Aston Villa’s Champions’ League Credentials
Having the best home record this season of any club in Europe has gone a long way to seeing Aston Villa in fifth place and eyeing up the Champions League spots. Their record of 13 consecutive home league wins will certainly be stress tested when Arsenal and Manchester City both visit Villa Park in the space of a week, after the international break.
Regardless of results in those games, Villa’s home form potentially will remain Champions League worthy, but ultimately it is a team’s away form that needs to be formidable in a season to qualify for Europe’s top tier tournament.
Away Form Disappointment
Villa currently possess the 13th best away record in the Premier League, so has their home form been masking supporter sentiment to results on their travels?
‘A bad day at the office is how many Aston Villa supporters shrugged off the recent Nottingham Forest defeat. After all, Aston Villa haven’t been the first European qualifying team to be hoodwinked at the City Ground in the past year, despite controlling possession.
In Forest’s 1-0 win over Arsenal last season, Arsenal enjoyed 82% of possession, Steve Cooper’s men also beat Brighton 3-1 and Liverpool 1-0 last season, despite giving up 75% of the play in both games. There was plenty of evidence to highlight the trap into which Villa were walking into at the City Ground. The high line played out like Russian Roulette on the halfway line, making it vulnerable to Forest’s pace in transition. The way Forest set about trying to trigger it echoed Marcus Rashford and United at Old Trafford last season, or even at Stamford Bridge this season, although Emi Martinez saved Villa’s blushes on that day.
“If we want to play for the Champions League we have to be able to win any game – home or away,” Moussa Diaby said, after the Forest loss. “But we can’t think about the Champions’ League just now. We have to go step-by-step and work hard in training to build the team.”
The Villa forward went on to admit the players were conscious of their deficiencies away from home this season, adding, improvement was key to the team’s lofty ambitions this season.
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Away Form Under Unai Emery
If Villa manage to beat Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium this weekend, it would provide the perfect tonic to dismiss any immediate concerns of Villa’s form on their travels. After all, two defeats away this season have come against Newcastle United and Liverpool, two of the toughest away tests in the Premier League.
However, a poor showing against Ange Postecoglou’s team, that have been recently hit with key injuries and suspensions, may prompt a sharper look at Villa’s away form.
You may remember when Emery first came to Villa, the team were racking up the away wins in his first few months. They won four out of their first five aways, with defeat against Manchester City the only blemish.
Villa have played 18 away games under Unai Emery, and if you cut that in half, there is a trend that needs addressing.
Villa’s first nine aways under Emery were impressive offering up a return of 6 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss (the only loss came against the treble-winning Manchester City). 20 points from an available 27 is a very good away haul indeed and Champions League level.
First Nine Away Games (most recent first)
Brentford 1 Villa 1
Leicester 1 Villa 2
Chelsea 0 Villa 2
West Ham 1 Villa 1
Everton 0 Villa 2
Manchester City 3 Villa 1
Southampton 0 Villa 1
Spurs 0 Villa 1
Brighton 1 Villa 2
Contrast that to the most recent nine away games, that includes three games from the backend of last season, and Villa’s away record in those games is 2 wins, 2 draws and 5 losses. That’s eight points from an available 27.
Last Nine Away Games (most recent first)
Forest 2 Villa 0
Wolves 1 Villa 1
Chelsea 0 Villa 1
Liverpool 3 Villa 0
Burnley 1 Villa 3
Newcastle 5 Villa 1
Liverpool 1 Villa 1
Wolves 1 Villa 0
Manchester United 1 Villa 0
You could argue that the latest set of nine games is slightly harder, with two trips to Liverpool and trips to St James’ Park and Old Trafford. Although, the first set of matches does includes the Etihad and tough trips to Spurs, Brighton and West Ham. Ultimately, the difference in difficulty levels are not that far apart, certainly not to warrant a difference of 12 points.
Villa’s Ambition Needs Matching
With away games to come at Bournemouth and Brentford, after the trip to Spurs, Villa will no doubt be looking for a decent points haul from the three games. There’s nothing to be worried about if the ambition is for Villa to qualify for the lower-tier European tournaments, as their home form should be enough to carry patchy away form.
If the goal is Champions League football though, as various players have recently reiterated in interviews, standards will have to rise in terms of how Villa do on their travels.