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Dark Days Ahead For Blackburn, West Brom and Arsenal

premier-league.jpgYesterday was a day of reckoning in the Premier League. Good news for Aston Villa. Bad news for Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn Rovers.

In sport, there are miracles, but there’s a reason they call them miracles. They happen too infrequently. So, unless any miracles happen in the next few weeks, here’s what we learned from Saturday’s Premier League matches:

  1. Paul Ince will be sacked as Blackburn manager in the next few weeks,
  2. West Bromwich Albion are going to be relegated, and
  3. Aston Villa will finish in the top four above Arsenal.

Anyone disagree?

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  1. The Gaffer

    December 15, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for posting Wisconsingooner. Excellent analysis.

    The Gaffer

  2. peachy

    December 14, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Far too premature on #3. I'd be disappointed if Villa didn't manage fifth, but I'll be confident in fourth the day it happens, and not a moment before.

    As for the 'wait until Villa has to deal with an injury' notion – actually, they're doing fairly well without last season's top scorer. (How quickly Big John is forgotten… but I guess it's easy to overlook a 6'4″ striker, not so?)

  3. jm

    December 14, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I'm not sure what you mean by “day of reckoning.”

    At the top, everybody got a point, except Villa. So, sitting on the same goal differential, Villa is up 1 point in the league over Arsenal. And we've learned who will nab fourth? 😉

    Nothing changed this weekend. It was the same problems for the Arsenal side that they've had all season. With those problems, they are neck and neck with Villa for the fourth Champions League spot. I tend to think ultimately Arsenal's ability to spend in January will outstrip Villa's, and they will ultimately last it out for fourth. That's also tainted by my clear bias in favor of Arsenal.

    The point, however, is that we've got a great season on our hands. What we learn each week is a little bit more about the nuances of a number of teams all within striking distance, not only of fourth place, but of the title.

    To be quite honest, I think the notion that it would take a “miracle” for a team one point off fourth place to win it is, well, an interesting take on what “miracle” means. I'm looking forward (nervously, as an Arsenal fan) to a difficult and tense season. (I do apologize for jumping on the language, but I think the tendency in sports journalism to speak in rampant hyperbole to get in the way of interesting discussion on sports related issues. It's the same thing with the number of times commentators like to call sporting events “must win” for some team.)

    A discussion of fourth place is going to have to start with the subtleties and nuances of both clubs, because right now, there is not a whole lot separating them.

  4. Mike K

    December 14, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I agree with most of whats said, and I disagree with the third point on one simple basis: injuries. Villa has one of the smallest squads in the Prem, and if they get any injuries to key players, they'll be lucky to finish 5th. I'd like to see how far Villa could go without Ashley Young and Agbonlahor, two similar players that Arsenal have out injured (Walcott & Eduardo). With that said, Villa's one of my favorite teams beside Arsenal so I do hope they finish high in the table and in the UEFA Cup…just below Arsenal that is.

  5. Tampa Dan

    December 14, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    The gunners and villa seem to be pretty even as of right now. Both capable of great results but both are also very inconsistent. If the teams swapped places villa were part of the big 4 and arsenal looking to crack in, a lot more people would be betting on arsenal to make the jump than they are betting on villa to do it.
    Eduardo is close to a return, there is a big chance Wenger will bring some one in this January, and I think with the armband on fabregas arsenal are looking better and better. That's not too say they will win the league. But i think they will do enough secure 4th and concentrate on champions league.

    As for paul ince he's done. Prolly sacked soon so the new coach can try to find some players in the transfer window to save relegation.

    And I don't think anyone would bet on west brom staying up, but who knows the relegation battles are always crazy.

    I just think its amazing to see so much parity in the league.

  6. p@

    December 14, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I'd wait until after Jan is over to be making bold predictions…. Villa are very thin.. one injury (Abby or Ashely).. and they could drop mid table

  7. Queviva

    December 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    I'm a Villa fan but I'd tend not to confidently say we'll finish top four above Arsenal yet. We've had a marvelous season with only a few hiccups along the way (Stoke, Newcastle, Fulham, etc.) and some highly competitive games with the class of the league, but we're not even halfway through yet and January provides everyone an opportunity to improve their team. We've looked brilliant at times but also highly inconsistent and I'm not ready to put my full confidence in Villa until we can consistently put away teams we “should” beat and I think our victory over Bolton was a good step on the way to that point.

  8. The Arse

    December 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Way, way, way too early to talk about Villa pipping forth. First of all, Wenger is going to buy in January. Second of all, we Arsenal fans bemoan a lack of depth, but have a glance at Villa, and outside of Paul Milner, they have absolutely no depth to speak of. An injury to Young or Gabby and you will see how the lack of quality affects them. No doubt O'Neill has put together a good team, but the gulf in class from the Big 4 and the lesser sides is still vast. I

    What I find extremely perplexing is how you base this idea on yesterday's result, 1-1 at the Riverside isn't a terrible result, it's a difficult place to play. We'll really be back in the race next weekend when we get a result against Liverpool.

  9. Burt Reynolds

    December 14, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Were those numbers in order of most likely? I think it's too soon to say on the third one.

  10. wisconsingooner

    December 14, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I'm an Arsenal fan, and I do admit, the team has really struggled this season. Maybe it's blind faith, but I still think they can finish fourth, or if they drastically improve, third. The inconsistency so far this season has reminded me of the 2005-06 team, and remember, that team was further down the table at this time that year than this season's team is. I think the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial: Next Sunday's game against Liverpool at home will be fascinating: will they rise to the occasion like they did against Man Utd and Chelsea? Or will they be exposed again like they were against Hull and Villa? If Samir Nasri is fit, I think he can make a real difference like he did when he scored twice against United. As for yesterday's result, I wasn't infuriated with the draw, because if you look at the results from the last four seasons, Arsenal have done lousy at Middlesbrough lately (2 draws, 2 defeats).

    And don't forget, the Gunners go to Villa Park on Boxing Day. Martin O'Neill looks like he's put together a really good team, and they're on a really good run of form in the league right now, but I'm not 100% convinced they will finish fourth this season. To me, they have the same problem as Arsenal, as they lose to teams they look to be much better than (look at their losses besides the one at Chelsea: they lost at home to Middlesbrough, and away to Newcastle and Stoke).

    As for winning the title? Arsenal would probably have to go unbeaten the rest of the way, and have a few players catch fire like Freddie Ljungberg did when he scored all of those important goals towards the end of the 2001-02 season.

    As for the other stuff…
    I'd have to agree with Gaffer, I don't think Paul Ince has much of a chance. I wonder if he should have looked for a job at a Championship side instead of making the big leap from League Two to the Premier League…

    I'm not quite ready to declare West Bromwich Albion relegated, because they still have the transfer window next month. If they can somehow find a source of goals, maybe a young player on loan from a big four club, then perhaps they can escape like they did in 2004-05.

    Sorry for the long post, I'm a long-time reader, and a first-time poster.

  11. Akli

    December 14, 2008 at 8:58 am

    “Aston Villa will finish in the top four above Arsenal.”

    Anybody with a blog or a website is free to express its own opinion. Mine is that Arsenal can still finish top and therefore win the league. Yes it will be very difficult to achieve, I am a dreamer but this is still possible. My opinion is that in Football like in politics things can change very quickly. Moreover, my opinion is that yesterday was not a day of reckoning and certainly not a dark day for Arsenal. Arsenal is still a very strong team, you can ask Alex Fergusson and Felipe Scoleri they will give you their opinion on Arsenal.

    Ok, enough for today!

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