By Ryan Fleming
It makes you think that maybe, just maybe these managers know what they are doing. A week after acquiring £24 million man Darren Bent from Sunderland, Aston Villa not only played with Manchester City, but beat them thanks to Bent’s first-half strike, not to mention impeccable keeping from American international Brad Friedel.
Personally, I have a soft spot for Sunderland, so after seeing him go, and the way it all happened, I was rather disgusted to see that outcome, but it got me thinking.
Perhaps Gerard Houllier does know what he is doing and maybe Steve Bruce, despite losing his No. 1 scoring threat can still get things done. Aston Villa had to dig deep, but they picked up Bent to assure that the club would remain above the relegation zone. My initial thoughts were skeptical. How could one player ensure that a club doesn’t go off the deep end and begin next season in the Championship? At least for now, the ex-Liverpool manager is looking pretty smart.
The news immediately following Bent’s departure from Sunderland also brought on more gloomy news over the Stadium of Light. Danny Welbeck was ruled out for six or so weeks with an injury. Maybe leaving Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s hero of the World Cup, and Bruce’s main man to score goals, wouldn’t be such a bad thing would it? Apparently not, except Gyan didn’t score. The tall, lurking forward, did set up the former Manchester United product, Kieran Richardson with Sunderland’s first tally. Richardson scored two in Sunderland 2-1 win over Blackpool on Saturday. Bruce desperately needed a player to step up in Bent’s absence and Richardson’s double makes the move hurt a little less, at least for now.
The rest of the EPL should take notice: Arsenal will win this year’s EPL crown. Sure, they have five losses and yes, Machester United have yet to succumb to any foe this season. Those points aside, I stand by my assumption.
The resurgence of Robin Van Persie is my evidence for case No. 1 behind my reasoning. The Dutch international has awoken from his, well, slumber. After battling numerous injuries it appears as if van Persie is back.
After scoring a treble at Wigan over the weekend, the striker now has six goals and four assists in 10 games this season, catapulting him to only three behind team leader Samir Nasri. In his last five appearances he has bagged seven goals while adding one assist — a streak the EPL should be weary of.
Arsene Wenger also has something else going for him, a great defense. For a team that is known for taking an impending slide in the second half of the season, it seems like the Frenchman’s side are putting the past behind them. Arsenal have post four-straight league shutouts. In the month of January, the Gunners have posted a 4-1-2 record, the lone loss coming against Championship side Ipswitch Town in the Carling Cup.
With the Champions League Round of 16 coming up in the middle of February against Barcelona, Wenger has his team clicking coming into an important stretch of the year.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at email@example.com.