Are Aston Villa Genuine Title Contenders?

Watkins signs new long-term Aston Villa contract
Watkins signs new long-term Aston Villa contract

Are Aston Villa Genuine Title Contenders? Given recent results, there is a real case to be made for Villa to be actual conteders for the 2023-24 Premier League title.

Unai Emery’s side has been one of the surprise packages of this season, picking up victories against both Manchester City and Arsenal in the previous two gameweeks. This has been the latest chapter in a massive upwards trend since the Spaniard took over as manager just over a year ago.

So, can the Villans keep this form going and qualify for the UEFA Champions League or, unthinkably, claim a first league title in over 40 years?

Are Aston Villa Genuine Title Contenders?

This is the same question we asked of Arsenal early into last season too. While The Gunners didn’t claim the title, they did finish a close second to City, something all those in the red half of North London would’ve snatched your hand off before a ball was kicked in 2022-23.

Emery has taken Villa up a few levels and are at a minimum challengers for Europe again this season. Villa Park has become an absolute fortress, with The Lions roaring to 15 home Premier League wins in a row. At the time of writing, they currently sit in third, two points behind leaders Liverpool.

So, can they keep this going? Well, there’s every reason to believe Villa can, but the key factor will be whether their squad remains fit and available. Football is going through an injury crisis at the moment, with top level sides having a larger injury table than ever before.

As good as Villa have been, their starting XI is of a much higher quality than their bench. The likes of City, Liverpool and Spurs have much more squad depth than Villa, so can cope with multiple injuries better.

If the likes of Ollie Watkins, John McGinn and Youri Tielemans spend extended periods on the sidelines, can the likes of Jacob Ramsey, Leander Dendoncker and Jhon Duran do as good a job in their places? It’s doubtful.

Where will Villa end up?

At this point, it’s tough to see who will stop Villa from getting a Champions League berth for next season. Liverpool and Arsenal should expect to keep ahead of Villa, while Manchester City will likely overtake the Villans at some point.

Behind them, the most likely candidate to pass Villa is Tottenham Hotspur, but they’ve always got the potential to bottle it. Fifth place, though, will likely be enough for UCL qualification, as the competition’s format is changing for next season.

Newcastle are struggling with the amount of games they’re playing and are clearly suffering from fatigue, as evidenced by their shocking performance against Spurs last week. The Magpies have a real battle on to qualify for the Champions League again, but they won’t have to contend with Europe in the new year.

Chelsea and Manchester United both seem miles off and we can’t see either troubling Villa if the West Midlands side continue their excellent performances and results.

Let’s not forget about Europe

Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez was interviewed after the victory against Arsenal and stated that his side are in the title race now. It’s hard to disagree with that, they’re without a doubt in the conversation. Villa are going great guns in Europe too, topping their Europe Conference League group.

They’ll go through to the Round of 16 with that, and they’re understandably the favourites for the competition. Emery was a serial winner of the Europa League with both Sevilla and Villarreal and is someone who excels in getting the best out of his sides in Europe.

Qualification for the Champions League would be historic for Villa, they’ve never managed that since the competition was rebranded in 1992. You have to go back to the early 1980s and the days of the European Cup to have last seen Villa in the top level of European football.

In fairness, that was in 1982-83, where they won the European Supercup after winning the European Cup the previous season. While the title is a massive ask, there’s no reason why Villa can’t make the Champions League, as relatively unfancied sides such as Leicester City and Everton have been in this tournament in the not too distant past.

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