It could be that the top four in the Premier League will consist of the usual suspects when all is said and done, but this is certainly fun while it’s lasting, for the fans at least.
The battle for the Premier League title and for the Champions League spots, and the battle for survival saw several hopefuls on either end face critical matches this past weekend, and for a couple who were particularly wasteful on the weekend, failure proved to be costly to the highest degree.
Who came out of the weekend with reason to hold their heads up heading into the midweek international break, and who’s already looking towards next weekend…or to the want ads?
Still waiting for the bubble to burst and for Villa to fall back? It seems like Chelsea and Arsenal are waiting for that to happen, and. Maybe a tough slate over the next couple of months will bring them down to earth, but don’t hold your breath. Saturday’s 2-0 win at Blackburn makes it a club-record seven straight away wins and pushes Villa to third, two points ahead of Chelsea.
At this point, there’s only one candidate for Manager of the Year, and that’s Martin O’Neill.
If you hadn’t been watching the first several months of the Premier League season but then saw Jo’s debut brace against Bolton on Saturday, you’d have thought that David Moyes has unearthed some brilliant young Brazilian talent.
It’s too early to say definitively, but if he keeps scoring on a regular basis, he will not only show that he can do the business in the Premier League, but if Everton are to lock down sixth and push for fifth or fourth, he could be the difference.
The table still reads the same as it did at the end of last weekend, with Manchester United atop the table. But instead of being six or seven points behind United and having to look up at hard-charging Aston Villa, Liverpool are only two points back. Against Chelsea, it was two late, late goals by Fernando Torres. At Portsmouth on Saturday, it was second-half comebacks from 1-0 and 2-1 down, culminated by another late winner from Torres. Onions!
Just when many were ready to write off their title challenge, Liverpool have woken up and remain in the thick of it. Leaving it late every week is going to send a lot of fans to the ER, but it’s about the end result, not how you achieve it.
Sure, it was West Brom, but you have to start somewhere, and Saturday’s 3-2 win was huge for Newcastle. Not only was it their first win since December 21st (2-1 over Tottenham), but anytime you can get max points in a relegation six-pointer – and away from home nonetheless, it’s a good weekend. Now they just have to build on it and solidify their survival with plenty of time to spare.
Avram Grant and Jose Mourinho are looking really good right now, aren’t they? There aren’t any excuses to be made for a goalless home draw against Hull City, though Hull do deserve plenty of credit for holding Chelsea scoreless. Then again, that doesn’t seem as difficult of a job as it used to be, which shows how much the wheels have fallen off even in the span of just a few months.
Thusly, it’s no surprise that they are now fourth, and that the man leading them in their Champions League tie against Juventus in a fortnight could be Ray Wilkins.
Bad enough to throw away a lead twice, but even worse that after having the lead twice, you come away with nothing. When you’re not very good away from home, the least you can do is squander golden opportunities at home, and being up a goal not once, but twice against Liverpool in the second half is about as golden as it gets.
Ultimately, the late collapse was the nail for Tony Adams, who’s out of a job as of this morning. A nine-match winless streak, two wins in 16 league matches, and multiple embarrassing home defeats just won’t do, no matter how delusional you might be about your job security.
In the table, Portsmouth are 16th, and they have a game in hand on Tottenham (15th), Stoke (17th), Middlesbrough (19th), and West Brom (20th). But they’re going nowhere fast, and it’s up to caretaker manager Paul Hart and then the new full-time manager (may it be Avram Grant, Alan Curbishley, Sven-Goran Eriksson, or someone else) to get the ship righted in time to avoid the drop.
But look on the bright side – David Nugent scored again on Saturday. Who knew that he’d be their star right now, of all people? I suppose it’s only fitting.
Speaking of wasted opportunities, Tottenham squandered one as well, as they didn’t capitalize on being a man up for nearly an hour in Sunday’s derby against Arsenal.
A point does help their cause somewhat, but there’s no reason why Spurs shouldn’t have gotten the three points. That’s something Harry Redknapp might come to regret, because there’s so little room for them to drop points in winnable matches at this juncture of the season. I still think they’ll beat the drop, but they’ve got to really crank it up quick, fast, and in a hurry.