It was early in the second half against Arsenal when all seemed lost for Aston Villa. The team looked shell-shocked after Abou Diaby scored a wonderful team-effort goal that seemingly took both Aston Villa and their fans out of the game. After that second goal went in, I thought to myself that the remainder of the second half would be a perfect test to see whether Villa were Big Four material or not.
That answer was a resounding yes.
Gareth Barry’s superbly taken penalty kick and then Zat Knight’s injury time equalizer were just the tonic that neutral football fans needed for a Boxing Day classic. Just as Aston Villa pulled out an incredible triumph away at Everton several weeks ago, Villa showed their never-say-die attitude once again.
And that was the second half. Their first half performance was even more awe-inspiring except they couldn’t get the find the back of the net. The creativity and speed that Aston Villa demonstrated were incredible. Gabriel Agbonlahor continues to improve. Ashley Young is always dependable down the left wing. And James Milnar, although he lacks the pace and confidence he once had, can still deliver a dangerous cross from the right wing.
Out of all of the attributes that Aston Villa possess, their biggest differentiator compared to other Premier League teams is their team spirit. This is a team with no egos. Their fitness levels are tremendous. And they’re led by a manager who, as you can clearly see, cares for his players. Martin O’Neill is the type of manager who resembles a headmaster. A man who is proud of his pupils. A man who is commited to success.
To me, right now, there’s no other team in the Premier League who embodies the team spirit as well as Aston Villa. As long as they can keep that together and get the results they need against lesser opposition when they might let their guard down, they have a tremendous opportunity to not only break the top four but to, good gracious, make a push for the Premier League title.
The only concern I have about Aston Villa is their lack of strength on their bench. But, as shown against Arsenal and in several other games this season, Villa played the entire 90 minutes without making a single substitution. Villa has already been hurt by the injury to striker John Carew. More injuries should be anticipated but if Villa can sign a player or two in the January transfer window, they should have the safety cushion they need to make a serious pursuit for the top four and even the title. Call me daft, but I can see it happening.