Leading up to the new season, Newcastle, Norwich, and Aston Villa were considered the favorites to earn their promotion back into the Premier League. Newcastle and Aston Villa were making major changes to their line-ups while Norwich was again setting up their squad shrewdly with minimal financial impact. Twelve games into the season, Norwich and Newcastle are where about everyone predicted they would be by heading the EFL table in first and second place. However, things have not gone as planned for Aston Villa. With eight ties, several losses including one to Preston, and the only win so far coming against 'cellar-dweller' Rotherham, Aston Villa is 20th of the 24 teams.
A change was made with Di Matteo out and Steve Bruce in. Bruce may be just the man to salvage the season as he has the most recent experience possible of getting a team promoted having led Hull City up just a year ago. However, with a fourth of the season already complete, how steep is the mountain in front of him? Let's look.
Over the past three seasons, the sixth place team has had 74-75 points on average (72, 74, and 78). The second place team has had the magical 90 point total on average over the same time frame (89, 89, and 93).
With only 11 points from 12 games (0.92/game), 25 points have been lost in the season already and only 102 points remain available. As a comparison, Birmingham City currently sits in sixth place on the table. The Blues have 20 points from 12 (1.67/game) and NUFC, as the current second place team, have 25 (2.08/game).
In the drive for 74 points, the impact Steve Bruce brings will need to be near instantaneous. Any lag in effect only heightens the mountainous task ahead. The Villian's hopes are pinned on that they can get 63% (1.89/game) of the points left available. This is double their current 'take-rate'. Comparatively, Birmingham only needs 52% (1.56/game) of the remaining points available to get to 74. If you look back in this article you will find this is actually at a rate incrementally less than what they have already proven the ability to handle. And of course, this review is not going into such depth as to mention in detail the comparative advantages of the other 13 teams in between Birmingham and Aston Villa that are currently better positioned. These include strong squads for the EFL such as Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, and Wolverhampton to name a few.
If Aston Villa is seeking 90 points, they will have to get over 77% of the remaining points available (2.32/game). Said another way, if you split the remaining games into six-game sets, Aston Villa would have to minimally win 4, tie 2, and lose none in each set for the balance of the season (in a twelve game set, it could be win 9, tie 1, lose 2). Even if they were to pull off this amazing feat, there is no guarantee that Norwich, NUFC, or some other set of teams did not end up with greater than 90 points and Aston Villa is still in the playoff to earn their promotion.
There is the old phrase "...and that is why they play the games." It is all still possible. I would not expect our Villain friends to give up hope and I trust any visitors that might read this piece from "the Claret and Blue Army" realize I am not relishing the status of their plight. That is not my way. I cheer for my team and not against any other. Aston Villa F.C. is undoubtedly an organization with a long and proud history. But even though they are only 9 points adrift of the playoff spots today, the task may be seen for what it is and it is already quite perilous.