The suspense is no more and neither is the title race. There’s hardly anything to look forward to in the Premier League, but that’s been the case for most of the mid-table teams for a while now. Like West Brom after reaching 40 points, this column also has its mind on the beach and flip-flops on its feet. Now that we’ve got that little confession out of the way…
Chelsea: Chelsea went from ugly duckling to black swan pretty sharpish under Conte, which was rather unexpected following an embarrassing season last term. There’s a little-known saying – “Find out who the neutrals are supporting, then back the other guy”. Spurs were the unwitting and unfortunate recipients of the full force of the neutrals’ support, a bit like Liverpool a few years ago, and the final outcome turned out to be the same – slipped up on the final lap, leaving a team in blue to win the ‘race’ comfortably.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger: It must be confusing being an Arsenal supporter these days. Your team just might sneak into fourth and still has a chance to win the FA Cup. But that would mean Wenger could sign a new contract and you’d be stuck with him for another year, with no chance of flavour-of-the-season Allegri coming to rescue your lot. The only winners here are that mob down at AFTV, come what may.
Swansea City: Rose from the bottom of the rubbish heap and out right before the garbage collectors came-a-knockin’.
Manchester City: Almost assured of Champions League football next season, which is not really what anyone expected them to be fighting for at this point of the campaign. Still, once Guardiola gets used to cold, winter nights in Stoke, we might see a peppier team next season.
Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs received a certificate and a plaque from the Premier League this weekend, which said – “This is to certify that Tottenham Hotspur participated in ‘The Title Race’ of 2016-17. We appreciate their efforts and wish them all the very best for next season’s event”. Prepare the trophy cabinet.
Liverpool: Could this be their year? Barring a catastrophic screw-up, Liverpool – five-time winners of the thing, if you haven’t heard – might be playing Champions League football next season. Or they could slip to fourth and get knocked out in the qualifiers by some minnows from Albania.
Sam Allardyce: Big Sam did it again. He took over a team facing relegation, spent a few quid in January and kept them up, thereby proving that British Is best and keeping employment opportunities open for the likes of Steve Bruce, Alan Curbishley and Tim Sherwood.
Manchester United and Jose Mourinho: It is now mathematically impossible for Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League, so Jose can give up any pretence of giving a rodent’s posterior about the upcoming league matches. He said as much himself, before firing a hundred bullets from his eyes and walking out of the interview. He is like a child who doesn’t like the playground rules, so picks up his ball and walks away.
David Moyes: Oh, David, you never cease to amaze me. Just when I thought Moyes had finally found a way to rally his troops, he marched them to the battlefield where they waved the white flag immediately. Turns out it was a ‘One Night Only’ show of Black Cats.
Marco Silva: I used to like you, Marco. But now, you’ve just ended up providing ammunition to the Merson’s and the Thompson’s of this world, who think a foreign managerial upstart shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near ‘The Best League in the World’. To make matters worse, it was losing to the traditional fish-and-chips duo of Allardyce and Moyes that sealed his fate.
White Hart Lane Pitch Invasion: Title wins and relegations have seen fewer people on the pitch than after Spurs’ last game at their old stadium at the end of a potless season. Despite the best efforts of the Spurs social media team, imploring the crowd to stay off the pitch, no one seemed to have got the message. The tweeting continued even when the spectators were actually off their seats and on the pitch. Here’s a tip, fellas: there’s a very good chance they’re not checking their Twitter when they’re busy trying to snag a few pieces of stadium souvenirs or the shirts off the players’ backs.