If there was one consolation for Villa fans in this dreadful spell, it was that the clubs above us weren't stretching the gap beyond reach. Well, even that has gone out the window, as both Bournemouth and Newcastle, the teams joining us in the relegation zone two weeks ago, have both won back to back games against opponents they weren't supposed to beat: Bournemouth beating Chelsea and Man United, Newcastle beating Liverpool and Spurs. And since Villa face the Magpies this weekend, I asked Newcastle United Blog's Simon how his club have turned it around so quickly.
Newcastle was supposed to be the only team in the Premier League as bad as we were. But after beating Liverpool and Spurs in two consecutive weeks, you're all the way up in 15th. What happened?!
Simon: It's what a couple of wins can do but I don't think 15th should be described as all the way up there. We're still very much in the thick of it and need to put a run together to really think about pushing on rather than looking over our shoulders.
As for what has happened. Who knows? I think it's come as a surprise to most of us too to be honest. I didn't expect anything from Liverpool or Spurs so six points is a huge bonus.
I thought Steve McClaren was a goner, 100%. Not necessarily entirely his fault, but the results just weren't there, and I thought you were doomed with him at the helm. But again, the turnaround has been incredible. How much leeway has he bought himself with those two results? Would a loss to Villa put him straight back on the hot seat?
Simon: I'm not sure patience was too thin in the boardroom as we've shown a remarkable loyalty to managers, certainly Alan Pardew at least, at boardroom level.
But I always say it's unfair to push all the blame onto a manager. Of course it's partly their fault but players seem to get away with not giving a toss. Then again I guess that's football and it's easier to change a manager than it is to change a load of players.
What led to Newcastle's struggles in the first place? You've got a bunch of talented players in the squad, so was it a case of the lads not performing?
Simon: In the earlier games we seemed to be playing better football and dominating games without the results. I think this lead to a loss of confidence which put us where we are now. There are some who haven't performed and some who are past it and some who have never had it but a lot of our lads are young, new to the league so it was always unlikely that we'd come flying out of the traps.
In a way, Villa should take a bit of hope from Newcastle's revival. After getting soundly beaten by Palace 5 to 1 (I'm sure Alan Pardew made it even more painful) it was all doom and gloom at St. James' Park. But two wins, 6 quick points, and while there's obviously much work to be done, you've got momentum and things are looking up. Do you think Newcastle can keep themselves up after a horrible start?
Simon: Yes I think so. Obviously we've been in the position before but I do see more quality in this squad than we had last season and over time that will manifest itself. Or should do anyway.
You've gained as many points in the past two weeks as Villa have the entire season. There's no getting away from it, this is a do or die situation for Villa (even though we're probably already dead). It's a must-win, end of story. Is it the same for Newcastle, or do the recent results take a bit of pressure off this match?
Simon: It's still must win. Momentum is important. We're only two points above the relegation zone so can't afford to take it easy. If you'd have said to me a few weeks back we may get to Christmas with 19 points I'd have snapped your hand off.
You spent a bit of money in the summer bringing in Wijnaldum and Mitrovic, among others - do you think you'll be active during the January market? Any areas that particularly need reinforcement?
Simon: Lots. The centre of defence is one area and maybe left-back. We have the players at our disposal but need to get the playing in their correct positions. We have Florian Thauvin who hasn't really featured and we spent a lot of money on him but if we can get him performing that would allow him to sit wide with Moussa Sissoko or Georginio Wijnaldum dropping into the middle to give us some creativity.
Do I think we'll be active? Past history says that we're more likely to see players leave than arrive unfortunately.
After every week and every poor Villa showing, this question gets harder for people to answer. But here it is anyways: Which player from the Villa squad would you like to see on your own?
Simon: It's a hard one. Jack Grealish has talent but his attitude is questionable which is a shame. Out of all of them I reckon Scott Sinclair.
Our thanks again to Simon!