The season is winding down and the big questions are all but settled. Chelsea’s title win is down to math and formalities, the current Top 4 will probably be the same on May 24th (even if the order gets tweaked a bit), and we’re even at the point of making educated guesses about Europa League qualification. The only real drama left is the relegation fight, which has gotten hot in recent weeks after Leicester remembered how to play soccer and Newcastle seemingly forgot. This weekend featured drama in North London, nailbiters in Manchester and Southampton, and the continuing implosion at Newcastle United. If you missed any of it, we’ll get you caught up.
(Side note: the Premier League isn’t done for the week. Hull City hosts Liverpool on Tuesday, while Chelsea travel to Leicester on Wednesday. Both games kick off at 2:45pm EST on NBC Sports Network.)
Oh boy. Where do you even start with this game? There’s the play seen above, where Oscar gets clattered by David Ospina. Some commented that Oscar appeared to exhibit signs of a concussion, which would make the decision to let him play out the rest of the first half dubious at best. (He did come off at halftime and went to a hospital. At press time, there were no further updates on his condition.) Add in several penalty shouts, a booking for Cesc Fàbregas on his return to the Emirates Stadium- for diving, no less- chants of “Boring Boring Chelsea” by Arsenal fans at full time, and a characteristically defensive reply from Jose Mourinho that amounted to “I know you are but what am I?,” and this fixture was chock full of teh drama. All it was missing was, you know, some goals. With this and other results, Chelsea’s magic points number stands at six— win two of their last five games, and the title is theirs.
Maybe Brad Guzan missed his calling as a #10. You have to say, this was a lovely ball into space for Sergio Aguero to run onto. This goal, and the later result, sums up the sometimes sad reality of present-day Aston Villa. They gifted the first goal, conceded a second and looked ready to surrender, came roaring back late in the second half to level the score, and then conceded a third and the gamewinner just before added time. Villa put together good spells and start to give their fans hope, only to trip over their own feet before they can follow through.
Everton’s managed to turn things after an otherwise dismal league campaign, but you could forgive some Toffees fans for feeling pessimistic given United’s high-flying form. Yet the Red Devils came roaring into Goodison Park and fell flat on their face. The opening goal from James McCarthy summed up an afternoon where Everton didn’t play particularly well and still managed to put three past David De Gea. The result nestles Everton solidly in the middle of the table, all but guaranteeing them safety from relegation. (It’s baffling relegation was ever even a possibility for this team, but again, it’s been a rough season.)
And this goal does a good job of showing why. Southampton-Tottenham isn’t a rivalry as such, and even with Mauricio Pochettino leaving St. Mary’s for White Hart Lane last summer it’s not likely to become an especially heated fixture. But for whatever reason, the games between these two teams are open, frenetic, and lots of fun. The game finished 2-2, a fair result for a thoroughly enjoyable match that also probably mutually ended whatever dim top four hopes these teams had left.
There’s a line in the movie “Clockwise” where John Cleese turns to Sharon Maiden and says, “It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” It’s become something of a cliche in football. And it also sums up the experience of every Newcastle fan in attendance today. Ayoze Pérez game the home side the lead in the 20th minute after capitalizing on a defensive mistake, giving the Magpies hope of stopping the rot. But then Swansea took over and racked up three goals, including the above finish from Gylfi Sigurdsson after a clever move. This goal characterizes the kind of team synergy, confidence, and ruthlessness in front of the net that’s given Swansea such an impressive points total, and are also precisely what is missing from this Newcastle side.
I wish he did the robot dance again, though. That could become his Thing. Everyone needs a Thing.