Not since Coventry City between 1981/82 and 1985/86 had a top division side finished in the bottom six, four times in a row without suffering relegation.
Yet as Aston Villa’s league season fizzled out last May due to the impending FA Cup final (in retrospect, they might as well have tried that little bit harder in the league), they drew level with the Sky Blues, matching their four successive 15th to 17th-place finishes. Villa are officially a bottom-six side.
The season that followed Coventry’s four-year run they finished a very respectable 10th and had their own trip to an FA Cup final, where they famously did for Tottenham. But what chance Villa of claiming a top-half finish, and perhaps another trip to the Capital in May?
Well quite frankly, none.
None that is, assuming the sale of Christian Benteke goes through. The stats only tell half the story of how good Benteke has been for Villa over the past three seasons. 49 goals in 101 starts is fantastic for any centre forward but for one playing in a struggling side, with a supply line including Aleksandar Tonev and Charles N’Zogbia, it is verging on the miraculous.
Consider too that 29 of those goals have contributed to points for Villa. He tends to score when it matters most, as exemplified by 19 of those 49 coming in the months of March and April, the business end of the season.
His variety of goals is also stunning. Villa fans will fondly look back on the overhead kick against Norwich, the solo effort bulldozing the Liverpool defence at Anfield, the bullet at the Hawthorns, not to mention a stream of coolly-taken penalty kicks, often under huge pressure.
The collapse of Aston Villa as a serious football club occurred when their last world-class centre forward, Dwight Yorke, was sold in the summer of 1998.
Having finished in the European places five times in the previous nine seasons, the subsequent 17 produced only two finishes of such stature. The fear for Villa fans is that the departure of Benteke will mark the end of Aston Villa as a Premier League outfit. Ladbrokes offer 16/5 on the Villa going down.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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