With little else to write about in terms of actual club news, that we haven't already covered, I thought I'd have a look at this season and why I believe, we stand a better chance in beating Arsenal to fourth place and why I think they'll bottle it.
I know I've done this before, well about two months ago was the last time, but it's not here, so I'm doing it again. Basically at the start of the season I predicted we'd finish 6th, then in or around November or December I predicted we'd finish 5th. I'm not changing anything I've predicted, as we're all allowed to change our minds, but I do think it's possible we can take fourth.
I even predicted In January I think, that we'd secure fourth place by the Fulham match on May 9th, but none of us could have known we'd have such a bad run of form, but even after such a horrid time, we're still fifth and only six points off Arsenal. It's not such a bad place to be in and we and while six points seems a lot, it's not and we are within touching distance.
But before I delve into my reasons for this and my look at the last few games, I've got a sort of disclaimer to make you aware of and it's based very much on getting better or progressing as a club.
The reason I mention progress is because for me, that is really all I'm interested in seeing. If we finish in the top four this season it's a huge bonus, but we should all ultimately be very happy if we end up finishing fifth, or even sixth, as long as we've done better than last season.
At the end of the day we should and we all will be happy and to develop next season we have to learn from our mistakes, which I believe we will.
Bottom line, we're basically new to this and when I say new, I mean new to having absolutely the right manager. Sure, he might have made a mistake or two this season, but we all know he's not going to make the same mistakes next season and look at how the mistakes were fixed after his first and second seasons; if the same things happen after this one, we've every right to feel confident.
Now, this might be seen as a bit of a rallying call, but it's not. It's just that when I look at what games we have left and the games Arsenal have left, it just sort of looks like we'll pick up more points than them and that when you equal it all out, we'll finish above them.
Don't get me wrong, Arsenal have a strength that we are still figuring out, but our strength is that we are heading in the right direction. We are not one of the perceived top four clubs but Arsenal are. The thing is, Arsenal sit bottom of that list at the moment and we're very much top of the chasing pack and we are very much heading in one direction.
Okay, it's easier to make the step up to top six than it is to make the step into the top four and then from fourth to third or even second, but as long as you are making progress and you have the right people at the club those steps will be made and after the season we have had, it's impossible to say it's not going to happen and the same can be said for Arsenal.
However, it is actually easier for Arsenal to stay in the top four than it is for us to take it from them, but we've got no more distractions, they have two and while we can take it from them, they can also give it to us too.
But, despite the distractions, it might be that Arsenal don't bottle it and they might go on the type of run that, if they'd had throughout the season, would have won them the league, but it's a big ask and with the Champions League, the FA Cup and games against Liverpool and Manchester United away and Chelsea at home, you'd have to be a brave man to completely write us off. Some might say, despite everything, that you'd be a brave man to bet against us.
You see, of our seven remaining games I think the hardest is coming up this Sunday and after that, the Fulham game, on paper, will probably be the most difficult, but Arsenal have the potential to play twice as many games as us and with the Premier League now not a possibility, although don't be surprised to hear Arsene Wenger claim they're still in the race after they beat Villarreal tonight, I don't think their League form is going to stand up to the demands of playing so many games this late in the season.
This six point gap could be reduced to three after this weekend, although I wouldn't be surprised if it was down to four and then after that we have six more games to make that up - it's not impossible and like I said, when you look at the fixture list for both teams, it actually looks possible.
Now, for the record, Arsenal do have a good record against the other top four teams and they've got players coming back and there is a strong argument that they'll pick up points at Anfield and Old Trafford but at the same time, you could argue that the fitness levels of the players coming back might not be at 100% and that the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are always going to be difficult to beat, especially as both of them are within touching distance of the league. My point is, if you had to put money on it you'd probably not put it on Arsenal at the moment.
I mean no disrespect to Arsenal when I write that, it's only that I'm an optimistic Aston Villa fan and like I've said above, it's going to be easier for Arsenal to keep fourth than it will be for us to take it, but us Aston Villa fans, while still new to knowing we are heading in the right direction finally, we're slowly getting used to it.
So, it's not about Arsenal slipping up in the league, but that is a possibility considering the games they have coming up in the Champions League and FA Cup, it's about us regaining form and confidence and taking games to other teams and picking up the points. If we do that, then even if you take away the distractions of the Champions League and FA Cup for Arsenal, they've got a much tougher end to the season than us and as the optimistic Aston Villa fan, I can see us still doing it and I think if you were to ask a neutral football fan, I think most would agree that it really does come down to our form and our results over anything else.
It's just about us now and Martin O'Neill has to find that spark again and if he does, we'll find out on Sunday, I believe we can take fourth place. I just hope, if we do, Arsenal don't go on to win the Champions League, because if Arsenal play to the potential we all know they can in these remaining Champions League games, they could go on and win it; it's just a huge ask.
I also want to add, just for the record, that when I say 'bottle it', it's not meant to be derogatory towards Arsenal. I just can't see Arsenal putting the same emphasis on the league that they will put into the Champions League and FA Cup matches and there is every possibility that the players might have an eye on upcoming fixtures.
It's only natural and like I've suggested above, we might actually need that to happen, but at the same time it might not, but I've got to have hope and as long as we do our job, everything is possible in football and we've seen stranger things happen.