The 2023/24 season is certainly turning out to be a good time to be an Aston Villa fan, as following a long spell of mediocrity – including the side’s first relegation from the Premier League – the Villa Park faithful are now daring to dream once more. Perhaps, under the inspired guidance of shrewd tactician Unai Emery, silverware may once again be making its way to the trophy cabinet of the West Midlands club. Could a tilt at the Premier League title even be on the cards?
But just how far back do those of a Claret and Blue persuasion need to cast their minds to recall the days when Villa raised the famous Premier League Trophy aloft? Indeed, have they ever won the Premier League?
Aston Villa Premier League Record
Villa were one of only three clubs to be founding members of both the Football League back in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992. They came oh so close to becoming the first-ever Premier League champions, but, as we can see from the above chart, that is as good as it got for Villa, with the club finishing inside the top four on only one more occasion (1995/96). A record of eight top-six finishes in 28 seasons is a solid enough record and good enough to earn the side semi-regular trips into Europe, but as of 2022/23, they still await their first Premier League success.
However, the Premier League era has not been devoid of success for Villa, who lifted the EFL Cup in 1993/94 and 1995/96 and the Intertoto Cup in 2001. Those triumphs represent the highs during what most fans would view to be an underwhelming era, but there have also been significant lows – none lower than when the side finished rock bottom in 2015/16, with only 17 points to their name, signalling relegation from the Premier League for the first, and so far only, time.
Bouncing back proved far from straightforward, but following three seasons in the Championship, Villa returned to the top table following a victory over Derby County in the 2018/19 playoff final, thanks to goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn, who continues to be a key cog in the Villa engine room.
1992/93 – Top in April, Second in May
Boasting a strong spine to the team through Nigel Spink, Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton and Dean Saunders – the last two of whom had been signed from Liverpool following the 1991/92 campaign – in addition to talents such as Steve Staunton, Dalian Atkinson and Dwight Yorke, Villa headed into the inaugural Premier League season with high hopes. Former Manchester United boss Ron Atkinson was tasked with masterminding the Villans’ title challenge in his second season in the hot seat, having led the side to a solid seventh-placed finish the year before.
In the end, Big Ron didn’t quite manage to pull it off, but for a long time, it appeared as though Villa might do it. An unspectacular August, featuring three draws and a sole win at Sheffield United, saw Villa sitting in midtable. Then came a 10-game unbeaten run, highlighted by wins over Liverpool and Manchester United, to see Villa move up to fourth in November – five points adrift of early pacesetters Norwich City. A Boxing Day defeat at Coventry City denied Atkinson’s troops the chance to close the gap, but they remained fourth and five points off top spot headed into the new year, with the title dream still very much alive.
With motivation levels high, Houghton bossing the midfield battles, and Saunders and Atkinson firing in the goals, Villa embarked on their most consistent run of the season – picking up nine wins and two draws from their next 13 fixtures. No other side could quite match that pace, and by 21 March, Villa sat two atop the table – two points clear of Manchester United and Norwich City. With a 13-point gap back to fourth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, a three-way title shootout awaited.
A loss on the road to Norwich immediately brought Villa back to the pack, but they bounced back to pick up 10 points from the next 12 to sit only one point behind Manchester United with three games remaining. Three wins from their remaining fixtures would leave Alex Fergusons’ men with no room for error.
And then it all fell apart. A 3-0 battering at Blackburn, coupled with a 2-0 United success at Crystal Palace, left Villa needing a miracle. A subsequent shock 1-0 defeat at home to Oldham Athletic meant it was all over before the final day. In the end, Villa lost that one too (2-1 at QPR) to finish 10 points adrift of a Red Devils squad that included the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, and Mark Hughes. Thirty years on, Villa are yet to get so close to the trophy again.
No Premier League Success but Villa Have Been Champions of England
Strange as it may seem, there was a time before the Premier League, and a pretty long era at that – running from the launch of the First Division in 1888 to 1991/92. During the early years of the organised league structure, Villa emerged as the dominant force in the English game. Led by the world’s first professional football manager, George Ramsay, Villa lifted the First Division title in 1893/94, 1895/96, 1896/97, 1898/99, 1899/00, and 1909/10. By the time Ramsay departed in 1926, Villa had won six league titles and six FA Cups.
The Villa Park outfit has never enjoyed such a spectacular run of consistent success again, with their only subsequent First Division title coming in 1980/81 when a fearsome frontline of Gary Shaw and Peter Withe helped fire the side to the summit of the English game.
Could 2023/24 Turn Claret and Blue?
31 years is a long time for a side of Villas’s historical stature, but could this be the year when the wait for a first Premier League title ends? The bookies don’t seem to think so, with Villa only fourth best in the betting at around 22/1 as we moved into January, but stranger things have happened – just ask Leicester City fans.
Sitting pretty in second and only three points adrift of leaders Liverpool, Villa are, at the very least, in with their best chance since that 1992/93 season – particularly as they are one of only a few sides in the division clearly trending upwards. Since the appointment of Emery on 1st November 2022, Villa have picked up the fourth most points of any side in the country – behind only Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal. That’s an impressive record, considering the state the club was in following the departure of Steven Gerrard.
Looking solely at the current campaign, the stats suggest Villa may come up just short. Love them or hate them, the in-vogue expected goals and expected points values have become one of the most widely used predictive tools. By this measure, Villa have been the fourth-best side over the course of the season – again behind Man City, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Of course, as Villa continue to improve – possibly aided by significant January incomings – that gap may close. For the first time in a long time, Villa are in the mix and can realistically hope for a place in the Champions League, at the very least.