If any clarification was needed that Aston Villa are likely to endure their worst campaign since the end of David O’Leary’s tenure then the tightening of their betting odds to 7/1 to be relegated this season proves it.
Villa finished 15th in 2005/06, but then under the guidance of Martin O’Neill they have featured regularly at the other end of the table, challenging for European and even Champions League places.
O’Neill’s departure in the summer left many Villa fans expecting a transitional season as not only a new manager came in, but also some of their younger stars were handed opportunities in the first team.
Although Gerard Houllier may have had to play more of these youngsters than he would have liked as Villa have been troubled by countless injury problems, this does not appear to be the problem.
Players including Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan and Ciaran Clark have all stepped up manfully and it is the experienced older guard that are not only struggling for consistency and confidence but are displaying alarming dips in form.
Richard Dunne is looking error-prone in defence, Ashley Young has failed to get anywhere close to his sparkling displays of days gone by, Brad Friedel may be past it and Stephen Ireland is taking an age to settle in after arriving from Manchester City.
Villa’s latest setback, a 3-0 loss at Liverpool, was their fourth defeat in succession in all competitions and they are now just two points clear of the relegation places.
Houllier’s job is unlikely to come under threat yet after he signed a three-year-deal, but a failure to take six points from their next games at home to West Brom and away to West Brom could see this position change.
A £10 bet on Aston Villa getting relegated this season could lead to a return of £70. New Ladbrokes customers can sign up here for a free £10 bet.