So Saturday’s fixtures were a little bit like the Joshua vs Klitchsko undercard. Sure, there were a couple of things of interest, but we’re only really watching because we are waiting for the main event. But, like the promising young boxers hoping they’ll be last in the ring one day, Saturday’s matches tried their very hardest to make Match of the Day almost watchable. OK, they failed miserably, but they tried.
There is a beautiful sense of irony that a club nicknamed the “Black Cats” got relegated in their tenth season in the Premier League, therefore proving the saying that a cat does only have nine lives. Admittedly, said cat would have only had three lives if they had been managed by Moyes any earlier, but let’s not ruin the narrative. David Moyes called it his “worst day in football,” putting it further up the list than lasting less than a season at United, less than a season in Spain and less than five minutes in the affections of the Mackem support. I mean, really David? Even Paolo Di Canio managed not to get relegated. You are right though, a manager should be judged over 14 years, not one. How many seasons have you been a manager? 14, you say? Must be a coincidence. Sunderland fans still could give a rat’s bottom how good you were a decade ago. The fact is your side pushed Aston Villa pretty close to winning the “most laughable attempt at a Premier League football club in recent memory” award this season. And that is saying something. Credit to Joleon Lescott though, he knows how to pick a club.
When you are in the middle of a relegation battle, the last thing you want to do is give away a penalty in the last minute when the scores are level. Unless, of course, you know your goalkeeper is going to make a wonderful save and the moment can be referred back to in the weeks to come as “the moment we knew we’d be staying up”. Jakupovic denied Tadic and Hull gathered yet another valuable point.
West Ham would have made it two weeks in a row without being mentioned in this column, if it wasn’t for the fact I need to mention them in saying that they nearly didn’t make it into the column again this week. All that is marginally less interesting than the 0-0 draw they achieved once again. That said, neither they or Stoke had anything interesting to play for so the result must have been expected.
Jamie Vardy, as well as Leicester, have come in for a fair bit of stick this season. Yet, Vardy now has 15 league goals and Leicester look well set to finish 8th or 9th having reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Imagine how many slaps David Moyes would give for a season like that? Does anyone still think it was a bad move to get shot of Claudio? Probably.
Burnley began the post-Joey-Barton era with a trip to Palace. I wonder what odds Joey got on a 2-0 away win? Burnley were great, Palace frustratingly inconsistent and a soft touch without big Mama, injured whilst celebrating a goal with big Benteke last week. No, not really but the Frenchman was the reason Palace started defending better and his absence was the reason they looked like they were being coached by Pardew once more. They won’t go down, but it’s still tighter than it should be for them.
So we dived into Sunday as if it were the sparkling Indian ocean or, in the case of Marcus Rashford, as if it were Lukas Fabianski. I have likened Rashford to Michael Owen in this column before. Young, quick, a natural finisher and now, it seems with a penchant for taking blatant dives in the area. Of course, in the eyes of Sky and BT, Rashford’s being English and all means that the word “dive” isn’t quite uttered. “Clever” was the most popular substitute. Personally, I preferred Robbie Earle’s analysis of the situation over on CNBC. “Robbie, was that a dive?” Deadpan to camera, “absolutely”. Oh, you don’t need me to tell you that the game, at Old Trafford, ended a draw. A win, especially given the events at the Riverside, would have seen United move into the top four. Jose can subtly moan about Smalling and Jones all he wants, but it’s the lack of killer instinct that is hurting them more than Smalling’s big toe.
The bald derby took place at the Riverside. It’s amazing what confidence beating Sunderland can give you. Middlesbrough led twice, and at one point a rare Calum Chambers goal looked like being more important than anything he has done wearing an Arsenal shirt. But, and feel free to insert your own “Jesus coming off the bench” type gag here, Gabriel Jesus scored a late equaliser.
Chelsea left it late against an Everton side who have been pretty useful at Goodison recently. Gary Cahill is becoming the modern day Steve Bruce with his record of scoring important goals. This was, many a wise sage said, the toughest hurdle to jump in Chelsea’s run in. So, I think it is fair to say for about the ninth week in a row, the title is done and dusted. When struggling to break a side down, being able to hit one like Pedro did certainly helps.
The Biggest North London Derby Ever!! The Last North London Derby At White Hart Lane Ever!! The Day Spurs Finally Prove to Arsenal Who’s Boss!! According to Harry Kane, Tottenham had more important things on their mind than just beating Arsenal. Well, they certainly didn’t play like it. In a crazy few minutes the game went from being a complete damp squib where Spurs were bound to regret leaving their shooting boots elsewhere, to being yet another dismantling of Wenger’s pride. Harry Kane loves a penalty, and he loves a goal against Arsenal, so it made sense that he scored one. The tackle that Gabriel put in on Kane, moments after Tottenham went ahead sums up Arsenal for me. Mentally weak. Still, don’t forget that it doesn’t matter where Spurs finish this season, it’s the last twenty odd years that count, right Arsene? People might think I am changing my tune, having led with “Spursy” last week, but I think I also said the club that are more Spursy than Spurs right now are Arsenal. And yesterday was living proof.
So the top four, well the last two places in the top four, are still impossible to call and I’m not saying which one of Hull and Swansea will be playing Sheffield United next season. I am backing Wenger to find a way of getting another couple of years though, with Daniel Levy paying his wages.