Two left in title chase while Sunderland say goodbye
The Premier League trophy will be returning to London this year with only Chelsea and Tottenham now in the running and Sunderland will be waving goodbye with their relegation confirmed after a home defeat against Bournemouth.
With the two Manchester clubs both being held to draws it left Chelsea and Spurs to pull well clear of the pack with wins at Everton and at home against Arsenal respectively. It is still possible for Spurs to be caught but they are the only team who can now catch leaders Chelsea who looked every bit like champions elect in their win at Everton.
Spurs, meanwhile, are guaranteed to finish above Arsenal for the first time since before Arsène Wenger became Gunners’ manager. His team looked a sorry mess at times yesterday but that’s nothing compared to the mess that is Sunderland.
They’ve staged comeback after comeback in the last four years under four different managers but there is no survival this time and they return to the Championship they left after a 3-2 win against us a decade ago when Roy Keane was manager.
They’ve had eight other permanent managers in the eight and a half years since Keane left them and the only surprise is that the relegation didn’t come sooner. David Moyes, who went there after disappointing times at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, is not popular on Wearside. Right at the beginning of the season he told them it was a relegation battle. I suppose he was right but it is not what fans want to hear.
I read an article this morning which said that Moyes had drained the club’s players, staff and supporters of belief and enthusiasm. Admitting it was always going to be a difficult job, the report said he’d made a bad job of a bad job.
When I was at the Stadium of Light recently, I saw Moyes arrive for the game. Speaking to some supporters outside the ground he said: “I hope you bring us some good luck, we need it.” I couldn’t imagine Sean Dyche ever saying anything like that.
He doesn’t inspire and the report said that one former player had called him the Energy Vampire and had left them as a lifeless football club.
Sunderland fans seem to think all it needs is a change of manager and they’ll come straight back up. They need to take a closer look at their club. They seem to have a track record of appointing the wrong managers and/or getting rid of them too quickly. They are also a club with large debts, a massive wage bill and a seemingly disinterested owner. I think it will take quite a bit more than a change of manager. If things got worse for them, they wouldn’t be the first perceived big club to drop down into League One.
It’s looking more and more likely that Middlesbrough, their current closest Premier League neighbours, will be joining them in the Championship. They won their first game of 2017 this week but that was against Sunderland. Yesterday they were twice in front against Manchester City but were eventually held to a draw.
Those with glasses half empty will still be concerned that we can be caught by everyone else but I suspect the last relegation place will now end in the hands of either Hull or Swansea with Swansea the favourites. Those two clubs have had some good fortune in the last week with penalties missed against them, but Swansea were one of three clubs to get something of a raw deal yesterday with penalties.
Harry Kane won Spurs a penalty against Arsenal. I’m not sure about it. He certainly exaggerates things but he was touched so I probably have to agree that Michael Oliver got the decision correct. That was very definitely not the case with Kevin Friend at Middlesbrough or Neil Swarbrick at Old Trafford.
In awarding Manchester City a penalty for a foul on Leroy Mané, Friend has got it wrong, but Swarbrick’s awarding of a penalty for Manchester United is an appalling one. He was deceived by Marcus Rashford according to Swansea boss Paul Clement. That’s one way of putting it.
Sean Dyche spoke about these issues only last Thursday when asked about Joey Barton’s suspension. It’s not the first time he has and I’m sure he’ll mention it again until something is done. Dyche wants retrospective action; I’m sure most people in the game do.
As for the table, Middlesbrough can’t possibly catch us now so even mathematically the lowest position in which we can end the season is 18th but it would take a freak run of results for that to happen. Firstly, Swansea would have to win all of their remaining games. If they did, we could still go down unless we got two more points.
The leading goalscorers in the Premier League, each club’s red and yellow card count and their average attendances can all be found in Goalscorers-Discipline-Attendances within Season Stats on the top menu.
Gameweek 36 Fixtures
Friday 5th May
West Ham v Tottenham (kick off 8 p.m.)
Saturday 6th May
Manchester City v Crystal Palace (kick off 12 noon)
Bournemouth v Stoke
Burnley v West Brom
Hull v Sunderland
Leicester v Watford
Swansea v Everton (kick off 5:30 p.m.)
Sunday 7th May
Liverpool v Southampton (kick off 1:30 p.m.)
Arsenal v Manchester United (kick off 4 p.m.)
Monday 8th May
Chelsea v Middlesbrough (kick off 8 p.m.)