Aston Villa now face a testing end of season run-in with 13 games left of the season. There has been more talk this season following the appointment of ex-Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish in June 2011.
Following Alex McLeish’s appointment a small section of Villa fans protested against the decision but fan were urged to give him a chance to prove himself.
The first third of the season was a real chance to hit the ground running and they were a great set of fixtures for any manager. Aston Villa’s first real test came on the away trip to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium; Villa went down 4-1 in the fixture exchange between the two sides.
The Manchester City game was always going to be a tough vist for many teams and it brought to an end of Aston Villa’s unbeaten record in the Premier League this season. During this first third of the season Aston Villa managed to notch up 2 wins and 5 draws.
It has been Aston Villa’s 2nd third of the season following the Manchester City game that has been their mixed bag of action. Following the game away the Etihad Villa lost their local derby the next weekend when they welcomed West Bromwich Albion to Villa Park resulting in a 2-1 defeat for Villa.
West Bromwich Albion hadn’t won at Villa Park in the Premier League in 32 years but it wasn’t the score line that was the talking point surrounding the game. Chris Herd was sent off during the game but was later rescinded at later date and also Shane Long suffered a knee ligament injury which left Shane Long out for 6weeks.
The next weekend Aston Villa travelled up to Sunderland and were thinking they would have won the game with a 85th minute header from towering centre-back Richard Dunne. Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon scored from 6 yards out following Sebastian Larsson’s free kick to equalise though.
Aston Villa picked up a valuable 3 points at home against Norwich at Villa Park; the game finished 3-2 in favour of Aston Villa. This home victory was Aston Villa’s last and currently stands as the last time Aston Villa have won in the league at Villa Park.
Aston Villa had to wait till December 10th for their next three points in the Premier League when they travelled to Bolton Wanderers; they subsequently won this fixture 2-1. This victory yet again came in the middle of a purple patch in form. Following the Norwich win Aston Villa lost to Spurs, drew away at Swansea City and then lost to then Premier League champions Manchester United.
The Manchester United game was a very one-sided contest which was marred by an array of injuries including Villa’s Shay Given and loanee Jermaine Jenas going off in the first half of the game. Manchester United never really had to do much they passed the ball around the pitch like a training ground exercise. Manchester United managed to dominate possession during the game with 56% during the game.
Aston Villa found themselves losing 3 games at Villa Park during December, the Manchester United defeat was followed by defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Arsenal. Even though Villa lost against Arsenal who have been a team of unpredictable turn of results. On a cold Wednesday December evening at Villa Park were unlucky not get something from the game. Aston Villa looked like they would get a share of the spoils of the game until Yossi Benayoun put the visitors ahead in the 87th minute.
Following a poor start in December, Aston Villa finished 2011 on a high – managing to obtain a point away from Villa Park with a Boxing Day fixture away at Stoke City; a ground which is notoriously a difficult place to get points. Aston Villa then pulled off an upset and won on New Year’s Eve away at Chelsea with an impressive 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
Aston Villa’s started 2012 poorly with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Swansea City, in between the next Premier League fixture Aston Villa started their FA Cup campaign with an away win at League 2 side Bristol Rovers. The game took a while to get started but Villa took the lead late into the 1st half and ran out 3-1 winners and were rewarded with FA Cup 4th round trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal.
Getting back to Premier League campaign Aston Villa were held at Villa Park to a 1-1 draw by Everton. Aston Villa fans had received a positive acquisition in the form of Robbie Keane, Keane was somebody that Aston Villa had been linked since his 1999 when he played for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Keane was introduced in a cameo appearance in front of the Villa faithful but with the shortage of pitch time Keane was unable to make an impact.
Robbie Keane scored twice to steer Villa to a 3-2 win away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Keane’s celebrations were somewhat muted out of respect on return to a former employer. Robbie Keane’s joined Villa on temporary loan deal during the MLS pre-season break and would feature in all of Villa’s 6 games.
Robbie Keane will be playing his last game from Aston Villa before jetting back to America and link-up my LA Galaxy teammates on Saturday against Wigan Athletic. Since joining Aston Villa Robbie Keane has played 5 games with 1 substitution appearance during this time Keane has contributed 3 goals and has helped the team with link-up play. Keane has managed to complete 151 passes out of a total of 183 giving a pass completion rate of 83%.
Richard Dunne has been a prominent figure with the Villa squad this season. Dunne has contributed the most from the defence with a staggering pass total within his own half of 503 and with 452 being successful giving him an accuracy of 90%. Dunne’s impressive figures don’t stop there, Dunne has managed to make 60 tackles and winning 48 of them, won 73% of Aerial Duels compared to that of Ground Duels where Dunne has only been able to complete 64%.
Aston Villa’s captain marvel Stiliyan Petrov has been driving forced from the heart of midfield making a colossal 1044 passes and managed to successful find intended targets on 871 times this works out to an accuracy 83%. Petrov has enjoyed most success with his passes going forward: 48%.
Currently Aston Villa find themselves sitting worryingly closer to the relegation zone, only 7 points above it in fact and have got to face two clubs that are actually in there. It has been a familiar place for both Wigan and Blackburn throughout the season and recently both teams managed to score wins. Wigan beat Bolton 2-1 at the Reebok Stadium and Blackburn beat QPR 3-2 at Ewood Park.
Both Villa’s upcoming opponents will go into the game feeling positive. The question is what have Villa have in store to put the brakes on this new found determination.
An area for concern is Aston Villa’s defence following the inability to cope with set-pieces. Villa currently stand bottom of the Premier League table conceding the most goals from corners and failing to score from them. Villa have conceded 11 goals from corners alone this season (via SkySports.com).
Comparing Aston Villa’s like for like table standings at the same time last season
As you can see that Villa have improved on their defence but are on exactly the same points.
What is required at the Villa to turn the clock around during the transitional period at Villa?
So where do you believe Aston Villa will finish come May 14th?