As we prepare for our trip to Villa Park on Saturday, knowing Mikel Arteta will be facing a touchline ban for daring to be happy about his team scoring a late goal, Saturday’s opposition moved into third place in the table after a 1-0 win over Man City last night. Their record at home is very impressive, but look at how they dominated this game statistically:
22 shots to City’s 2?! I can’t remember ever seeing them allow that many attempts on goal in the Guardiola era, and while it might suggest all is not right with that team, it’s more evidence that Saturday is going to be a very, very tough game for us. The Unai Emery narrative will be in full effect, the fact they’ve now won 14 consecutive games at home tells you how good they are at Villa Park, but I guess records like that are there to be broken so that will be our challenge.
If City seem like they’re struggling a bit, I’m reluctant to predict this is any kind of downfall for them. We’ve been there, done that, and worn that t-shirt before, and then in the second half of the season they turn into a relentless football terminator and just go on a run that wins them the title. The Man City chef must change his menu after Christmas, giving the players endless reserves of energy or something.
Still, you look at the table and it seems weird. Not so much that Villa are above City, but that Man Utd are just three points behind their local rivals. If anything demonstrates how strange football is, that’s it. You think you know the game, then you see that and realise it’s all just a bunch of random nonsense. I had the great misfortune of watching United’s game with Chelsea last night, and to say it was atrocious would be doing that word a disservice. United were awful, when Scott McTominay is your best player by some distance, something’s not right. As for Chelsea, what a motley collection of dimwits and nincompoops they have assembled at extraordinary expense.
I watched Mykhaylo Mudryk closely. While I think Arsenal’s recruitment under Mikel Arteta and Edu has improved massively, I find myself questioning their desire to spend such a lot of money on this guy. Maybe with better coaching and instruction he’d have had a different time in North London, but right now he looks like a bullet we dodged in a big, big way. Not least because I’m convinced when I look at him play that after about three months Arteta would have decided he’s too stupid to persevere with, then we’d all be complaining about how Edu can’t sell him because he’s been frozen out.
Anyway, let’s hope for more nonsense tonight. If Everton and West Ham could inflict a massive dose of it on their opponents this evening, it would be both very pleasing and very funny, so fingers crossed for that.
Fingers crossed too for Takehiro Tomiyasu who will miss the next few weeks through injury after scans showed a calf strain that’s gonna keep him out. It’s very unfortunate because he was playing so well, and when you thought about the team you might like to see for away games at Villa Park and Anfield, he was very much in contention. Whether it’s bad enough to keep him out of the Asian Cup we’ll have to wait and see, but either way, I’m sure Mikel Arteta has been thinking hard about his absence in January.
We do feel a bit light at the back now, with just five regular defenders for four positions, and with lots of games. There is the C-word that frightens me to think about, and we’re also not exactly replete with central midfield depth either. You do wonder what they might be thinking about the upcoming transfer window – but again we’ll just have to wait and see what, if anything, might happen.
Right, I’m gonna leave it there for this morning. I’m going to look at the Premier League table and scratch my head a bit, but at least our position makes sense to me. Till tomorrow.