Week 29 of the English Premier League sees Arsene Wenger facing more scrutiny after defeat at the Hawthorns, City and Liverpool play out an exciting 1-1 draw, and managerless Boro loses to United.
Arsene Wenger told the press that he knows what his future holds and will advise the fans ‘very soon.’ The Frenchman’s decision could not come soon enough after his Arsenal side lost their fourth game in five against West Brom at the Hawthorns.
West Brom came into this encounter on the back of two defeats, but Tony Pulis had encouraged calm before this game, telling the fans ‘not to get carried away.’ But you can see why they might want to ignore him. The Baggies win over Arsenal moves them to 43 points, two wins away from their highest top flight haul.
When West Brom took the lead, it was from a corner. Craig Dawson rising higher than anyone to score in the 12th minute, but the sides were all square within three minutes when Alexis Sanchez scored his 18th goal of the season. The Chilean has been involved in 27 Premier League goals, more than any other player, and the Arsenal away fans rained jeers down at Wenger when he brought the little genius off in the second half.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hal-Robson Kanu has failed to breathe new life into his career after an outstanding Euro 2016. The Welshman handed his native boss a reminder that he knows where the back of the net is, scoring with his second touch to give West Brom the lead in the 55th minute.
Arsenal, who had 77% possession, hardly looked threatening. Danny Welbeck struck the crossbar with a header, but that was the only big chance that fell the way of the Gunners. Then with 15-minutes remaining, Dawson scored his second header of the game to secure his team’s first win of the season against a top seven side. It was the Baggies 15th goal from a corner this season.
The defeat for Arsenal sees them tumble to sixth making an appearance in the Champions League a long shot. Arsene Wenger has never failed on that count in the previous 20-years, and it would be a sad way to remember him if he leaves in the summer.
Next up, for Arsenal?
Man City at home.
Chelsea Move Closer to the Title
Stoke gave Chelsea a physical battle, but the great teams always find that extra bit of something to get past all the blood and bluster, and that’s what Chelsea did on an uncomfortable afternoon in Stoke to maintain their 10 point gap over Spurs.
It was Chelsea’s fifth win on the bounce and 20th win from 23 games in all competitions. If Spurs, Man City, and co are waiting for them to slip up, they are going to be sorely disappointed.
Chelsea began the game without star man Eden Hazard who missed the game with a muscle injury. But Chelsea has quality all over the pitch, in particular, the two feet of Willian. The Brazilian opened the scoring in the 13th minute with another of his free-kick delights. It was his sixth Premier League goal of the season and his eighth converted free kick since joining the Blues from Russia in 2013.
Stoke levelled the tie in the 38th minute when Gary Cahill was judged to have pushed Jon Walters, and the Irishman put the penalty away with aplomb. As it turned out, that was Stoke’s only shot on target as Chelsea dominated possession. And Gary Cahill made amends for his error, three minutes from time when he scored from a corner to secure the win. David Bardsley was sent off deep into injury time for his second bookable offence.
Champions League and Relegation News
With the bookmakers making Chelsea -2500 to win the title, interest in the Premier League must now come from the Champions League and relegation squabbles. Fortunately, both mini-competitions are heating up quite nicely.
Man City and Liverpool played out one of the most entertaining matches of the season at The Etihad. It felt like a cup tie as both teams ploughed forward in search of goals.
City had lost their previous four Premier League games against Liverpool, and Jurgen Klopp’s side came into the tie unbeaten in every game they had played against teams in the top six.
City dominated the first half, but the same pattern emerged with their forward players unable to turn possession and chances into goals. After the break, Liverpool came more into the game and snatched the lead thanks to a spot of idiocy by Gael Clichy who brought Firmino down in the box. James Milner put the ball away. He hasn’t missed a penalty all season, and that was his 50th goal in 450 Premier League matches.
Pep Guardiola changed things shortly after that with Kevin de Bruyne moving out wide and the wasteful Raheem Sterling moving into the middle of the park, and it worked a treat. The Belgian put the ball on a plate for Sergio Aguero to score his 13th Premier League goal of the season. In the dying embers, Adam Lallana and Aguero missing absolute sitters, and the game remained at one a piece.
With City failing to beat Liverpool, Spurs moved two points clear in second place after a 2-1 over Southampton. It was the first game without Harry Kane, as the England youngster recovers from an ankle injury, and they showed they have enough firepower in their side to take the slack until he returns.
Christian Eriksen opened the scoring in the 1st quarter with a sweet strike from the edge of the box. It was the Dane’s fourth goal in four Premier League games against the Saints and his 13th successful strike from outside the box. Nobody has scored more since he arrived in the Premier League back in 2013.
Spurs went into the interval two-up thanks to a penalty by Dele Alli after Steve Davis clipped his heels. Alli’s conversion, the third from different Spurs penalty takers this season, was his 11th goal in 12 Premier League appearances. Southampton made the tie interesting when James Ward-Prowse scored his third goal of the season seven minutes after the interval, but Spurs held on for the win.
Manchester United moved into the fifth spot after a convincing away win at struggling Middlesbrough. Paul Gascoigne lookalike, Steve Agnew, took temporary charge after the sacking of Aitor Karanka, and he was delighted with his team’s performance.
Boro had 64% possession, no mean feat against United, and they even scored a goal – the first in four Premier League games – when Rudi Gestede tapped in with 20-minutes remaining. But by that time United had taken a two-goal lead thanks to a header from Marouane Fellaini and a super strike from Jesse Lingard. Antonio Valencia sealed the points with his first goal in three years after a howler from the former United keeper Victor Valdez allowed the Ecuadorian to walk the ball into an empty net.
Everton joined Arsenal on 50 points after a 4-0 win over relegation favourites Hull. But don’t be fooled by the scoreline. The Tigers were still snarling until Tom Huddlestone received his marching orders with 20-minutes of the game remaining.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin turned 20 this week and celebrated by opening the scoring in the ninth minute from close range. It was only his sixth appearance for Everton in a season when the youngsters are doing Ronald Koeman proud.
Hull will go down if they can’t sort out their troubles on the road, and their task of getting anything out of this one was dashed when Huddleston was sent off for a challenge on the Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye. The former Tottenham star will now miss a third of Hull’s remaining ties when they need him most.
Everton substitute Enner Valencia scored Everton’s second goal within five minutes of Huddlestone’s expulsion. And then the man of the moment Romelu Lukaku took over.
It’s been less than a week since Lukaku turned down an offer to stay at Everton worth an estimated £100,000 per week, and the fans let him know what they thought of that move by booing when the announcer called out his name before the game began.
Those boos would have affected the Belgian youngster, but he did well to hide it, scoring twice in injury time to move to the top of the Premier League scoring charts with 21. He may not be an Everton player next season, but whoever he plays for he will be a tremendous asset.
Hull wasn’t the only side to lose ground in the relegation race as Swansea suffered their second loss on the trot away at a resurgent Bournemouth side. Eddie Howe’s men have now taken seven points from nine since losing four successive Premier League games thanks to an own goal by Alfie Mawson and a Benik Afobe strike. Swansea remains three points above Hull on the precipice of the relegation zone after losing their third Premier League game in the past four outings.
Crystal Palace was the only side involved in the relegation gunfight who managed to sneak a win this weekend after beating Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park. Troy Deeney’s 68th-minute own goal condemned The Hornets to their third defeat in four and gave Palace their third consecutive Premier League victory without conceding a goal.
Play it again Big Sam.
If Sunderland were ever going to win a home tie this season then surely Burnley was the one. Sean Dyche’s side has still not registered a win on their travels this season, but both teams drew a blank in this bore draw. And Leicester’s new makeshift manager, Craig Shakespeare, continued his unbeaten run in charge of the Champions with his fourth consecutive victory after the club sacked Claudio Ranieri.
Leicester raced into a 3-1 half-time lead thanks to goals from Riyad Mahrez, Robert Huth, and Jamie Vardy. Manuel Lanzini replied for West Ham, and despite an Andre Ayew header making things interesting for the last 20-minutes, Leicester held on to move six points clear of the relegation zone.
Here are the results in full:
Week 29 Results
West Brom 3 v 1 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 1 v 0 Watford
Sunderland 0 v 0 Burnley
Everton 4 v 0 Hull
Stoke 1 v 2 Chelsea
West Ham 2 v 3 Leicester
Bournemouth 2 v 0 Swansea
Middlesbrough 1 v 2 Man Utd
Spurs 2 v 1 Southampton
Man City 1 v 1 Liverpool
Premier League Table
1. Chelsea – 69
2. Spurs – 59
3. Man City – 57
4. Liverpool 56
5. Man Utd – 52
6. Arsenal – 50
7. Everton – 50
8. West Brom – 43
9. Stoke – 36
10. Southampton 33
11. Bournemouth – 33
12. West Ham – 33
13. Burnley – 32
14. Watford – 31
15. Leicester – 30
16. Crystal Palace – 28
17. Swansea – 27
18. Hull – 24
19. Middlesbrough – 22
20. Sunderland – 20
Premier League Title Odds
Chelsea – 2500
Man City +2500
To Be Relegated
Crystal Palace +300
Odds courtesy of Bodog