It’s late April, and that means it’s Premier League fixture makeup season. Thanks to the FA Cup and other assorted obligations, several clubs have fallen behind in the Games Played accounting and have one or two games in hand on their rivals. This week sought to settle some of that old business— including the small matter of the Manchester Derby. We saw a frantic and ultimately disappointing Derby, Chelsea grind ever closer to the crown, and Sunderland meandering out on a ledge. If you missed anything this week, we’ll get you caught up.
1. Rub Some Dirt On It
If there’s one major change in this season’s Chelsea squad over the previous few seasons, it’s that they don’t complain nearly as much. If the 2014-15 title-winning side lost a crucial late-season match against Manchester United, several players (and José Mourinho) would dwell on that for weeks, looking for something to blame other than themselves. This team under Antonio Conte just gets on with it. They cleansed their palate with a thumping win in the FA Cup semifinals last weekend rolled Southampton for lunch money on Tuesday, keeping their pace ahead of Tottenham in the title race. Expectations are high for this Chelsea team in the final stretch of the season, and, perhaps a little uncharacteristically, they aren’t making much of a fuss about it.
2. At War With Yourself And Nobody Else
Sometimes you end up coming out on top in football in spite of yourselves. Arsenal has had to learn that lesson the hard way in recent seasons. After 85 minutes of mostly dreadful football at home against defending-champions-cum-relegation-bait Leicester, the Gunners couldn’t manage to get ahead in the scoreline. It looked as if they were headed for dropped points and one of the final nails in the coffin for their Top Four ambitions. On 86 minutes, Robert Huth bailed them out with an own goal. Arsenal will take the three points all day, as well they should, but I can’t imagine anyone in that camp is feeling super great about the manner in which they were won.
3. Might As Well Jump
You’ve heard of High Place Phenomenon, right? That thing where you’re really high up and you’re close to a ledge, and you have this inexplicable desire to let yourself fall over? Or jump? Research suggests that’s not actually suicidal ideation; on the contrary, it’s an expression of your deep desire to live. I’m not sure that applies to Sunderland here. On the day when David Moyes was formally charged by the FA for haha-just-kidding threatening to slap a BBC reporter, his team lost 1-0 to fellow relegation stragglers Middlesbrough, forfeiting total control over their Premier League destiny. If they lose to Bournemouth this weekend and other results go against them, their relegation could be confirmed as early as teatime on Saturday. And the team, like many of us at this point, are probably ready to just get it over with.
4. Heeeeeeeey Baby/ There Ain’t No Easy Way Out
Tottenham probably aren’t going to win the Premier League title. They’re good— really good— but Chelsea just have a little more in the tank. It’s a lot easier to envision Spurs fighting bravely and coming up just short than it is to picture Chelsea suffering an epic collapse over the next 3-4 weeks. But Tottenham aren’t giving up the ghost quite yet. Previous campaigns of late-season Spursing would’ve seen them draw (or even lose) this exact kind of fixture— away at a tough but beatable lower-half opponent. But Tottenham found a way to win, thanks in no small part to Christian Eriksen. While I think moral victories can be overrated in football, they’re not nothing, and Tottenham’s renewed sense of fortitude is itself a win for the club.
5. Coyness Is Nice And/ Coyness Can Stop You
Derbies aren’t always the barn-burners of old that we hope they’ll be, and that’s okay. But when a Fellaini Red Card is the most excitement a match can offer, you know it’s been a long night. It’s possible I’m not being entirely fair to either side here— both teams did as much as they could, although for long stretches City seemed the only one interested in scoring a goal. (They nearly got one too, in stoppage time, but for the offside flag.) A point apiece isn’t the end of the world as far as their Top Four ambitions are concerned, but this was definitely a missed opportunity.
Oh, Alexis. Don’t ever change.