It was very nice of Manchester City to take the weekend off from the Premier League to give all the other clubs chasing them a chance to close the gap.
Surely the only thing missing from Manchester City’s Carabao Cup win over Arsenal was Yaya Toure and Joe Hart pulling on the boots and rocking it like it was 2012 all over again? Vincent Kompany, curiously enough, managed to be fit for the League Cup Final and managed to stay on the pitch long enough to score the all-important second goal against an Arsenal side that must have forgotten what day the final was on. Credit to Arsene Wenger however, losing six League Cup Finals is quite the haul and it looks like this competition might be to Arsene what the FA Cup was to Brian Clough. Gary Neville, not Arsenal’s biggest fan of the last decade, called the team “spineless” and the Arsenal fans tended to agree as they legged it to the tube station shortly after David Silva’s goal put it completely out of sight. All this begs the real question: What would Wigan do to Arsenal?
In the build-up to Mourinho vs Conte, I mean United vs Chelsea, Jose mentioned that games against his former club “are not as big as they used to be”. Now, of course, Jose meant that Chelsea are not as good as they were last season but could he inadvertently let on to the fact that games between two teams clinging on to a top-four place isn’t as interesting as days gone by when they’d be fighting it out for a title? No, of course, he wasn’t. He was having a dig. United were boosted in the week by news that their one truly world class player wants to stay at the club for at least another five years. That’s right, David de Gea is prepared to say no to the charms of Real and put up with the Manchester rain for just a little bit longer providing they make him the best-paid goalkeeper of all time and pay him £350k a week. In this day and age that almost feels like a good deal which says more about the times we live in than de Gea’s ability to make wonder saves in Seville. Crazily, de Gea actually conceded at Old Trafford as Chelsea led by Willian’s goal. But whisper it quietly, Romelu Lukaku actually scored against a top six side and then laid on the game’s winning goal for Jesse Lingard who can so quiet for months that you have to check his Instagram account to see he is still alive, but then wakes up and scores some of the most important goals in United’s history. That goal put United back ahead of Liverpool in second, but can they really keep Klopp’s wolves from the door?
You could argue quite convincingly that Liverpool look like the best of the rest right now. They are almost as much fun to watch as City, they attack (yes Jose, I am looking at you) and even when their manager is being grumpy, he is nice with it (yes Jose, I am still looking at you). West Ham United were not expected to leave Anfield with much and they did not disappoint. Liverpool turned it on to win 4-1, meaning their last two games have gleaned nine goals. Can they keep this up and finish second? Well, they wouldn’t be Liverpool at all if you could answer that with a categoric yes.
There is a reason that Damian Delaney has not played Premier League football for Crystal Palace for four months. He had been on the pitch a few minutes when he managed to lose sight of the one person he was probably told not to let out of his site – yes, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane. Two minutes remained when the Spurs striker giggled his way to another late winner, his 150th goal for Tottenham.
There was something a little odd about Watford beating Everton. Not so much the actual result, Everton can lose to anyone at the moment. No, it was more to with the fact that the Sham Allarfarce managed to lose to the guy who replaced the guy that Everton actually wanted to appoint instead of him. The goal itself was a shocker to concede, but don’t forget that what Sam Allardyce brings is the knowledge “to get a team defending properly”. Really, Sam? No disrespect to Troy Deeney but he is not the smallest guy in the world. Is it that difficult to get close to him in your own penalty area? Ashley Williams could stand almost anywhere in the box and should, theoretically, be within touching distance of Watford’s heavyweight captain. But no, Williams managed to give Deeney enough space to control, turn the juggernaut and smash it into the top corner. But never forget, Sam gets his team defending well. What makes it worse was that Allarfarce wanted to take off Gylfi and bring on Morgan Schneiderlin, basically saying he was happy with a point away at Watford. That’s the level of ambition the Everton fans want to see.
The relegation battle is almost impossible to call, other than one clear fact. West Bromwich Albion are done. Finished. Gone. Awful. Hilarious. A Championship side in waiting. No wonder they sacked their CEO and Chairman last week, getting rid of Pulis and bringing in Pardon’t was madness. Pards talked of “God forgiving” in the pre-match chat, referencing his decision to give the armband back to Jonny Evans. God might well forgive, Al, but I am not so sure the Baggies faithful are going to be so generous. Less chat, more trying to win football matches wouldn’t go amiss. That’s if you are still in a job by the time people read this. Huddersfield Town got a huge, yet totally expected, win at the Hawthorns that saw them end the weekend in 14th place, three points above the drop zone.
Having had most of the pundits “in the know” say they were looking pretty likely to be safe from relegation, Swansea City put in their worst performance under Carlos Carvalhal, losing 4-1 at Brighton. Carvalhal delivers a wonderful soundbite, but that is not going to be enough to keep them in the top flight. For Brighton, this was another big win before the dreaded run of games that could see them in a far worse position kicks in. What we didn’t really know was that Chris Hughton always beats Carvalhal. Well, there you do. And a suggestion to Christian Benteke at Palace; get accused of tax fraud. It does wonders for your goalscoring, just ask Glenn Murray. Carvalhal said that “sometimes you go gamble big winning you can win all the money or lose everything. Today, we gambled and lost”. Don’t gamble kids, it’s a silly thing to do.
AFC Bournemouth do love a comeback. They managed to recover late against Wigan in the FA Cup the other week before graciously losing in the replay so that Will Grigg could sell some more records. 2-0 down at home to Newcastle United with ten minutes to go is not a situation many sides south of Lancashire find themselves in, but Bournemouth did not throw in the towel despite Asmir Begovic’s best attempts to gift Rafa three points. Newcastle failed to hold on and former player Dan Gosling scored a late, late equaliser meaning Newcastle sit just two points above the dreaded zone.
Burnley and Southampton was as dire as you would imagine, only really illuminated by Ashley Barnes bundling the ball, Fraser Forster and anyone else near him into the back of the net for Burnley’s opener. Southampton levelled late on meaning they are out of the zone, just, on goal difference.
Goalkeeping howlers were in high demand this weekend and Jack Butland delivered the best first. Leicester City and Stoke City got our weekend underway providing us one of the worst games of the season. Yet, even the worst games can deliver moments of quality (Shaqiri’s goal for Stoke) and moments of hilarity (Butland’s own goal for Leicester City).