Set-play woes bring Aston Villa back into relegation picture
Things could not have gone much worse for Aston Villa this weekend as their defeat coupled with victories for three of the five clubs below them mean they are just 14/1 to be relegated.
The relegation picture was widely considered to be between five teams as Villa’s last-gasp success over Fulham in early March carried them ten points clear of the bottom three.
However, they have lost to Arsenal and Chelsea since and at the same time, the clubs below them have suffered a renaissance in form.
Aside from Wolves who now look doomed, Bolton are on a three-game winning streak, Wigan have lost just one of their last eight, Blackburn have lost just two of their last six and QPR have taken maximum points from two of their last three league games.
This means that now Villa are only five points from the drop and the fears of the club’s fans that Alex McLeish will be responsible for their relegation are beginning to look more realistic.
A failure to defend set pieces correctly is a recipe for disaster and no team have conceded more Premier League goals directly from corners this season than Aston Villa.
Meanwhile, the club are struggling with injuries, with Darren Bent, Charles N’Zogbia and Richard Dunne out and Stiliyan Petrov’s troubles well documented.
This means that Villa will be relying on a host of inexperienced youngsters for the run in, including Gary Gardner, Andreas Weimann and Chris Herd.
A disturbing coincidence that Villa fans may not want to draw on is that after 30 games last season, Birmingham were 15th in the table and had 34 points, but ended up relegated.
Villa are one point worse off than this and the home games against Stoke and Bolton in particular have almost become must-win fixtures in order to ensure their Premier League survival.