It's been over 24 hours since the final whistle sounded on the Aston Villa-Arsenal FA Cup clash and I'm still somewhat confused as to what I just watched. It goes without saying that this season has been filled with very few ups and a lot of downs - and yet no one who follows Aston Villa can say that they are as bad as they've looked at times. The victory at Stamford Bridge showed us that this team can indeed play with the big boys and with Arsenal on the bottom rung of the aforementioned big boy ladder, at least this season, fans took some hope into Sunday's match at the Emirates.
I don't think I was alone in watching the last half hour of the match with my jaw on the floor. The turnaround was stunning. Over the past year or so we've grown accustomed to watching Aston Villa throw away points from a winning position but this was a level of incompetence I've come to expect from the Chicago Cubs. I have a hard time blaming Alex McLeish for the collapse as I hardly doubt his half time speech consisted of telling the team to concede two penalties and send in a clearance attempt off Theo Walcott's thorax.
That said there was some interesting deflection going on after the match through the mouth of manager McLeish. He seemed to be most upset with Robin van Persie's elbow to the handsomely bearded jaw of Villa defender Carlos Cuellar which sent the Spaniard to the deck. No foul was called on the elbow. I understand that van Persie has a reputation as a man who knows how to get away with special manuevers when in a scrum and this play will only add to his legend.
The story now is that referee Mike Jones saw the incident and as such there will be no punishment handed down by the FA. I sincerely hope this is the last we hear about this from McLeish and Villa. Getting elbowed in the chops sucks but in no way did it have anything to do with the meltdown that saw Villa's 2-0 lead disappear quicker than you can scream, "BUT MCLEISH WAS SUPPOSED TO IMPROVE OUR DEFENDING!" I understand the idea of deflecting blame - if the team is of fragile mind right now, what good is it going to do to blast them to the press after such a deflating loss? I'm certainly no expert on man management but I can't believe any player in the locker room needed any kind of reminder as to just how embarrassing that was. Perhaps that's what McLeish's intention was and if so it might actually have been the right play.
Now I'm going to get a little bit random so bear with me.
It's hard to believe there are any skeptics remaining with regard to Robbie Keane's arrival. Since he's come into the first team the attack has looked so much more potent. The real question is how to keep this going when he inevitably heads back to Los Angeles for the MLS season. If he's not here for the rest of the season who fills his role? It's clear a forward like Keane makes Aston Villa go but since it seems unlikely that the transfer market will bear any fruit I fear for the future after he leaves. I can't say I ever thought I'd be saying that. This makes me unbelievably sad.
The rejuvenation of Stephen Ireland has made life as a Villa fan a lot better. Turns out Villa really did have a creative presence in the squad, he just finally decided to show what he's capable of over the last month or so. If he stays healthy - which is a huge question mark - he makes this club a billion times less dreadful.
The fact remains that despite the blown lead and clown car antics for eight horrifying minutes of football, it does seem like Aston Villa have some belief back. It will be extremely interesting to see how they respond in a home encounter with Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. Looking back at QPR's recent results, almost all have been one goal games. It's strange to go from feeling like a win at the Emirates is fully possible to fearing a draw at best at home to a newly promoted side but that's where I find myself. With Marc Albrighton out until the match with Manchester City and Charles N'Zogbia still struggling to find fitness and form, I'd reckon we'll see a similar run out as on Sunday.
As for today, let's all prepare for what's sure to be an exhilarating transfer window closing by making up stupid shit over at our deadline day thread. Helicopter sightings and burnt hot pockets are only the beginning.