In the final weekend of Premier League action we see a bomb scare result in the postponement of Man Utd v Bournemouth; Arsenal pipping Spurs to the runner-up spot, and Southampton beating West Ham to the Europa League.
The most remarkable Premier League campaign in history was ending with a little puff of dust.
The only stories that required an ending were the Europa League race between Southampton and West Ham, the fight for second place between Arsenal and Spurs, and the fireworks for the fourth Champions League spot between Man Utd and arch rivals Man City.
And we got fireworks.
Just not in the way we expected.
The story goes a little something like this.
A few weeks ago Man City was held to a 2-2 draw against Arsenal after an abysmal run of performances caused by their Champions League Semi Final distraction. The defeat meant if Man Utd were to beat West Ham at Upton Park, Champions League qualification would be in the hands of Louis Van Gaal’s men.
United couldn’t have chosen a worse time to play West Ham. It was the last competitive game at Upton Park before the bulldozers came in. It was a game dripping with emotion. Even the swollen skies contained a few tears. West Ham was on fire that night, coming from behind to win the game by 3-2.
The upshot: Man Utd had blown it. They had handed the baton back to City. United needed to beat Bournemouth at home, and hope that Swansea City did them a favour in South Wales for them to qualify for the Champions League. West Ham had to beat Stoke at the Britannia Stadium to head of a late Europa League challenge by Southampton, who faced an ailing Crystal Palace at home.
And then came one of the craziest endings to the Premier League you are likely to see after 76,000 fans evacuated from Old Trafford because of a bomb scare. It was the first time in 24-years that a security risk ended with the cancellation of a Premier League game.
You can’t make this shit up.
The alarm sounded after a member of United’s staff went for a dump and looked up to find a bomb taped to the inside of the toilet door. Talk about a way to shift a load. The member of staff reported the incident; the stadium was evacuated, and the bomb squad were called in to complete a controlled explosion.
To get to the bottom of the incident, you have to go back to Wednesday when the security firm Security Search Management & Solutions conducted a terrorist training exercise at Old Trafford. As part of the training, they used a fake bomb taped to the back of a toilet door. Only, they forgot to remove it.
The game was cancelled and will be played Tuesday night at 8 pm, giving the United players four days of rest before the FA Cup Final. Fortunately, for United the game is a dead rubber and the reserve team will be able to finish it off.
City Qualify For Champions League
Imagine being Louis Van Gaal.
Your job has been on the line for months. Jose Mourinho’s shadow looms large. You know your only hope is to beat Bournemouth (everyone but Aston Villa can do that lately), and hope that Man City lose to Swansea, and then beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup.
There is a bomb scare meaning you can do nothing but watch City on the box hoping that they fail to get the point they need to ensure the Dutchman’s tenure ends at Old Trafford with an expensive handshake. And Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin celebrates signing a new two-year deal by resting his three best players: Ashley Williams, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lukasz Fabianski for no other reason that to rest them for the Euro 2016 Finals.
These words come to mind: Punch. Face. Wall. Hard. Hurt.
Swansea was ok but not great. Man City was wasteful in front of goal and was always suspect at the back. Kelechi Iheanacho opened the scoring for City in the 5th minute. His tap-in was his 8th Premier League goal of the season. He has only had 12 shots on goal. It’s not hard to see where one of City’s problems lie when you consider the super sub was the club’s second highest goalscorer behind Sergio Aguero (24).
Aguero needed to score twice and hope that both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy had off days so he could win the Golden Boot. The Argentine could have had a hat-trick but must have left his shooting boots in the car. Swansea equalised just before half time after Andrew Ayew’s free kick was deflected into the goal by Fernando, but City held on for the draw and qualification into the Champions League in Manuel Pelligrini’s last game in charge.
It was City’s lowest points tally in seven seasons.
Pep Guardiola has a big job on his hands.
Louis Van Gaal was left wanting to put his hands around a particular Italian’s throat.
The Saints go Marching Into Europe
It’s incredible to think that West Ham’s greatest ever Premier League showing could end up without anything to show for it after Stoke beat them at the Britannia Stadium.
The Hammers, who were without the injured Dimitri Payet, needed a win to secure a Europa League spot ahead of chasing Southampton. They looked like doing that after Michail Antonio turned smartly in the box to score his eighth goal of the season prompting his coach Slaven Bilic to back him for a late call-up into the England squad.
Stoke came into the game on the back of a run of results that had seen them take one point in their last six games while shipping 18 goals. They owed the fans a performance and they managed to pull one out of the ground.
Stoke’s record signing Giannelli Imbula scored his first home goal of the season in the 55th minute, and Mame Biram Diouf came off the bench to head home the winner with two minutes remaining. It was the former Man Utd player’s fifth goal of the season and they have all been headers.
It was the third successive year that Stoke had finished in ninth place. West Ham is now relying on Man Utd to beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final if they are going to have any hope of bringing European football to the Olympic Stadium next year.
The reason West Ham need a favour from the men from Old Trafford is the end of season form of Southampton. Ronald Koeman’s men put in a run when they needed it most with five wins and a draw from their last six outings.
Koeman said ‘clinical finishing’ was responsible for their 4 v 1 victory over a Crystal Palace side that didn’t play that poorly. A couple of cock ups by Julian Speroni not helping matters as Alan Pardew rested most of his side ahead of the FA Cup Final this weekend. The officials also played their part as two of Southampton’s goals should have been chalked off due to infringements.
They finished 8th under Mauricio Pochettino in 2013/14. Then they lost their manager and sold the core of their team. Koeman came in with the impossible task of glueing everything back together in 2014/15 and promptly finished 7th. The Saints are guaranteed at least 6th this season, and could even be 5th if United lose to Bournemouth on Tuesday. And it’s this reason why I don’t think Koeman will be at St Mary’s for much longer, Europa League or no Europa League.
North London Rivals Battle it Out For Second
With Arsenal’s season petering out into nothingness the only thing that put a smile on the face of their fans was watching Spurs lose the title race to Leicester City. Spurs stuttering end to the season gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope that they could once again finish higher than their North London neighbours and they grabbed that glimmer when it shone brightest.
Both North London clubs were facing sides already relegated to the Championship. On paper, it seemed like a cakewalk for both. It was anything but, for one of them.
Spurs turned up at St James Park with the look of a broken team. Their inability to beat Chelsea to stop Leicester from winning the title, followed by defeat at home to Southampton, had left psychological scars. All they needed was a draw against the third worse side in the league and second place was secured.
Nobody could have written this script.
In the aftermath of Pochettino’s new five-year deal, Spurs shipped five in a stunning defeat. After the game, Pochettino apologised to the fans, and to their families for the shocking performance by his players. It was no coincidence the thumping came with both Delle Ali and Mousa Dembele missing through suspension.
Newcastle’s performance – with 10-men after their team idiot Aleksandr Mitrovic was sent off for the fifth time in his career for a horror tackle on Kyle Walker – was completely out of character prompting Alan Shearer to ask ‘where had they been all season’ during his Match of the Day punditry.
The star man was Moussa Sissoko, often an invisible man this season, he drove his team forward in an excellent display only marred by a dive that allowed Georgino Wijnaldum to score his second goal of the game from the penalty spot, and his 11th goal of the season. A beautiful header from Mitrovic, a tap in from Rolando Aarons, and a breakaway goal from Daryl Janmaat handing the second place initiative to Arsenal on a silver platter.
And boy did they take it.
Olivier Giroud’s first Premier League hat trick and a farewell goal from their departing club skipper Mikel Arteta ensured Arsenal would finish above their rivals Spurs once again with a 4-0 hammering at home to Villa.
It was a rout.
It was always going to be a rout.
Arsenal welcomed back Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere from injury, but like the Match of the Day, pundits said, “They are the master of winning football matches when the pressure is off.”
Spurs fans finish on such a low after a season of highs.
Arsenal fans end on a high after a season of nothing but lows.
Here are the rest of the results:
Swansea City 1 v 1 Man City
Southampton 4 v 1 Crystal Palace
Arsenal 4 v 0 Aston Villa
Watford 2 v 2 Sunderland
Everton 3 v 0 Norwich
Stoke City 2 v 1 West Ham
West Brom 1 v 1 Liverpool
Chelsea 1 v 1 Leicester City
Newcastle 5 v 1 Spurs
To Be Played (Tue, 17 May)
Man Utd v Bournemouth
Premier League Standings
1st. Leicester – 81 pts.
2nd. Arsenal – 71 pts.
3rd. Spurs – 70 pts.
4th. Man City – 66 pts.
5th. Southampton – 63 pts.
6th. Man Utd – 63 pts.
7th. West Ham – 62 pts.
8th. Liverpool – 60 pts.
9th. Stoke – 51 pts.
10th. Chelsea – 50 pts.
11th. Everton – 47 pts.
12th. Swansea – 47 pts.
13th. Watford – 45 pts.
14th. West Brom – 43 pts.
15th. Crystal Palace – 42 pts.
16th. Bournemouth – 42 pts.
17th. Sunderland – 39 pts.
18th. Newcastle – 37 pts.
19th. Norwich – 34 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 17 pts.
2015/16 Premier League Stats
Aston Villa, Norwich, and Newcastle
Automatic Champions League
Leicester City, Arsenal, and Spurs
Champions League Qualifying Round
If Liverpool wins the Europa League, they qualify for the Champions League Qualifying Round and Man City automatically qualify for the group stages.
Southampton, and Man Utd.
If Man Utd win the FA Cup, then West Ham qualify. If Crystal Palace wins the FA Cup, then they qualify instead of West Ham.
Golden Boot Winner
Harry Kane (25 Goals)