Football’s frequent ability to make fools of us all never quite loses its sense of wonder.
It’s always there, lurking in the background and just waiting to make us eat our words.
Just as those of us who saw Chelsea’s Andriy Shevchenko caress a shot into the bottom corner in the 2006 Community Shield against Liverpool in Cardiff confidently predicted that it’d be the first of a 30+ goal season for the Ukrainian, people are often wrong when comes to this game.
Take what happened a month ago at the Emirates Stadium.
On the opening day of the Premier League season, Aston Villa rocked up at Arsenal and duly dispatched their hosts 3-1 with the kind of performance which hinted that the relegation scrap of the previous campaign was a thing of the past. People were queuing up to claim that they were set for a good season.
It was a scoreline which sent Arsenal into one of their familiar spirals of crisis, with impending doom apparently on the horizon if they weren’t able to sign a player or two.
For Villa, hopes were high that they could set up camp in mid-table and progress from there.
A month later, Arsenal have won three league games on the trot to sit just a point off top spot, whilst Villa have lost three in a row and only find themselves above the relegation zone on goal difference.
It is far too early to panic of course, but the manner of Villa’s home defeat to Newcastle at the weekend will have brought back uncomfortable memories for fans who watched nine Villa Park losses last season, a campaign when they won just five games at home.
Of course Villa’s tough fixture list is partly to blame for their struggles, but for manager Paul Lambert things could be about to get even tougher.
Lambert – who has shortened with the bookmakers to become the first Premier League manager to leave his job this season – faces a hostile return to former club Norwich at the weekend, plus a Capital One Cup game against Tottenham and a league clash with Manchester City before the end of the month.
Of course his side have the quality to steer clear of the lower reaches of the table in the likes of Christian Benteke and a resurgent Gabriel Agbonlahor, and they eventually probably will, but luck doesn’t seem to be on their side at the moment.
The loss of summer signing Jores Okore for what could be the remainder of the season is a huge blow just as the Danish international was looking to establish himself in the centre of defence, meaning that Lambert will have to rely on those players who were at his disposal last season in that area of the pitch.
Of course his side is capable of going on a winning run to match this brief losing one they currently find themselves on, but these next two league matches suddenly seem huge for a club who will be desperate to avoid the kind of slump they went through last season.
Quite a few people said they’d never have to go through a relegation scrap again, but then quite a few people can be wrong quite a lot of the time.
An unhappy anniversary for West Brom
This time a year ago West Brom were preparing for the 1-0 win over Reading which would propel them into third place in the Premier League table.
Now the Baggies sit in the relegation zone, with Gareth McAuley’s stoppage time header in last weekend’s draw at Fulham acting as the only goal they’ve scored in the Premier League this season.
This weekend sees Steve Clarke’s side host the only team currently below them in the table, Sunderland, in a contest that has to be regarded as crucial even at this extremely early stage of the season.
West Brom’s biggest problem seems to be goals.
The signing of an ageing Nicolas Anelka was a gamble, whilst new signing Victor Anichebe has never been anything more than a sporadic scorer and Matej Vydra is new to the division.
Finding the net is proving to be a problem, and it’s one they could do with solving against the Mackems.
The Shelvey show
Who knew that Jonjo Shelvey was such a generous man? What he gave to Swansea against his former club Liverpool on Monday night he quickly took away.
There is a fine player somewhere in that muddled young head of his. The only worry is that as soon as he’s found him he might forget where he is.