After the media have stopped delighting in England scoring a late goal to scrape a home victory over a side ranked next to Paraguay in the world rankings, we might finally get some sense of normality back, and look forward to what promises to be a fascinating end to the season.
These past two weeks have been agonising – England’s friendly victory over Slovakia was uninspiring, with the 4-0 scoreline enormously flattering, while last night taught us much of what we already know – Gerrard and Lampard don’t play for England like they do for their clubs, James is a dodgy keeper at the top level, Rooney is never going to curb his temper, and Crouch was right to put the robot away a few years ago. But Capello is a good coach, and at least seems to be making them play as a team, even if the press are getting a little ahead of themselves on our World Cup chances. But then what’s new?
Now that the games are finally over, we get our players back, and as ever, there are walking wounded. Bendtner didn’t play for Denmark last night [edit – he didn’t start, but came on after half an hour and played the rest of the game. Great. Play our half-injured strikers, you gits.], Nasri pulled out with a virus, joining Diaby on the sidelines, and Van Persie from the weekend fixtures. Thankfully, Eduardo and Arshavin seem to have got through their games unscathed, great news given the fitness concerns around both.
There are eight weeks to go in the season, with anywhere from eleven to fifteen games to play in that time, and keeping the squad fit is imperative. Most importantly, players are returning – Cesc and Adebayor are raring to go again, with even Rosicky on the brink of fitness. Yes, really.
And we’re in a great position – the break may suit Villa as they get a chance to recharge and really go for their final eight games having been on such an awful run, but we’re starting this stretch with a very winnable game at home to a Man City side who are drifting towards their inevitable summer spending spree, and not playing with the kind of fluency we saw when they trounced us earlier in the campaign.
But by the end of the month, we’ll have played Villareal twice, plus Liverpool in the league and Chelsea in the cup, and for that, we need as many players as possible to remain fit. This time last year, our squad was seriously tiring, but this time we actually have fresher legs to call on.
It should be fascinating. I’m just glad the real football is back.