Aston Villa Beginning to Show Signs of Collapse
To protect myself from developing the suspicion that Aston Villa might be more worthy of fourth place than Arsenal, I have refrained from watching many of their games. With the chance to keep the gap a mere three points, I could not resist the temptation today. I sat and watched the entire match with Manchest City and I couldn’t be happier that I did. There were some moments in the game when City went all “Arsenal” and squandered a bevy of brilliant goal scoring chances. But in the end, Elano converted a deserved penalty and SWP completed an excellent move on the left with a side-footed pass into the bottom right corner of the net to finish off the Villans. It was truly a wonderful occasion for all Arsenal fans and hopefully is a sign of things to come from Aston Villa.
There’s no doubt that Villa came into the game in the second half but they were demolished and demoralized in the first. While they have been potent this season on the counter attack, their defensive frailties were truly exposed today and SWP in particular made several Villa defenders look silly throughout the match. It really could have been a four or five goal drubbing were it not for some profligate finishing and wonderful goal-keeping. (Sound familiar?) Villa created a few chances in the second half as City’s defense began to show its true colors, but they always looked like conceeding another goal at any moment. It’s interesting that City had one of their better performances this season without Robinho in the lineup, but this is an Arsenal blog and not a Manchester City blog so who really cares?
While I’m certain that Wenger would deny this, there’s no question that this result will have a positive impact on Arsenal’s upcoming performances in the league. A week ago the players would have been feeling that their chances of finishing fourth were fading. Now they should be relishing the opportunity to put Villa to the sword and take what is rightfully theirs. If ever there was going to be a rousing league performance from this team, Blackburn should see it at the Emirates in ten days.
Before the season is over, Everton could prove to be the real threat to our fourth place ambitions. Although they are short on personnel at the moment, they have the easiest possible schedule remaining. Their most difficult match should be against Aston Villa and it’s difficult at the moment to know what outcome we’ll be rooting for by that time. It’s not beyond the pale to suggest that Everton might not lose anther game this season. Having said that, their lack of strikers will make it difficult to win matches as their stalemate today indicates. Ultimately the results of the last 24 hours could not have been better for Arsenal. (Notwithstanding the possibility that Chelseas, Liverpool and Manchester United all filed for immediate bankruptcy and declined to participate in the remainder of the league schedule, FA Cup, or Champions League.)
Manchester United probably won the league today. Arsenal won’t care too much since it doesn’t really impact our season any longer. However, we do play United late in the season and surely the league will be a foregone conclusion at that point. While Ferguson’s teams always come to play, it’s not unreasonable to believe that we may face a weakened United side in that match, particularly if they are still participating in the Champions League and FA Cup. It’s absurd to be thinking that far out, but it’s something to give us hope as we approach our trip to Old Trafford. Even our matches at Liverpool and against Chelsea may be similarly impacted by their league campaigns being resolved early. You have to think that the top three teams will all be prioritizing their European campaigns with the league title seemingly decided. I suppose this theory will be put to the test when the time comes. (So I can wait until that time to look foolish.)
Tomorrow we turn our collective attention to the FA Cup and our home fixture with giant killing Burnley. A few weeks ago I was thinking that the FA Cup had become our most important campaign this season, but now that we’re breathing down Villa’s neck and leading our Champions League tie, this match seems like more of a distraction. Lot’s to say before that match. Sounds like the perfect blog for tomorrow…