Let’s start with three truths.
- Aston Villa are in a particularly precarious situation where relegation is more likely than safety.
- It will take a little bit time for Rémi Garde to figure out his best XI.
- Villa will need to take as many points as possible off fellow relegation strugglers in order to make a push for survival.
Think about those three things.
A few days ago, before Everton smashed Aston Villa 4-0 at Goodison Park, each of these things were true. And today, three days after the defeat, they’re all still true.
But here’s the thing: Saturday’s result says very little as to whether the Claret and Blues will survive or drop.
Look, nothing that happened in Liverpool three days ago was particularly inspiring, perhaps aside from figuring out Carlos Sánchez needs to be an ever-present in the starting XI. Villa have no healthy left backs — Kieran Richardson isn’t a defender — and the urgency of resolving that situation is evident. The only healthy senior left back under contract is Joe Bennett, who hasn’t been getting match time at Bournemouth and isn’t eligible to play for Villa until January even in the event of an immediate recall.
It was a hapless performance against, quite frankly, a much better side.
But it’s far from a reason to suddenly panic and act like the sky is falling.
Let’s go back to those three points from earlier and start at the top. In order to reach the 40-point mark, generally considered enough for survival, Villa need 35 points from their remaining 25 matches. That’s a tough ask, especially for a club that has one win all season. Realistically, the best way to grab 35 points is through 10 wins and five draws — just 10 losses.
It’s particularly hard to see that happening either way, to be honest.
But if there was an expectation the trip to Goodison Park was going to net points, it was an irresponsible one in the first place. Everton have, quite frankly, had Villa’s number recently (when they’re not bored at the end of the season) and they do sit seventh after all, with just three losses this year.
There’s a reason they sit where they are in the table.
Of course, there’s Garde needing time to figure out what he’s got at B6, and that process will probably continue to take the next few weeks. There’s nothing wrong with a bad team selection from a manager trying to feel things out and he learned Saturday that Jack Grealish, Carles Gil and Ashley Westwood in a lineup without Sánchez is simply too light-weight to compete at this level.
That’s one valuable bit of knowledge gained.
Most importantly, however, is the third point: That Villa need to focus on winning six-pointers, with anything like the draw against Manchester City a bonus.
Let’s take a look at Villa’s next three fixtures:
Watford (h), Southampton (a), Arsenal (h)
We’ve got a little stretch here that’s a mixed bag. Watford are a club Villa should be beating at home and, quite frankly, need to. A strong, focused performance could see a vital three points in the first true six-pointer of the season. The Hornets do sit 11 points above the Villa on 16, but it’s hard to imagine them pushing much past 40 before the end of the campaign.
On the whole, however, the stretch gives three more opportunities for Garde to evaluate the squad before the most crucial four-match run the club have faced in a long, long time.
Newcastle (a), West Ham (h), Norwich (a), Sunderland (a)
Villa will travel to three bottom-five sides in the run, with a home match against West Ham, who have been perfectly mediocre against bad teams, in with a chance to boost the morale. If Garde’s men can pick up points here, it’s got a chance to pull them out of the drop zone just after New Year’s Day.
The five matches after that give further chances to bolster Villa’s position.
Crystal Palace (h), Leicester (h), West Brom (a), West Ham (a), Norwich (h)
Once more, another run of five winnable matches. Leicester will have presumably cooled down by then and there’s no other match on this list you’d walk into saying Villa can’t win.
Through the latter nine of that run, let’s say the Villa can win four and draw another two — adding up a draw this weekend against Watford would move Villa to 20 points with 13 fixtures remaining. An extra win somewhere along the line, certainly obtainable, would further boost the position, giving Villa more than a fighting chance headed into the warmer spring months.
None of what happened against Everton doomed Villa to the drop.
The road is every bit ahead of Garde and Villa as it was a week ago.
Let’s not lose sight of that — because one match doesn’t succumb a club to the drop, nor does one result lift a club above the red line.