Premier League round 21 review
Well, here we go down with the only big championship which happened recently (La Liga is happening now, I’ll make something about it at the beginning of the next week, and there’s also the transfer window, might become interesting from now on). Of course, the highlight of this round was obviously the direct match between leaders Liverpool and Manchester City, to have this round definitely weight in the league title race. Though not quite the title decider… at least with this outcome considered.
Liverpool’s undefeated round ended with a 1-2, ironically against title rivals Manchester City on Ettihad Stadium. If, due to City’s poor performances in the last rounds, the gap between the two title contestants was a comfortable 7 points lead for the Scousers, and with a win, they could have distanced themselves to 10 points and come really close to winning the league at this point. However, despite the Reds having a couple of chances, it was City who took the lead at the end of the first half, with a goal from Aguero. Liverpool got an equalizer by Firmino in the 64th minute and, from that point, both teams were trying to take the lead. Leroy Sane closed the table at 2-1 for City after just 8 minutes from Firmino’s equalizer, and any chances Liverpool had from that point on went wasted. The result, goes without saying, was a surprising one, since Manchester City had struggles with form and a lot of their key players were absent for this game, while Liverpool was in pole position, with the chance to further consolidate their lead atop the Premier League table and take a huge step towards winning their fist league title since 1990… So, all in all, the Premier League battle isn’t finished between Liverpool and Manchester City with only 4 points standing between these two teams, and possibly (though highly unlikely) with further involvement from Tottenham Hotspur shall these two teams somehow bottle it up simultaneously.
Speaking of which, Tottenham won 3-0 against Cardiff City and stays on the third place, two points behind City. I should probably point out that, if they were more consistent, they would have been second place now, and benefiting of Liverpool’s defeat more than City themselves. I somehow don’t see Mauricio Pochetino’s side as having what it takes to become a title contender, giving their form and all. And frankly, the two previous occasions where the Spurs where actively fighting for the title, with Leicester City and Chelsea, all ended up in misery, so I can assume Tottenham by now has become at least strong enough to secure a participation in the Champions League group stages on an annual basis from now on.
Chelsea has only achieved a draw against relegation combatant Southampton (18th place) and remains on 4th place, 4 points behind local rivals Tottenham. At this point, I think the Blues might have a bit of a struggle to adapt the playing style of Maurizio Sarri. That doesn’t mean I view Sarri as a mediocre coach, it’s just coming from a team like Napoli (who, let’s face it, has modest aspirations and couldn’t even win the Scudetto when it came really close to pulling it off) to one like Chelsea, which at least aims to win the Premier League every year, it’s a level up which might be a bit too much to handle for the Italian.
Next is Arsenal. 5th place, 3 points behind rivals Chelsea, the Gunners have achieved a 4-1 victory over Fulham. At this point, I see Arsenal with small chances of achieving anything beyond Europa League this season, after all, it’s like a season of reconstruction after Arsene Wenger’s departure. Besides, as I said, Unai Emery didn’t really leave an impression of being a top coach, or at least being that kind of coach to pull Arsenal out of their misery, since his achievements with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain were, well, either exceeding expectations or severely underperforming (see, the 2017, when PSG lost the league title to Monaco). My conclusion is, even if Arsenal sticks close to that fourth place, the chances of them actually making it into the Champions League are slim, in my humble opinion.
Manchester United, 6th place (3 points behind Arsenal), easily won 2-1 against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United. Frankly, ever since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over on an interim basis, United have actually started to show signs of revival. Which is ironic, considering that, as big Solskjaer was as a footballer, in his past tenure as manager in the Premier League, not only he failed to keep Cardiff City in the Premier League, he also left them at the bottom of Championship before being sacked. The irony made Solksjaer’s first match in charge be against Cardiff, and a 5-1 victory at that… I swear I will laugh my a*s off if somehow he ends up getting the best of this United (which in this case would mean 5th place, cause no way I actually see him getting that Champions League spot) and is appointed full time manager. As a matter of fact, he hasn’t won a league title in Norway ever since 2012 with Molde… Ahem. Ok, that’s enough ranting about the coaches of Premier League teams.
Leicester City, 7th place (7 points behind Manchester United and two points above Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers) managed to secure an Italian style victory (1-0) against Everton on Goodison Park. I think despite the recent incident (owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death), the former champions can secure a place in the Europa League for next season. Of course, that would go with the condition of FA Cup and the League Cup being won by teams from the top 5, but if that happened for so many seasons, why wouldn’t it happen now? Anyway, Leicester’s closest opponents for that spot, as it stands, would be Watford, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, and the Foxes have the advantage of having a more experienced team, with most of the team which won the league title and played in Champions League in 2016 still being at the club.
Now, for the relegation side, we have Southampton, Fulham and Huddersfield Town occupying the fallout spots, while Newcastle, Burnley and Cardiff City are closely threatened. Even Fulham actually managed to step up their game and are not last place anymore, so they might gain a couple of chances to stay atop if they gain positive results while every other team involved bottles it up. It highly amuses me to see Burnley there, one season after they have secured their qualification to Europa League (which is a grim reminder that, outside the teams of top 6, any prospect is to be taken into consideration apart from the title in Premier League).