Week 24 of the English Premier League concludes with Chelsea ending the title hopes of Arsenal, Leicester falling closer to the drop zone, and Crystal Palace is in it.
I have a man crush on Antonio Conte.
Apart from the hot Italian mug, beautiful eyes, and sexy baritone voice, he isn’t afraid of diving into his crowd and getting his dandruff scattered. In a world of miserable managers making me want to pull my pubes out with tweezers, he is also light and airy when someone thrusts a mic into his face.
I guess being top of the league by nine points and burying an axe into the skull of one of your major title rivals will produce that type of attitude. Chelsea was superb in their 3-1 demolition of an Arsenal team who have once again failed to roll up their sleeves when the Premier League campaign starts to get dirty. The victory takes them 12-points clear, once again leaving Arsenal with only Champions League qualification hopes.
Marcos Alonso began the rout in the 13th minute – knocking Hector Bellerin into the middle of next week in the process. As the Spaniard rose highest in the box to head the ball past Petr Cech, his right elbow smashed into the temple of Bellerin. It was a substantial challenge. Right on cue, Wenger complained about the goal. Why? The irrelevance of his whining after Chelsea stuffed them like a chicken bugs me.
Eden Hazard ended the game as a spectacle in the 53rd minute with a mazy dribble of Diego Maradona proportions. The Belgian picked the ball in the middle of the park, left Laurent Koscielny for dust, sprinted into the box, beat Koscielny again and prodded the ball home. Six Arsenal defenders were surrounding him and not a blue shirt in sight when Hazard scored.
“I like scoring beautiful goals,” said Hazard at the end of the game.
I had turned off the TV before I could hear Wenger rolling out another unnecessary complaint.
Former Arsenal star, Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score the third after Cech forgot he was no longer playing for them by passing directly to him. The Spaniard finishing with a neat lob into an empty net and then refused to celebrate out of respect to the fans who jeer him, call him names and spit on his car. Olivier Giroud headed home a consolation goal in injury time.
In the self-help book The Mastery of Love, the author Don Miguel Ruiz offers this advice when you feel your relationship is falling apart.
“Take the risk but be honest. If it works, keep going. If it doesn’t work, then do yourself and your partner a favour: walk away; let her go. Don’t be selfish. Give your partner the opportunity to find what she really wants, and at the same time give yourself the opportunity. If it’s not going to work, it is better to look in a different direction. Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste your partner’s time. This is respect.”
Arsene Wenger’s contract ends at when the season does, and I think it’s high time he showed the club some respect and allowed it to fall in love with someone else.
The Chasing Pack
So, that’s it then.
That victory by Chelsea was their 16th in 18 games since they suffered a 3-0 mauling at the hands of Arsenal back in September. With form that fierce all the chasing pack can do is to keep winning in the hope that Conte’s team land on a few banana skins.
Spurs is doing that better than anyone at the moment. Their 1-0 win against Middlesbrough keeps them within three wins/losses of the champions-elect. They are still the only side to maintain an unbeaten home record with 10 wins in 12, included a win against Chelsea. Harry Kane scored his 14th Premier League goal of the season from the spot after Bernardo hauled Son-Heung-Min down in the area.
Man City boss Pep Guardiola ruled his side out of the title race after being on the end of a 4-0 thumping against Everton in mid-January. Since that announcement City has taken 10 points from 12, winning three on the spin, but boy did they leave it late in their latest endeavour.
Swansea arrived at the Etihad on a high after winning their previous two Premier League games, and previous two away Premier League games. But they were behind, early. The industrious David Silva wriggled through a weak challenge on the edge of the six-yard box to thrust the ball into the Jukebox, and Gabriel Jesus was on hand to volley home another hit since his recent move from Brazil.
The Etihad is not a happy stomping ground for the Welsh side who had not won in the past 10 attempts, and they had not won away at Maine Road since 1951. So three points was a stretch, but a point would have been a great prize, and they looked to have grabbed it thanks to their talisman.
Gylffi Sigurdsson is, without a doubt, the greatest footballer playing for a weak side in the Premier League and must leave at the end of the season if he is to realise his true potential. The Icelandic star had already come close to scoring when a wicked free kick struck the post before he found space at the edge of the box to fire home the equaliser in the 81st minute.
City reacted superbly, though. They ploughed forward in search of a deserved winner and found it with the last kick of the game. The ball was hurled into the box from the right, little Jesus saw his header saved by Fabianski, but the Polish keeper spilt it, and the Brazilian bagged a brace, and the winner, with the last kick of the game.
Champions League Race
Liverpool lost further ground in their race to secure a Champions League berth with a surprise defeat at a revitalised Hull City. There were omens. Jurgen Klopp’s side had only won once in their last four visits to the KCOM, and Liverpool hadn’t won in the league since December.
Despite losing Michael Dawson in the warm up Hull were superb. A debut goal from Alfred N’Diaye and an excellent finish by Oumar Niasse sealed the three points that blew the relegation battle wide open. Hull have now picked up seven points from twelve since Marco Silva took over the remote control from Mike Phelan. It was also Hull’s first clean sheet at home all season.
When Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm, United was notorious for pouncing on any slips their opponent’s made. That has been the missing ingredient this season. United dominate most matches, but in recent weeks when their Champions League contenders have faltered, United have failed to find the net.
Nine draws, more than any other team in the country is the reason United are scrambling for a Champions League place instead of vying for the title. They arrived at the home of the Champions on the back of three straight draws, but they left having made a statement.
Goals from Henry Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Juan Mata handed Jose Mourinho’s side a comfortable victory. Leicester is in serious trouble. From Champions to one point above the relegation zone. It’s an incredible turnaround, especially when you consider, Claudio Ranieri spent £80m on players in the summer, and nine of the starting eleven won the title last season. United close the gap on Liverpool to a single point.
Everton is also in the Champions League race after thumping Bournemouth by 6-3 at Goodison Park. Everton has now taken 17 of 21 available points since Boxing Day, and Romelu Lukaku scored four to catapult him to the top of the Premier League scoring charts with 16.
The 23-year old (I know, incredible, right) destroyed Bournemouth in a crazy game of football. Eddie Howe’s side was 3-0 down inside 30-minutes, the 12th time this season they had conceded three goals in a single match. To their credit, they fought back after half time to bring the game back to 3-2 and could have equalised numerous times before Everton stepped their foot back on the accelerator and left the team from the South eating exhaust fumes. Bournemouth has now conceded 31 goals in 12 games, and have only won one in eight.
Six teams are currently embroiled in a relegation battle, with Bournemouth slowly being dragged into the mire.
The bookmakers favourite, Sunderland, handed their fans a lifeline with a crushing 4-0 win away at fellow strugglers Crystal Palace. It was the first time Allardyce had faced his old club since saving their skin last season. He won’t want to see them again in a hurry. Jermaine Defoe was in scintillating form scoring twice in a comfortable win.
Sunderland remains at the foot of the table despite that win, but only on goal difference with Crystal Palace who falls another place thanks to Hull’s win. Only two points separate bottom club Sunderland and Middlesbrough in 15th.
On present form Crystal Palace, Leicester and Middlesbrough look to be in serious trouble.
Here are the rest of the weekend’s results.
Premier League Results (Week 24)
Chelsea 3 v 1 Arsenal
Watford 2 v 1 Burnley
Southampton 1 v 3 West Ham
Everton 6 v 3 Bournemouth
West Brom 1 v 0 Stoke
Hull 2 v 0 Liverpool
Crystal Palace 0 v 4 Sunderland
Spurs 1 v 0 Middlesbrough
Man City 2 v 1 Swansea
Leicester 0 v 3 Man Utd
Premier League Table
1. Chelsea – 59
2. Spurs – 50
3. Man City – 49
4. Arsenal – 47
5. Liverpool – 46
6. Man Utd – 45
7. Everton – 40
8. West Brom – 36
9. West Ham – 31
10. Watford – 30
11. Stoke – 29
12. Burnley – 29
13. Southampton – 27
14. Bournemouth – 26
15. Middlesbrough – 21
16. Leicester – 21
17. Swansea – 21
18. Hull – 20
19. Crystal Palace – 19
20. Sunderland – 19
Premier League Title Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Man City +1200