to see if the team did better, worse, or the same.

Ultimately, all that really matters is the total points gotten from a contest, but since it's nice to keep an eye on other trends, I've also tracked the difference in goals scored and allowed. You can see this year's table by clicking here, and I will be updating regularly throughout the season. For the sake of comparison, I've had to substitute the three promoted teams for the three relegated ones. I went ahead and made Norwich City into Leicester City, Fulham into Burnley, and Cardiff into QPR since I figured that 1st in the Championship was roughly analogous to 18th in the Premier League and so on.

Now, there is the big caveat that really this doesn't matter that much. None of the squads are exactly the same and none of the conditions are the same. Last season is not a predictor for this one. Nevertheless, it's a good way to keep tabs on things and far better (to my mind at least) than comparing Week 1 results to Week 1 results.

So, what can we see from this year's version? Well, Aston Villa have a massive opportunity to improve upon last season in their first half this time. If the club play their first 14 matches exactly the same way they did last season, they would only get 10 points. It's really hard to only get 10 points from 14 matches. A 2-5-7 record is absolutely terrible, but it would still be an improvement.

If you extend the sample to the first 20 matches of this season, the corresponding matches only netted 15 points. That's .75 points per match! Go 4-4-12 over that opening and the club are still better than they were in those matches last season.

Of course, there is the flip side. In the matches that correspond with their final 18 this year, they got 23 points. Now, that's hardly a fantastic rate, but it's head and shoulders above what they did in the other matches. But this stretch includes the (if we're being honest) quite shocking wins at Arsenal and against Chelsea, so unless the club is improved, that 23 points seems unsustainable.

What's the take-home from all of this? Villa desperately need to have outdone themselves by the time they travel to Leicester City in January. The good news is that it shouldn't be too hard. Getting a point or more from trips to Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Swansea should be doable. And while a repeat of Villa's shock win over Manchester City at Villa Park seems unlikely, it seems equally unlikely that they won't pick up three points elsewhere where they had nothing last year.

The real thing I take from this is just how atrociously bad the club were last year. I can't imagine anyone genuinely thinks that a healthy Aston Villa are only good for 38 points. This isn't a good club, but if they can avoid injury I suspect we will see a lot of green on the corresponding fixtures table as the season progresses.