I would say excuse the pun, but I don’t want you to – they’re too good to be ignored! As a matter of fact, I think it’s about time that the world finally embraced the pun.
Anyway, Aston Villa…
Football is a wonderful thing. It really is. I think it was the ineffable David Brent who once said,
“Life is just a series of peaks and troughs. And you don’t know whether you’re in a trough until you’re climbing out, or on a peak until you’re coming down…”
And how perfectly facsimiled was life’s unpredictability in the recent week of Aston Villa.
10 days ago, I was darkness personified. Having had our League Cup dreams crushed at the merciless hands of the champions, I was left picking up the pieces of my heart from the rocky road beneath my feet. But exactly one week after our Wembley disappointment, the Good Lord had answered my prayers and John Carew got his deserved starting berth (albeit at the expense of the wrong forward). And exactly one week after our cup defeat, my unreasonably limitless hope is once again justified (for the meantime at least).
After succumbing to the bludgeons of chance, I only really appreciated the new heights we had reached when we were indeed coming back down. And after fearing for the rest of the season and even worse, expecting a successive cup exit at 2.15pm last Sunday, I can see that we’re climbing back out of the temporary trough we had tripped into and I once again, have my rose tinted glasses on.
Because where an inexperienced side would have wilted, O’Neill’s apparent words of inspiration at half time at the Madejski ensured that our ever-developing crop of talent timely blossomed to slap the face of adversity right out of our path. And where a lesser man (maybe a wiser man) would have huffed, John Carew has continued to put in his vital shift for the team – despite the fact that a player of Emile Heskey’s limited calibre has constantly been named ahead him. What an insult to a man of Carew’s ability. But rather than jump ship, our beloved Norwegian has fed off the crumbs from the table and still proved an integral member of our squad – and more importantly, proved to be a leader of men. Cue Agbonlahor’s illness: Carew hatrick – action!
Back in the 27th of January, we had 4 massive games ahead of us in a 2 week period: Arsenal, Fulham, Spurs, United. At a time when the nation was looking on in anticipation of our wheels coming loose, I had predicted that if we acquired 8 points from those fixtures we would without doubt finish in the top 4. Six points and no defeats later, we emerged unscathed from the potential minefield and ensued to carry on our silent assault on the coveted Champions League spot. Today, I write with a smile on my face in the knowledge that O’Neill has banished his ides of March. No victory in 3 annual attempts in that particular month was oddly ridiculous, and maybe testament to where we were coming up short when it really mattered. Maybe we hadn’t the squad. We were possibly inexperienced before. Perhaps in the past, our team had not yet developed to carry on a full season’s burden into the last crucial 2 months. But after ruthlessly disposing of Reading in another 10 minute blitz (similar to that against Burnley), the boys have shown that they have both mentally and physically matured. Destroying the notion that O’Neill can’t win in March, his players have done so off the back of an extended League Cup run. And with the 3 defensive summer signings proving they are the best in the league (just 21 goals against), maybe, just maybe we have acquired the right ammunition to finish off the battle for the top 4 this year.
Of course, we have been aided with the demise of Liverpool, but it’s about time Stevie G stopped pulling them out of trenches. Unfortunately for the Merseysiders, their decline has come at a high tide for the surrounding clubs who are accumulating more and more points each season. And what is more pleasing is that looking at the remaining fixtures, I actually believe that clinching that last remaining European Cup spot is very much in our hands – and at this stage, very much out of the long serving Champions League residents’ control. An in depth analysis of the top 4 challengers’ run ins would suggest that Villa and City should be favourites to clinch the prize – I just hope that Liverpool’s ‘been there done that’ experience runs out of games to gain sufficient points. My biggest fear is that Man City finish fourth (of course I would absolutely hate to see Harry Redknapp succeed but needs must). I worry that if the blues can gain Champions League qualification, then of course we’ll see an even greater influx of extravagant players and a new, unsurpassable top 4 will emerge (with City replacing Liverpool).
However, today is a good day. I was actually excited about the prospect of taking on Chelsea in the next round of the FA Cup – this Wembley nonsense is getting tedious now! MON will have the Villains set up well and difficult to beat and one thing is for sure, I bet Chelsea did not want to see our name out of the hat to play them. So here’s to a good month of March. And here’s to a top 4 dogfight which is destined to go right to the wire.
How the final fixtures could play out:
|Stoke (a)||1||Sun’d (a)||3||Pomp (h)||3||Bburn (h)||3|
|Wigan (a)||4||Ful (a)||4||Utd (a)||3||Stoke (a)||4|
|Wolv’ (h)||7||Ever’n (h)||7||Sun’d (h)||6||Pomp (h)||7|
|Sun’d (h)||10||Wigan (h)||10||Brum (a)||7||Sun’d (a)||10|
|Chel (a)||10||Bburn (a)||13||Ful (h)||10||Arsn’l (h)||10|
|Bolt (a)||11||Brum (h)||16||West (h)||13||Chel (h)||10|
|Ever’n (h)||12||Utd (h)||16||Bburn (a)||16||Utd (a)||10|
|Pomp’ (a)||15||Arsn’l (a)||16||Chel (h)||17||Bolt (h)||13|
|Brum (h)||18||Villa (h)||17||Hull (a)||20||Bburn (a)||16|
|City (a)||19||West (a)||20||City (a)||17|
|Bburn (h)||22||Spurs (h)||21|
|Final Points Total||70||70||68||66|
- The results for each team against the corresponding opposition were considered in a fair, calculated and unbiased manner.
- Where numbers are added in the column beside each fixture, this is the prediction of points the team will have added to their run in form after each game has been played. (For example, I expect Villa to lose to Chelsea so their points tally remained the same)
- The accumulated run in points were then added to the team’s current points total (as of 10/03/2010) to estimate their potential total points for the season.
- Away to City on the 1st May looks like it could be the Champions League spot decider.