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Aston Villa, the problem of staying up and of entering the top six.

by Tony Attwood

As you will know, if you are a regular student of all things Untold, in the run up to the start of this season we ran a series celebrating 100 years of Arsenal in the top division, recording in detail how Arsenal were promoted in 1919, and dealing with the rumours that then started to circulate from that set of events.

If you missed it, you can read about this vital time in Arsenal’s history here.

Looking now at Villa’s recent history, from 1992/3 when Aston Villa were part of the first ever Premier League season – and came runners’ up, to 2015/16 when they were relegated they have had modest success.  They won the League Cup in 1994 and 1996 and the Intertoto Cup in 2002 and 2009, and that was about it in terms of winning.

They were runners up again in 1993, and made it to fourth one year, but otherwise they have not really challenged.  In 2015 they did make it to the FA Cup Final, and were utterly slaughtered by Arsenal 4-0 in what was the most enjoyable event at Wembley I have ever been to.

And yet their trophy cabinet has boasted quite a few bits of silverware of the centuries: they have been League champions seven times, FA Cup winners seven times, League Cup winners five times, and they once won the European Cup.   But it was all a bit of while ago.  Their last league title was 1981, and the league trophy before that was winning the Third Division in 1972.

In terms of history it is a bit of a nightmare.

Part of Villa’s problem in recent times, it seems to me (and of course I am an outsider whom I am sure Villa supporters would claim knows nothing of the club) has been that of ownership.  While I am very sad at the way Arsenal’s ownership has moved across the last 100 years from a policy of a club owned by its fans to a policy of a club owned by one man, Villa has moved differently – but they have ended up with the same problem as Arsenal has: one or two very rich people with no historic interest in the club or in football, running the show.

In the summer of 2006, Randy Lerner, owner of the Cleveland Browns, bought a majority of Aston Villa for £62.6m.  He then put up the club for sale in May 2014 for £200m.   However no one wanted it, and eventually Xia Jiantong bought it in June 2016 for £76 million.  The new owner was duly approved by the League as being very fit and very proper.

However by 2017/18 it was clear that the club was in financial trouble and in July 2018 NSWE group, owned by an Egyptian billionaire and an American billionaire bought the club and as we know promotion was achieved in 2018/19 through the playoffs.

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Now the question is, of course, what next?  Do the owners see Villa as a team just surviving in the Premier League, or moving up to the upper reaches of the League, or even challenging the six teams that have dominated the European positions in the past three seasons?

The problem of course is that the next jump upwards, to regular mid-table security, is one that is going to cost a lot of money, but brings with it nothing but mid-table security.  No silverware, no Europe, and the top six moving further and further out of sight.

Last season the gap between the 6th and 7th clubs was nine points.  In 2018 it was nine points.  In 2017 it was eight points.  Worse, for the teams and their owners that have aspirations, the three clubs that have ended up seventh across these three years (Everton, Burnley and Wolverhampton) have not been able to “push on” and break into the top six – at least not yet.

True, sometimes in the recent past the outlying teams have been able to push into the top six – Liverpool slipped to 8th in 2016, while Chelsea were 10th, leaving Leicester free to win the league, but after that one season, Leicester seem to have slipped back.

Prior to that in 2013 Everton slipped into the top six while no one was watching, and indeed stayed in the top six for two years while first Liverpool and then Manchester United very obligingly slipped to 7th, but that was it, after that we were back to the top six.

But I wonder, do these billionaire owners really think that they, as successful business beings, simply know how to do it and can bring their modern methods into old-time football and break into the European slots where others have failed?  That seems to be the modus operandi.

Indeed what is remarkable about the current era is not just that more and more money has poured into the league either from very rich men or from whole countries, but that we have a top six that looks more solid and stable than has ever been the case before.

Arsenal has been top six since 1995/6.  I am not sure if any club has had a longer run in the top six at any time in the history of the league – at least since the first world war.  If you know or can work it out, do write in and let me know; I genuinely want to know.  But my review of the history books makes me think this is a record.

If we look back to the top six in 1995/6 we see a much changed final table…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester United 38 25 7 6 73 35 38 82
2 Newcastle United 38 24 6 8 66 37 29 78
3 Liverpool 38 20 11 7 70 34 36 71
4 Aston Villa 38 18 9 11 52 35 17 63
5 Arsenal 38 17 12 9 49 32 17 63
6 Everton 38 17 10 11 64 44 20 61

And sitting there in 4th is Aston Villa, one of three teams no longer considered to be top six.   Liverpool dropped out in 2013, and Manchester United dropped out in 2014.

I know of course fourth, fifth and sixth positions are not trophies, but just staying in the top six (something we have taken for granted at Arsenal for the last 23 seasons) is not as common as you might think.

I wonder, do Villa’s owners think that they can push one of the present group of six, out?

7 comments to Aston Villa, the problem of staying up and of entering the top six.

  • Gord

    1 1 3 4:6=-2 record for AVilla.

    What those numbers suggest to me, is that AVilla has difficulty generating offence. It may be that they are also too defensive in nature. It’s still early, but I would say they aren’t looking at Top 6 this season.

    OT: Spuds

    It’s about 3/4 of the way through the game. Fouls are _supposedly_ 12:9, but the spuds have inflicted 2 treatments on Leicester and as per usual, no discipline is associated with those treatments.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Nice to see Sp*rs dropping another 3 points on the road from a winning position. VAR played a part again. IMO, Sp*rs were denied a legitimate goal. Does anyone know how exactly they determine what part of the body is offside or do they draw lines at random. Also, the lines that we see on the telly…are those the ‘official’ lines drawn by VAR people?

    Anyway, it would seem that it is Sp*rs that is gaining a reputation of choking on road dust.

  • Gord

    Man$ity. Screwy commentary. Is the score 3:0, 4:0 or 5:0?

  • Les Williams

    @goinggoinggooner I cant help thinking the f**kups with VAR are being used to discredit the system so that PIGMOB can get rid of it.

    I watch football from a lot of places but only UEFA and PIGMOB manage to get VAR decisions consistently wrong. It is almost as though they dont want it to succeed! I realise that some times you can make a mistake but when those mistakes are blatant – eg Ter Stegen BOTH feet off the line and Bonucci handball in the area you begin to wonder.

    Any body else notice the video assistance at the rugby world cup – having watched a couple of games I have hardly noticed the officials.

    My question for somebody to answer is why Football makes VAR look more Video Assisted Rigging and not anything else. Answers on a postcard please

  • Gord

    Dumb Headlines

    The surprise name Arsenal supporters want Unai Emery to leave out against Aston Villa

    1. Thiery Henry
    2. Paul Merson
    3. Alan Smith
    4. Martin Keown
    5. Charlie Nicolas

    N. Moaninho!
    N+INfinity. That Stewart Robson idiot who still bitches about Arsenal after thinking he is good enough to manage Arsenal.

  • Les Williams

    @Gord what qualifications does Stewart Robson have to be called an “expert” He is the archetype “colour” commentator for Football on British TV – A failed coach and nothing to say.

  • Cheadle

    The “Top Six Royal Court” is under attack and only Pool and City retain their spots whatever the results of week 6.

    Just as the top two teams need near perfect performances to stay neck and neck, positions 3, 4, 5 and 6 will also be hotly contested. I know its early but six games quickly become ten and before you know it its Christmas then January 2020…… after that who knows what might happen?

    Looks like improved performances are needed sooner than later. All the best in today’s game A very very good win will take us to 3rd and If high scoring Chelsea can beat the odds today, then we can hit the town hand in hand and celebrate our win and another i*v*n**bles year.

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