We're nearing the end of another miserable Premier League season. It began with a realistic hope that Villa could crack the top half and hit its nadir (thus far) with a dreadful loss to Hull City. But after this weekend's four-goal thrashing of Sunderland, things are looking up a bit for Aston Villa.
It's still a bit early to start looking at all of the possible scenarios mathematically (Aston Villa alone still have 19,683 possible outcomes), but we can take a broader more general look at the remaining teams in the relegation battle. We're going to work our way down, starting from Everton. As much as I'd like to say that I think West Bromwich Albion are still in the thick of it, I'm pretty sure they've assured themselves of safety this year. I'll try to keep these short, but feel free to ask questions in the comments. I'll be around!
Everton - 7 W, 10 D, 12 L; -5 GD; 31 points
Like West Brom, they're probably safe. The 3-0 over Newcastle this weekend likely does it for them. If we assume that the guaranteed safety line this year is 36 points (and I think it may actually be lower), they need only a win and two draws or two wins. Sure their schedule has some bumps on it, but beating Sunderland at home should be easy and they'll definitely get a win somewhere in QPR, Swansea, or Burnley.
The only issue I have is that Everton can disappear for long stretches, and if they somehow haven't made themselves safe, those last two weeks are tricky.
Hull City - 6 W, 10 D, 13 L; -11 GD; 28 points
Well that run-in stinks. Only one match against another relegation contender, and five against top-seven clubs. They um... they might be this year's Norwich. If you think back, the Canaries finished last year with Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. I think on skill that Hull are not one of the league's bottom three teams, but it's hard to see them getting more than five or six points from this run. They're very much in danger here.
Aston Villa - 7 W, 7 D, 15 L; -19 GD; 28 points
Matches remaining: Swansea, at Manchester United, at Tottenham, QPR (postponed), at Manchester City, Everton, West Ham, at Southampton, Burnley
God this is so hard. Do I take Aston Villa's body of work from this season as a whole, or do I just look at what has happened since Tim Sherwood took over? We all thought that Villa were a lot better than they were playing, and my gut instinct is that what we've seen from Sherwood is closer to their true talent level. But, let's be pessimistic for a moment, because if we can do that and still come up with 36 points, I think we can all breathe a bit more easily.
Pessimistic predictions for Aston Villa:
Losses: at United, at Spurs, at City, Everton, West Ham, at Southampton
Wins: QPR (more on them below), Burnley
That puts Villa at 35. That might make it this year, but 36 would make me feel more safe. But, I don't think Villa get absolutely nothing from the Everton/West Ham/Southampton trio. Maybe Southampton is a loss, but I'd be shocked if Villa didn't get at least two points from Everton and West Ham.
I think we'll be safe, but the wild swing this team has undergone makes me so damn unsure.
Sunderland - 4 W, 14 D, 11 L; -20 GD; 26 points
Matches remaining: at West Ham, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, at Arsenal (postponed), at Stoke, Southampton, at Everton, Leicester, at Chelsea
Bye Gus Poyet! Thanks for the 0-4 victory that leap-frogged us above you AND helped us get our goal differential under (over?) -20. And now you've left a team in shambles. They have won only one league match in 2015 and against Aston Villa they looked as if they deserved every bit of the four-goal beatdown that they got.
Worse still is the fact that they don't have a very nice run-in. It's not as bad as what Hull have, but it's certainly not fun. And ending the season on a road trip to Chelsea with relegation possibly hanging in the balance (as the Blues triumphantly crown themselves league champions) is not good. If they survive it probably won't be because they did well, but rather because others did worse.
Burnley - 5 W, 10 D, 14 L; -21 GD; 25 points
Matches remaining: at Southampton, Tottenham, Arsenal, at Everton, Leicester, at West Ham, at Hull, Stoke, at Aston Villa
Well that win against Manchester City certainly made things interesting. Lose that, sit at 22 points with nine remaining, and I think Burnley are dead in the water. 14 points from nine matches was going to be a tall order for them. 11? That's doable. Not easy, though. Leicester looks like a win, and Hull may be reeling by the time Burnley visit. At that point they'll need to pick up an unexpected result or two. Maybe if Villa have safety secured by the last day they'll be exhausted from the run-in and be a win.
Queens Park Rangers - 6 W, 4 D, 19 L; -22 GD; 22 points
Matches remaining: Everton, at West Brom, Chelsea, at Aston Villa (postponed), West Ham, at Liverpool, at Manchester City, Newcastle, at Leicester
It is so hard to see QPR surviving. For them to get 13 or 14 points from their last nine would tough regardless of the circumstances. But have you seen their road record? In fourteen matches, they have one win, zero draws, and thirteen losses. They have taken 7% of the available points on the road. And to end the season they have five roadtrips.
Sorry, QPR. It's not happening. I'm assuming you lose every trip you take, and even if you don't I can't imagine you get anything from the Chelsea, Liverpool, and City matches. I'd almost be surprised to see QPR break 30 this year. Enjoy the Championship and good riddance.
Leicester City - 4 W, 7 D, 17 L; -20 GD; 19 points
Matches remaining: at Tottenham, West Ham, Swansea, at Burnley, Chelsea, Newcastle, Southampton, at Sunderland, QPR
Screw these guys. They've got Jamie Vardy and a bunch of other players who decided to try and punch above their weight and get chippy with Aston Villa. I wanted to like the Foxes this year, but it turned out that I hated them. They've got a bunch of winnable matches left, but they've proven that winning matches is something they do very infrequently. Even if I'm generous, I can't get them up to 35 points, let alone 36.
What do you think? Have I underestimated anyone? Given a team too much credit? Let me know in the comments!