Midweek Premier League rounds are a real trip. Players are tired, managers are ancy, fans are mostly annoyed that they have to turn out at 8pm on a school night. Unsurprisingly, weird stuff tends to happen. Matchweek 31 was no exception. Teams came from behind to win, teams came from behind to draw, and Sunderland… well, you know. If you were stuck doing work this week, we’ll get you caught up.
1. Zlatan Time
You have to feel for Everton— they were this close to pulling off a possibly season-redeeming win at Old Trafford, something that certainly would’ve helped wash the taste of the Merseyside Derby out of their mouths. But then the Fergie Time clock, gathering dust and needing to be rewound more often, sprang to life and United were gifted with a face-saving penalty. Zlatan fired home and United managed to salvage a point. Better than nothing, but the dropped points have pushed the Top 4 just a little further away from United’s grasp.
2. Demanding Satisfaction
Leicester’s 2-0 win over Sunderland made for six wins in Craig Shakespeare’s first six league games in charge, lifting Leicester solidly into midtable territory and inching closer to safety. That should be the big story here. As it is, the David Moyes controversy weighed heavily on the proceedings. Sunderland are bottom of the table, the team haven’t scored a goal in two months, and their manager threatened a female reporter with physical assault, and somehow the club are standing by Moyes. When the Black Cats are officially relegated— and it really does look like a When rather than an If, now— they would do well to take a good long look in the mirror and consider their life choices.
3. Magic Numbers
With 72 points on the board following their 2-1 win over Manchester City, this Chelsea team would be cruising to the title in just about any other season in recent years. But the top end of the table has been uncommonly fierce in 2016-17. What would’ve been good for third or fourth last season would have you hovering around sixth this season. So Chelsea are on 72 points and we’re only just into April, and in past seasons this likely would’ve meant an early confirmation and autopilot for the last handful of fixtures. As it is, Spurs (and maybe Liverpool and City, still) are looking to keep things interesting for another month.
4. Hello Darkness My Old Friend…
You know, we joke about Liverpool not being able to get the job done against bottom-half clubs this season, but it’s come a certified Thing. Presented with a golden opportunity to gain a tighter grip on a Top 4 spot and gain revenge on Bournemouth for a shocking loss earlier in the season, Liverpool came out eager for a solid win on their home patch. Instead, they had to come back from a 1-0 deficit early in the game, finally get on top 2-1, hunker down to try and defend a slim lead with half an hour left in the game, and ultimately fail as Bournemouth net a late equalizer. Liverpool pool have demonstrated a knack for playing up to their opponent’s level, but they also have a habit of playing down to their opponent’s level as well.
5. To Dare Is…
Tottenham probably aren’t going to win the title this season. Chelsea are just a little too good and a little too experienced in title races. But it would be a mistake to write this Spurs team off. This is the second season in a row in which Tottenham have been in title contention this late in the season. Last year they had history working against them; this year, it was Chelsea’s rebuilding taking less time than anyone thought. For the past couple seasons Spurs have looked decisively… well, Not Spursy. Their come-from-behind win over Swansea— a game they may well have lost a few seasons ago— is proof positive that Spurs have changed a lot under Mauricio Pochettino. This isn’t the Gareth Bale Era, fluky Tottenham. They’ve transformed into a bona fide Top 4 team and we were too busy making fun of them to notice.
BONUS: Troy Deeney, Everybody!