Categorized | Jason Parker

Flying High…For Now


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Villa's turned it around.

Villa's turned it around.

Newcastle Managing Director Derek Llambias recently spoke of his club’s desire to be “an Aston Villa.” Just three years ago, nobody in English football would have uttered those words. That’s why sports years are like dog years. Take a look at Chelsea’s recent dismissal of Felipe Scolari. Six months after arriving as a savior and as someone who has won on the biggest stages, he leaves as a fraud unable to cope with the demands of the English game. And that was in just six months. Imagine how distant 2006 must seem, especially if you’re a fan of Aston Villa or Arsenal.

In 2006, Arsenal finished fourth in the Premier League and had made it to the Champions League final. The squad was filled with the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, and Freddy Ljungberg. Their flamboyant attacking style was the envy of the world and Wenger’s policy of buying young cheap players and teaching them the Arsenal way earned him widespread praise. Even though it had been two years since winning the title, the feeling among supporters was that the team could challenge for all honors during any given season.

Contrast that image with the realities of Aston Villa. They finished one place out of the drop zone, and fans had turned on longtime chairman Doug Ellis. Years of underachievement and lack of funds had created a dark cloud around Villa Park. The announcement that an American, Randy Lerner, was taking over the club had Villains feeling less than hopeful. They seemed liked a club destined for the Championship, not the Champions League.

Now, just a short time later, Villa is sitting third in the Premiership, seven points ahead of Arsenal. Six of their squad has been named to the English team for today’s friendly against Spain. Randy Lerner has provided stability at the top, providing the funds to acquire players while managing to keep a low profile. This has allowed Martin O’Neill to craft a well-balanced team of youngsters and veterans who are all on the same page.

Meanwhile, the discontent at the Emirates is well known news. From William Gallas’ tell all biography to the fans booing Emmanuel Eboue off of the pitch, the Gunners are less than a happy bunch. Player defections have depleted the midfield. And they have suffered losses in the boardroom. As times get tougher, Arsene Wenger is looking for excuses, and trying not to “develop a paranoia.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Arsenal’s slippage of form is permanent or that Villa is the new superpower. These are just two prime examples that show that in sports, just as in life, nothing lasts forever. Stability and financial savvy are the key components to success as a football club. Let’s hope that rent-a-manger Chelsea, and lost at sea Newcastle learn these lessons before it’s too late.

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