Five Reasons to be Cheerful Post Brentford
By Armen Mirzoian
With Unai Emery breaking yet another record this weekend, and Villa maintaining their unbeaten run to nine; the run-in promises to be exciting and tense. As you prepare for another battle against Fulham, here are Five Reasons to be Cheerful:
1. Cloud Nine
Brentford has established an envious record and a buoyant atmosphere at their new ground, having lost only two games at home this season. Before the game, Emery suggested that it was one of Villa’s toughest remaining fixtures, and as usual, he proved to be right.
Brentford’s strategy to smother Villa’s free-flowing midfield stifled the visitors. Although this Villa side is always a threat on the counter, the better chances fell to Brentford, with Martinez continuing his fine form. His absence made it all the more painful, as the World Cup winner did not come out for the second half.
Brentford huffed and puffed, eventually scoring a goal that Emery will hopefully force the players to spend many hours examining. The poor defending on the flank and Young’s poor marking were evident. While Olsen had little time to maneuver, I cannot help but feel that Martinez would have saved it. Nonetheless, the goal finally woke the Villans up as they refused to surrender the unbeaten streak. Luiz, a candidate for player of the season, slotted from close range to maintain the unbeaten run and help Emery set a new Premier League record for the longest run of a new manager’s side scoring in consecutive games.
Currently, Villa holds a 14-match unbeaten Premier League record set by John Gregory’s side. So, with six games to go, it would be poetic if Villa broke the record this season and secured European football on the final day.
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As a Villa fan in 2023, it’s easy to get carried away and build castles in the sky. When watching this Villa side, you’re guaranteed to see at least one goal, a prolific striker on display, and a defense that has kept six clean sheets in their last nine games. With Villa sitting in sixth place for the past two weeks and Spurs being, well, Spursy, who among us isn’t dreaming of Europe?
However, Emery’s pre-game press conference for the Brentford game struck a tone of calm rather than elation. Far from getting carried away, Emery offered only warnings to his players that the hardest work lies ahead. With Brighton and Liverpool having games in hand and Villa facing tough remaining fixtures, Europa League football is far from guaranteed. It’s refreshing to have a manager who lets his ability and results do the talking. I can’t help but feel it will keep the players grounded and ready to fight for their chance to bring European football back to Villa Park next season.
3. Europa Guarantee
Despite De Gea playing dodgeball throughout the penalty shoot out, Brighton’s elimination from the FA cup means that the Europa League spots are were pretty much confirmed to extend down to 6th place this season and one spot for the European Conference League for the team in 7th. As United fans and players celebrated the chance to receive their FA cup finalist medals and losing to their noisy neighbours (again), it was Villa that were given a boost in their bid to compete for next season’s secondary European trophy.
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4. TV Shake Up
With each passing season, it becomes increasingly ironic that citizens of the UK are the only supporters who are unable to view the majority of live Premier League games. From Sky to ESPN to Setanta to BT Sport, the names may have changed, but the deal has always been harsh for fans in the UK. The recent drama involving Gary Lineker has once again called into question the need for the 3pm blackout that was introduced in 1960, and now there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Reports are starting to emerge that the Premier League has plans to scrap the current broadcaster setup and create a new platform of its own. The hope would be to offer a larger selection of games and for a more reasonable monthly or annual fee. Since football rarely looks after its fans, it may be too early to celebrate just yet, but there is hope for a more modern and less restrictive future for televised football.
There must be something in the water in North London as their sides seem to lack calcium, leading to a perpetual state of spinelessness. There is no doubt that this Arsenal side can be exciting to watch, but surely I cannot be the only one, who has had enough of Arteta’s antics before, during and after matches. The players mimic their manager’s whinging mentality, as witnessed last season when Tyrone Mings was booked for a superb challenge on Saka simply because their entire staff cried wolf.
On Friday, I lost count of how many players were sniped in the Southampton penalty area, swiftly followed by lazy claims for a penalty. Perhaps I have a short memory but I cannot recall a title-winning side that, lets call it what it is, cheats this much. With seven minutes of added on time in the first half and 10 extra minutes played in the second, following on from eight minutes against Bournemouth, the whinging is getting its way more often than not.
Thankfully, Arsenal are no longer looking like a league-winning side and were it not for the endless play-acting, diving, whinging and hounding of the referee, then they’d assume their regular role of collapsing in the top four chase rather than at the top of the league.
In the calendar year of 2023, Aston Villa actually have a better record than Arsenal. 16 games played and Villa have 33 points to Arsenal’s 32. Next season, should be most interesting…