It has been a remarkable start to the 2023/24 Premier League season for Aston Villa. Not in the wildest dreams of the most enthusiastic Villa fan could they have expected to be within touching distance of the Premier League summit with over half of the season played. Under Unai Emery, Villa have become a vibrant and dynamic prospect, with goals and creativity flowing through the team.
With that in mind, it begs the question just how much Villa can achieve come the end of the season. The in-house traders of well-established bookmakers typically have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the form book and high-end data to determine whether a team’s performances are sustainable. Interestingly, Villa are priced only a shade longer (33/1) than Tottenham (28/1) to win the title this year by Coral, which is one of the UK’s longest-running bookmakers. As one of the market leaders, it’s also a bookie which has consistent promotions running throughout the Premier League season. Even oddschecker.com grades Coral’s bonuses and services five out of five compared with other sites licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, which could be used towards speculative outright wagers on Villa in 2024.
After 21 Premier League games, Villa were only five points shy of league leaders, Liverpool. Four defeats in 21 games are the bedrock for a top-four assault at the very least. Can Villa do enough to edge of the likes of Arsenal and Ange Postecoglou’s improving Tottenham and clinch a top-four finish?
A quick glance at Villa’s fixture list shows a relatively friendly period in February and early March, which could enable Emery’s men to claw back some of Liverpool’s five-point advantage. Games with lowly Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest and Luton are scheduled in the coming weeks, before a genuine six-pointer at home to Tottenham. Looking ahead to the closing stages of the season, Villa play Chelsea and Liverpool on home soil, as well as Brighton and Palace away in their last four fixtures. It’s a tall order, but with Champions League football tantalisingly close, Emery and his squad will do all they can to push for the top four.
Is a top-four finish a more realistic prospect among bookies?
Absolutely. In fact, Coral can’t currently separate Villa and Tottenham in the top-four finish betting market. Both teams are priced at 10/11, suggesting that it could well be a heads-up battle between Villa and Spurs to clinch fourth spot. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester United are much longer odds at 12/1 and 10/1 respectively.
That home fixture with Spurs on 9th March could really set the tone for the season run-in. Prior to that game, Villa will have played Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Luton, with most fans likely to be expecting at least six or seven points from that mini-run of games. This should be enough to help maintain their momentum heading into Spurs.
The fly in the ointment for Villa is Tottenham’s run-in. Their final home game of the season is against a Burnley side which may already be relegated, followed by bottom club, Sheffield United, at Bramall Lane on the final day of the season. If Spurs need to equal or better Villa’s results for a top-four finish in early May, they couldn’t have asked for better fixtures than Burnley at home and Sheffield United away.
On the flip side, prior to these two fixtures, Tottenham do have to host Man City and bitter rivals, Arsenal, before a trip to Liverpool on 4th May. During this period, Villa play Bournemouth, Chelsea and Brighton. Emery’s men could conceivably take control of fourth place going into the final two games of the campaign.
How about a top-six finish?
A top-six finish looks almost nailed on for Aston Villa, which could mean a guaranteed return to European football in sixth place, so long as this season’s FA Cup winners already qualify for Europe via their league placing. Coral have Villa priced heavily odds-on at 1/6 to finish inside the top six.
Chelsea, Manchester United and Newcastle United are all priced at 2/1 to clinch a top six berth, but the likes of West Ham and Brighton will have something to say about these short odds. West Ham may not be the easiest team on the eye but the Hammers have won almost half of their league games this term. As for Brighton, they’re probably at the opposite end of the spectrum to West Ham aesthetically but were three points worse off than West Ham after 21 games.
One thing is for certain, Villa are in fantastic shape to secure their highest Premier League finish in the last two decades according to transfermarkt.co.uk. After three sixth-placed finishes back-to-back between 2007/8 and 2009/10, Villa fans have seen the decline and rebirth of their club in the last 14 years.