This season has not been a great one for fans of Aston Villa. With 30 games played, they have only won a total of three and sit with a total of 16 points. Some pretty abysmal stuff. Even when they have managed to simply not lose, the Aston Villa players have looked resigned to their fate. With so few points and so much certainty of relegation, is this Aston Villa squad the worst that has ever played in the Premier League?
First, we have to look at the metric that we will be measuring against. Currently, the title holders of Worst Ever Premier League Team is the 07/08 Derby County F.C. squad that still holds the record for least amount of points and fewest wins in a single season (11 points and 1 win). They have one of, if not the, fewest number of goals (20) and a differential of -69. It’s pretty hard to look past that Derby team as the worst ever. But that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Aston Villa is doing a lot worse this season than Derby did at the time, especially when you look expectations of both teams. To prove it, we need to look comparative data and find what has changed. The biggest difference between the league in 07/08 and now is that it is a much more even league.
We can see this by comparing the points per game of the top of the table, 4th, 10th, 17th and 20th place. As we can see from the graph (right), this current season has a much more gradual slope down to the bottom. This reflects a much more even league. As for the 07/08 league, we can see the sharp drop from 4th to 10th and below to see just how uneven of a league it was. We have to remember that 07/08 was in the middle of the ‘Big Four’ hayday, before the rise of Tottenham and Manchester City. While 4th place may have been hotly contested at points, it usually came down to the same four teams in the Champions League. There were fewer surprise results and the bigger teams generally rolled over the smaller ones.
So what does this mean for Derby County? Well, they were clearly the worst team in the Premier League so it only makes sense that they would be soundly beaten by every team. With so little parity, a team was derby was bound to happen eventually. The point total doesn’t really represent how poor they were. Now look at the 15/16 season. It is nearly a straight line to the bottom, which implies a much more gradual transition from top to bottom. This mathematically proves what we have been saying the whole season. Anybody can beat anybody on their day. Anybody, except Aston Villa, of course. While they have been able to scrape together some wins and managed to not lose, it doesn’t come close to what everyone else is doing.
Next, let’s compare the situations of both teams. Derby County had just been promoted for the 07/08 season at a time when there wasn’t a ton of money to be made in the league. Lucrative TV deals were still a ways off. This was also a time when at least one or two of the promoted teams were often sent right back down. Derby County, who were promoted through winning the Championship playoff, would have been expected to be relegated. Aston Villa, on the other hand, have been in every Premier League season since it’s inception in 1992. They are a well established Premier League team that has been incredibly mismanaged. They have the money to compete, especially after the new TV deals and the sales of Benteke and Delph in the summer, and a squad large enough to keep them safely midtable. Yet that simply hasn’t happened. When you take into account how much has been spent and how poor they have been, the comparisons fall apart.
At the end of the season, Aston Villa will almost certainly be relegated. They will also be considered one of the worst Premier League teams ever to step on the pitch. While the point totals may have us believe that Derby County were the worst ever, though, everything else points towards Aston Villa. In a league that has become a group of equals, Aston Villa alone stands unworthy. Never before has a team of established players, filled with the right mix of experience, skill, athleticism, and youthful exuberance, managed to disappoint so severely. That might not show up in statistics, but it is an inescapable fact that has sunk the former Premier League regulars.