It’s all getting exciting.
At the start of the campaign, everyone expected it to be a season of progress for Aston Villa, and challenging for a European place would undoubtedly have been on the wish list for many. And, after the first eleven games under former manager Steven Gerrard, things weren’t looking promising. But fast forward to now, and people are asking whether Villa will secure a top-six place and European football.
Under Gerrard, Villa looked significantly off the pace and very much unlike a team capable of challenging for a top-six finish. But the powers that be acted and acquired the services of Unai Emery, and everything has changed for the better since that moment. And while Villa’s last three games are against Spurs and Brighton at home and Liverpool away, where according to Premier League match betting, they won’t be favourites to win in all three, they’ve proven they have what it takes to pick up the necessary points.
If a team had three games of the current campaign remaining and had their eyes on a top-six finish, knowing that matches against Spurs, Liverpool and Brighton were on the horizon wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. But for Villa and Emery, it is because the three teams above the Villians at present are Liverpool, Spurs and Brighton, in descending order. So, what happens in these games will ultimately impact the race for the top six.
At the time of writing, Villa are sat in eighth and are a point off Brighton, a place above in seventh, and three off Spurs in sixth. So finishing sixth is still possible, but Villa needs to pick up wins in their last three games, you’d imagine, but it isn’t beyond them, especially when you consider what happened when they played the teams they’re due to play in their remaining fixtures. Villa may have been on the end of a 3-1 reverse against Liverpool, but they recorded victories over both Brighton and Spurs away from home, which should give them confidence.
What will be crucial for Villa and the key to Emery’s plan is getting Ollie Watkins back on the goal trail in the final three games after he’s drawn a few blanks of late. The twenty-seven-year-old had been in impressive form, scoring eleven goals and making two assists in twelve games, but since his brace and assist at Newcastle five games ago, he’s failed to register a goal or an assist.
In the form he showed not so long ago, Watkins is more than capable of putting all three teams to the sword, especially because of his pace. He notched against Liverpool earlier in the campaign too, and made an assist against Spurs, so the signs are promising. Of course, Villa are about more than just Watkins, but he could be the difference in earning a top-six place or just missing out at this late stage of the season.