Jamie Carragher told Monday Night Football (broadcast on Sky Sports; 1/3; 19:28) that Aston Villa’s defensive transformation this season has been ‘unbelievable’, and admitted that he never expected to see such an improvement.
Villa have enjoyed a remarkable 12 months. With a few games remaining of last season, they looked destined to make an immediate return to the Championship.
However, they survived on the final day.
This time around, their campaign once again looks set to go right down to the wire. But for a very different reason.
The Villans sit ninth in the table, six points off the top four. And crucially, they have two games in hand over all of the current top six.
Dean Smith’s men are only three goals away from matching their tally from the entirety of last season. But it is arguably at the other end of the pitch where they have made the biggest improvement.
Villa have conceded just 26 goals. Only Manchester City and Chelsea have conceded fewer. And Carragher suggested that their record has caught him completely off-guard.
“No, it’s unbelievable,” he told Monday Night Football, when asked if he saw their defensive transformation coming.
“I watched Aston Villa last season and I was convinced they would go down, I must say that. They’ve got more [away] clean sheets than anybody in the major European leagues. You see the company they’re keeping: PSG, Lille, Barcelona.
“They didn’t keep one clean sheet away from home last season, one of only two teams in the major European leagues.”
A number of Villa players appear to have stepped up their game this season. But they also seem to have benefitted from a couple of particularly inspired signings.
Of course, Emi Martinez has been a revelation since arriving from Arsenal. But signing Matty Cash has also proved to be a masterstroke.
And less than a year after relegation looked to be on the cards, the Villans now look to be in a position to potentially achieve something incredibly special.