Throughout the year we have been given the chance to enjoy a breath of fresh air into the otherwise stagnant big four. With slip-ups and controversy coming from the usual champions league spot contenders, many began to believe that there was a real chance for Martin O’Neill and his men to make a real challenge for a top four spot.
At first most were skeptical of anyone truly challenging for any of the spots that seem to be owned by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. As the winter grind of the EPL season arrived and departed we were all given a chance to watch as Aston Villa continued to win in some of the strangest ways. Deflected goals and late game winners became normal for Villa as they kept pace and actually started to gain ground on the rest of the table. From this impressive form came the talks that maybe this was the year that the big four would be broken up. Even Arsene Wenger began to show signs of agreement, “For me the so-called ‘Big Four’ in England is about to change. It won’t last much longer.” For a while Aston Villa were a pleasure to watch with their mix of exciting youth and proven veterans, Villa supporters were showing up everywhere. Rumors were even started that the FA was already considering Martin O’Neill as the replacement to Fabio Capello when and if the time comes. Sadly as the winter months ended, Villa’s hopes and dreams began to melt away. An earlier than predicted exit from the UEFA Cup and only 4 points from a possible 24 in the last two months has given Arsenal the opportunity to reclaim the last Champions League spot.
Now with less the 10 games remaining Martin O’Neill and his men seem to be in serious danger of losing what seemed to be rightfully theirs. The doubters have reappeared and now there are many questions to be asked of the manager that seemed to be able to do no wrong. Has O’Neill saved any magic for a late season push for a fourth place finish? Or will it remain business as usuall as the big four maintain their dominance over the rest of the EPL?