The Premier League in Review – Spurs Revert to Type
It took until the last twenty minutes of the season, but they got there in the end. Against stiff competition, Spurs’ five-one defeat at the hands of an already relegated, ten man Newcastle United surely counts as one of the club’s most embarrassing in recent years, and no amount of chatter on the subject of next season in the Champions League can make that go away. Spurs’ implosion over the last couple of weeks has been so complete that it’s difficult to suggest anything other than that the league table doesn’t lie, and that Arsenal ultimately deserve second place in the table. Arsenal, meanwhile, brushed past the dismal and wretched Aston Villa with the sort of confidence that only Arsenal can when there’s no significant pressure on. If Spurs supporters can take any solace from it all, at least Arsene Wenger will now be almost certain to continue at Arsenal season, but those are the slimmest available pickings from a season that promised so much.
The season isn’t over yet, of course, a state of affairs guaranteed by the late, late postponement of the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Bournemouth. The “device” identified as being at the centre of the scare, it later turned out, was left over from a previous exercise, an outcome which is simultaneously troubling because it was just left laying about and reassuring in that at least someone found it on the day itself, but social media seemed more concerned with whether this was a match abandoned or a match postponed – nowhere does semantic pedantry quite like Twitter – whilst conspiracy theorists felt their tin foil hats twitch at it all, though there didn’t seem to be much of a rationale for this apart from something nebulous concerning United players now knowing what needed to do in their match now.
Manchester City, for their part, ended an underwhelming season with a one-all draw at Swansea City, a result that now needs United to beat Bournemouth by eighteen goals in their delayed match in order to snatch fourth place in the table. This won’t, however, be a match of zero importance. Each Premier League place is currently worth £1.6m in prize money, and with Manchester United having slipped to sixth place in the table as a result of Southampton’s win against Stoke City and Bournemouth also being able to climb a league position should they pick up a result at Old Trafford, there is still something to play for. Quite where this leaves the Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal is, of course, anybody’s guess at the time of writing. We shall have to see whether winning the FA Cup, should that come to pass this Saturday against Crystal Palace at Wembley, is enough to allow him to finish off his contract with the club. The Bournemouth match, for what it’s worth, takes place tomorrow night at Old Trafford instead.
Crystal Palace’s warm-up for the Cup Final couldn’t have gone much worse. They were beaten by four goals to one at Southampton, a result which left them in fifteenth place in the table, though they could yet finish a place lower in the final Premier League table, should Bournemouth pick up a point or more tomorrow night. Southampton are yet another club hose final league position may yet change. They rose above Manchester United into fifth place with their win, but are also dependent on Bournemouth winning in order to stay there. Still, even a sixth place finish, which seems likely to their final position, is an outstanding return on their season, especially when we consider that daggers were drawn for manager Ronald Koeman earlier this season. Liverpool’s failure to overcome a predictably obdurate West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns means that they finish in a somewhat underwhelming eighth place – all eyes at Anfield have been fixed upon the Europa League final and the backdoor that winning it would provide into next year’s Champions League for some time, now – whilst West Ham United finished up in seventh place after losing their final game at Stoke City by an odd goal in three.
With relegation issues sorted in middle of last week, the two other clubs involved at the foot of the table took the weekend off. The atmosphere at Goodison Park was one of the more curious of the weekend following last Thursday’s sacking of Roberto Martinez, and -however desirable it may be to us neutrals, for shits and giggles if nothing else – that the caretaker team that took charge of this match, David Unsworth and Joe Royle, likely will not be pitching for the job, but it was a comfortable enough win for Everton. How grateful, meanwhile, must Sunderland be that they played Everton last Wednesday rather than on Sunday? They parked up their deckchairs in Hertfordshire for a two-all draw at Watford, who bade their farewell to Quique Sanchez Flores at the same time.
Finally, there was a guard of honour at Stamford Bridge for the Champions as Leicester City drank in the acclaim of their remarkable title win with a one-all draw against the previous year’s champions, Chelsea. This was a match which might have otherwise been a send-off for John Terry, but was the Chelsea captain was suspended, and in any case he is now coquettishly chewing over an offer from the club to stay on for another season in what has been intriguingly been described as a “different role”, even causing more whispering following the cancellation of behind closed doors match that was due as a final goodbye to the club. He joined the guard of honour at the start of the match and gave a speech to supporters at the end of it, but regardless of his achievements over the course of his career at Chelsea, yesterday at Stamford Bridge belonged to Leicester City, just as the rest of the Premier League season has done.