An overwhelming air of positivity has surrounded Aston Villa since their rookie-stuffed side avoided relegation last term, but despite a fair amount of summer investment there’s plenty to like about them as a value bet for the drop in 2013/14 at a juicy 14/1.
Paul Lambert’s outfit currently lie in 13th place in the Premier League with ten teams in front of them in the relegation betting.
However, with the same old defensive problems, bad luck with injuries, a lack of creativity in midfield and a striker who will be on the shopping list of every second Champions League club come January, relegation may not be such a peripheral concern as their odds make it seem.
The Villans’ 1-0 win at Norwich was their first clean sheet for 26 league games and even then they had Ricky van Wolfswinkel to thank for a missed penalty.
Many fans will have fervently hoped that Jores Okore – a summer buy with Champions League experience – would make them harder to breach, but after just two league starts he’s been ruled out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury.
Instead Ron Vlaar must steward either Nathan Baker or Ciaran Clark, a pair with whom he managed a sum total of one shutout during a 2012/13 campaign in which they shipped 69 goals.
Factored into Villa’s long relegation price must be the goals that the irrepressible Christian Benteke seems to guarantee, with none of the favourites for the drop able to boast such a formidable weapon.
His efforts accounted for 19 of their 47 goals last term and he’s notched four of their six strikes so far in 2013/14.
With the Belgian injured, upcoming clashes against Manchester City and Hull will offer an insight into just how well his teammates can muddle through in his absence.
Benteke’s ever-ripening profile as a goal-getter means they may well have to get used to it.
No danger of being cup-tied means the 22-year-old will rate an ideal January acquisition for sides involved in continental competition and there’s every chance he may amenable to a move.
Take away his goals and Villa would have had 19 points less than the 41 they mustered last season and the prospect of him leaving could leave a team lacking chance-makers in deep water.
Lambert has taken steps to address the chronic lack of creativity in the middle of the park by bringing in Karim El Ahmadi for Yacouba Sylla, but the Dutchman has created just one (untaken) scoring opportunity in four league games so far.
Last season’s second-top assister (with a measly four) Charles N’Zogbia is among his manager’s squad exiles and as a result Villa’s inability to score goals could be their undoing.