While the cat is away, the mice will play. Manchester City were not in action this weekend in the Premier League, for they were toying with Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley. The rest of the league stuck to their usual schedule, without one of the teams facing the prospect of humiliation at the hands of the league leaders. Here’s what really happened.
Manchester United: At long last, Jose’s United have graduated from simply playing like sh*t to playing like sh*t and winning. This must be The New United Way.
Romelu Lukaku: The big Belgian finally managed to make a meaningful contribution in a game against one of the top four, which did not involve knocking over one of the opposition defenders or playing a hospital pass to his own defence.
Willian: He managed to do something that very few players can these days – embarrass David De Gea. As his fierce shot went past the goalkeeper, De Gea could be seen punching the ground, begging for it to open up and swallow him whole. He had just been beaten at his near-post.
Tottenham Hotspur: They won’t give up so easily on their dream of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, only for Chelsea to finish outside the top four and win the bloody thing with Guus Hiddink. It’s like they’ve learnt nothing from 2012.
Harry Kane: The presence of Roy Hodgson in the dugout brought flashbacks of that horrible Euro 2016 tournament to Kane’s mind, causing him to miss a string of chances. Unfortunately for Palace, he recovered just in time to score an 89th-minute winner.
Liverpool: There aren’t too many better things in a Liverpool fan’s life than tonking a team led by an ex-Everton and ex-Manchester United manager. Moyes is the full-house in a game of Grudge Bingo.
Mohamed Salah: The new Luis Suarez, minus the biting and racism. And with better teeth.
Brighton: A classic relegation six-pointer won with ease. The Seagulls are now closer to Everton in ninth than Swansea in 18th. It’s all delicately balanced but if it stays like this, it might be enough to save their bacon come the end of the season.
Glenn Murray: As he enters the twilight of his career, you could see him becoming the Antonio Di Natale of Brighton. Or maybe not. But he’s old and scoring goals, so lazy journalism trumps logic here.
Huddersfield: Another newly promoted team battling for survival and they could not have asked for easier opponents than Alan Pardew’s Bottom Dwellers FC.
Troy Deeney: Colonel Cojones finally stepped up to the plate and did something good, for once. Thankfully, he did not bare his bollocks after scoring the only goal of a stupidly boring game.
Xherdan Shaqiri: Scored a peach of a goal to give Stoke City the lead, which lasted for about half an hour until their goalkeeper dropped a clanger. Whenever Stoke are relegated and wherever Shaqiri goes, he can hold his head high. He did try everything.
Bournemouth: Rescued a late point from the limp lifeless hand of Newcastle United. No big deal.
Dwight Gayle: When was the last time a Newcastle player scored two goals in a single match?
Chelsea: They are out of the top four and their manager is most likely out of time. With only ten more games to go, it might not be worth bothering Hiddink on his holidays now. But any more slip-ups will invite the wrath of Roman Abramovich upon Conte and a trip to Siberia in blindfold for a motivational talk. Or sentencing.
Alvaro Morata: Virtually indistinguishable from the Chelsea version of Fernando Torres for the entire match.
Jack Butland: Dropping crosses like he’s Dracula, Butland confirmed his place as England’s first choice ‘keeper in this summer’s World Cup and allayed any fears that he might be overqualified for the job. He is a perfect fit.
West Bromwich Albion: Stuck in a hole and still digging. Not even the prime version of Arrigo Sacchi could save them were he to take the reins for, what could prove to be, their final ten games in the Premier League for a very long time.
Alan Pardew: Alan, Pardieu! What have you done? Brought in as a fire-fighter to save West Brom from relegation, Pardew didn’t just try to put out the flames using petrol but also managed to lose the fire extinguishers in the process. They’re going down into the Championship and his dreams of getting another job in the Premier League are going down in flames.
West Ham United: Could be worse. They could be West Bromwich Albion.
Everton and Sam Allardyce: A team as blunt as the butter knife their manager uses to spread maple syrup on his stack of pancakes every morning. They might be safe from relegation but surely this must be the last time anyone hands Allardyce the keys to their kingdom. He’ll just end up boring the subjects so much they’ll eventually start pining for the good old days when it was only the black plague and not Allardyce’s anti-football they dreaded.
Swansea: Homemade cakes and clever quips will only get you so far, Mr. Carvalhal.
Crystal Palace: Undone by a moment of epiphany from Harry Kane, Palace are now just two goals away from dropping into the relegation zone once again. We are all very excited to see the relegation places confirmed in Battle Royale style in the last few weeks of the season. Bring it on!
Alan Pardew’s Farewell: We know it’s coming. But no one seems to know when and the more it drags on, the uglier it gets. While we anxiously wait for the verdict from the bosses at West Brom, Pards has been working behind the scenes on his dance moves. He’s even chosen a goodbye song.
“All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die”
He’s leaving on a jet plane.