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Despite being total junk, Villa on pace for best finish in four years

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Aston Villa have been unrepentantly poor for large swathes of this season, and yet they're on pace for their best finish since 2010-11.

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Let's do a little simple math, shall we? After 20 matches played, Villa currently sit on 22 points. That's good for 1.1 points per match. Extrapolate that number over the rest of the season and  you have Villa ending on 40.8, or 41 after rounding. That total would be enough to be Villa's best finish since garnering 48 points in the primarily-led-by-Gérard-Houllier 2010-11 season. (Quick reminder: in the three seasons before that, Villa averaged 62 points and hadn't finished under 50 since 2005-06.)

There are some legitimate bright spots on this club (mostly the defense), but I think we can all agree that even if there is a little bit of upside here, Villa are total junk. If you want to measure in terms of goals, they're terrible. Points? Pretty mediocre. Entertainment? Absolute bottom of the barrel. And yet, they're quietly pushing along at a pace that should see them reach the traditional safety line of 40 points in their penultimate match.

In the past, I've taken news outlets to task for poor usage of statistics. People love taking these easily digestible numbers and making the world out of them, when generally the sample sizes are too small to be all that meaningful. So let me make something abundantly clear here: these numbers are largely meaningless. As with so many other easily accessible statistics in football, their true usefulness lies in helping to affirm things that we've already intuited. In this case, that intuition is the fact that the Premier League is woefully bad this year. That Aston Villa can be on pace for their best finish since the halcyon (tongue fully in cheek, or maybe not) days of Gérard Houllier despite also being on pace to score only one more goal than the worst-ever Premier League team says everything we need to know.

Chelsea and Manchester City are legitimately stunning teams. Manchester United, Tottenham (?), Southampton, and a few more all look like contenders. But the depth for which the Premier League is renowned isn't there this year. As with last season, you've got ten teams in the bottom half who have all played badly enough at one point or another to "deserve" relegation. But there is a group within that group who are so legitimately bad as to make us wonder if the Premier League should consider contraction instead of relegation. Aston Villa may or may not finish with 41 points, but it hardly matters. In a season that is showcasing just how weak the Premier League can be, it would be surprising to see a club with 36 points, even, make the drop. Last year's line was 33, and all indications have this year being even worse.

So the statistics remind us of one other thing. Yes, Aston Villa are bad. But they are not worryingly bad. At least not yet. Another run like the one that saw us not win for almost three months would certainly change that. But right now, they're just a mediocre team who are slightly more resilient than a bunch of other mediocre teams. If you want excitement, start looking elsewhere.