Even with so much at stake and so much undecided at this late stage, plenty of teams were feeling end-of-season lethargy this weekend. Like a high school senior running out the clock before graduation, quite a few sides looked like they were on autopilot, eager to be released from their club responsibilities to go drink Cristal on fancy yachts in the Mediterranean, or whatever it is obscenely rich footballers do in the summer. Given that the Top Four race and the relegation battle are going down to the wire, this is remarkable. We saw Arsenal force their way into the middle of the pack, Tottenham suffer a Spursy relapse, and Swansea gain some renewed hope. If you missed anything this weekend, we’ll get you caught up.
And if you got some time this afternoon, be sure to check out Chelsea vs Middlesbrough and possibly see the home side wrap up the title race. Kickoff is at 3pm Eastern on NBC Sports.
1. All Around Me Are Familiar Faces
It’s incredible. So many people— myself included— engage in the same peculiar brand of self-delusion every year. “This is the year,” we tell ourselves. “This is the year Spurs don’t blow it right at the end.” And then they blow it. The 1-0 loss at West Ham is about as close a team can get to an unforced error without actually committing any own goals. Depending on the result of the Chelsea-Middlesbrough game later today, Spurs may have effectively conceded the title race for the second season in a row. At some point we’re going to have to ask— why do we do this to ourselves.
2. Proxy War
So here’s the thing about Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace: City weren’t actually playing Palace. Their real opponents were Liverpool. Because right now one of the lowkey subplots of the end of the season is the race for Third Place (i.e. Avoiding The Champions League Qualifiers). Being level on points, City needed to pad out their goal difference. Palace, then, were little more than unwitting patsies as the Sky Blues racked up the goals to nudge ahead of Liverpool in the table. This wasn’t football. This was that thing in Legend Of Zelda where you keep cutting grass with your sword to get more rupees.
3. Sing The Tune Without The Words
Swansea’s 1-0 win over Everton is the kind of game fans live for. Struggling for most of the season and clear favorites to go down, the Swans have been slowly and quietly stringing points together in small batches, all while fighting to keep the belief that they could beat the drop. Even so, this late in the season you could forgive fans for wavering in that belief. And with a Top Eight club come to town, no doubt many feared the worst. But Swansea pulled off the win, and results elsewhere went their way, and now they’re out of the relegation zone with two games to go. Whatever happens in two weeks, Swansea fans were on top of the world for a few hours on Saturday, and no one will ever take that away from them.
4. Better Than A Trophy
Everyone mocks Arsenal by making jokes about a Fourth Place Trophy. But sometimes a team’s crowning achievement has nothing to do with table position or silverware. Southampton probably secured their high water mark of the season with a tough goalless draw at Anfield to possibly ruin Liverpool’s Top Four chances. Spite notwithstanding, Southampton haven’t conceded a goal all season to Liverpool (in any competition), and James Milner missed a penalty for the first time in over seven years thanks to some gamesmanship from Saints players and a terrific save by Frasier Forster. In what has otherwise been a somewhat disappointing season, Southampton fans will no doubt feel good about screwing over a team they’ve come to despise in recent years. Sometimes, that makes it all worth it.
5. Moral Victories
It took him 13 tries but he finally did it. Arsène Wenger finally beat José Mourinho in a Premier League match. In a crucial must-win game for both teams and a fairly even balance through the first half and the opening minutes of the second, Arsenal finally found the crack in the wall and score twice in three minutes. Their Top Four hopes are still alive while United are, at the last, probably resigned to focusing on the Europa League. If Wenger is truly undecided about next season and is looking for reasons to stay at Arsenal, this game could do the trick.
BONUS: Riyad Mahrez Is Good At Soccer
I mean, you probably knew that already. But still.
BONUS 2: RIP Klopp’s Water Bottle
That water bottle was too beautiful and too pure for this world.
BONUS 3: Thank You
This is my last weekend Premier League recap for Paste. I’m sorry to say that I’m going to have to leave you on a cliffhanger! Thank you so much for following this ridiculous league with me these past two years and change. If you liked reading my gushing (and occasional snark) about the Premiership, feel free to follow me on Twitter. Hopefully I’ll get to keep writing about the English top flight somewhere else next season. Until then, cheers and enjoy the rest of the season!