Arsenal's win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Saturday was never in doubt. Tim Sherwood's side couldn't find their footing in a fairly sloppy opening, and once Arsenal found theirs there was only one side in the match. Somehow 4-0 seemed a bit cruel despite the gulf in class, but the reality is that Villa's day peaked when four of their supporters decided to spend their weekly allowance on party supplies to lampoon the fact that Steven Gerrard--who celebrated his 35th birthday on Saturday--wouldn't be taking part due to Liverpool's 2-1 loss to Villa in the semifinals.
Unfortunately for them Villa didn't really take part either, and the joy for Liverpool at the result went beyond schadenfreude. Had Sherwood overseen an unlikely victory, Liverpool would have been cast into the third qualifying round of the Europa League, meaning that they would have had a further four matches in order to qualify for the group stage (two in the third round, two more in the final playoff round) by the time August was out.
That scenario would have seen them taking part in the first leg of qualifying just six days after the end of their tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia. It was less than ideal for a team that's already struggled mightily under Brendan Rodgers in European competition, and thankfully now they'll avoid the undesirable fate of having to play seven matches before the calendar turns to September.
Group play starts in mid-September, after the first international break of the league season, and by that point hopefully the squad and its manager will have settled into a sustainable approach. Picking up in Europe is never ideal after a two-week break, but entering the competition at that point is far preferable to starting just days after the preseason tour wraps up, and it will hopefully bode well for Liverpool as they try to rebound from the domestic and continental disappointments from their most recent campaign.
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