Touchline Talk Weekend Review: Arsenal hopes revived, Reading relegated?
A weekend of action-packed matches saw the race for Champions League qualification between Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea hot up, whilst a potential 11 team relegation battle ensues at the foot of the table.
A 2-1 win for Tottenham Hotspur over Swansea City saw them climb to third, as Chelsea’s loss by the same score at Southampton cost them dear.
Those results will please Arsenal fans, as their chances of securing a 16th consecutive year in Europe’s top competition have increased. A 4-0 win over strugglers Reading kept them hot on their rivals heals.
Elsewhere, table toppers Manchester United registered a 1-0 win over Sunderland, who were quick to sack manager Martin O’Neill following Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
United’s local rivals Manchester City scored four at home to Newcastle, retaining their hopes of the defending their Premier League crown, even if the odds are stacked against them.
There were also wins for West Ham, Everton, Liverpool and Wigan, as tension begins to build at both ends of the table.
With just seven games left until the end of the season, the entire Premier League bottom half are still in danger of relegation.
40 points is seen as the mark to reach to ensure safety, and as we head into the final quarter of the season, only the league’s top 10 sides have achieved this status.
However, it seems that two teams are almost destined to play Championship football next season.
Queens Park Rangers and Reading lie seven points adrift from safety. If either are to make it out by May 19, it would surely need a miracle as the teams above them continue to pick up points.
Nigel Adkins’ new side were thrashed 4-1 at the Emirates on Saturday, meaning they have conceded 16 goals against the Gunners in all competitions this season.
The defeat put the Royals bottom on goal difference, QPR, who play on Monday night, lie in 19th position.
A mere six points cover the next nine teams, so it’s all to play for as we begin the season run-in.
Gareth Bale shone at the Liberty Stadium as Spurs beat Swansea. Michael Laudrup’s side have lost form since their Capital One Cup triumph in February, and it would be a shame to see an anti-climax to their centenary season.
However, it was Cardiff born Bale who set up Jan Vertonghen for the first goal before scoring with a sublime finish to double the away sides’ lead.
There was applause from some if the Jack army following his goal, it was a truly tremendous finish from a player on right top of his game.
Tottenham endured a fightback from the Swans to take third place from Chelsea; another step in the direction of securing a place in next season’s Champions League, something which Spurs fans will feel was robbed from them by the Blues last season.
Chelsea were the masters of their own downfall, however, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at St. Mary’s.
Southampton move into 12th place, and fans will be hoping that Premier League football will stay on the south coast for another season.
The Saints ran the visitors ragged, and from his team selection it appeared Rafa Benitez had one eye on Monday’s FA Cup replay with Manchester United.
But ultimately, the Blues have given Arsenal a chance to claim a fourth place finish.
Goals from Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Gervinho at home to Reading put the Gunners within two points of their London rivals and that all important top four finish.
If Arsenal fail to make the Champions League, then there would surely be uproar from fans, surprise from pundits and perhaps a certain Frenchman out of a job.
So perhaps that is why this season is more important than ever for Arsene Wenger, who is showing no sings of sitting back.
Meanwhile, Everton are still in with an outside shot at the top four.
Their 1-0 win at home to Stoke City kept them in fifth place and just two points shy of Arsenal.
David Moyes has never really spoken about the Toffees’ European chances, although understandably fans will be expecting their club to be playing on the continent next season. In which competition is yet to be decided.
Everton’s local rivals Liverpool recorded a 2-1 win away to Aston Villa on Sunday to keep them in sixth position.
Brendan Rodgers’ side could mount a late European challenge, as they do not have the toughest of run-ins, plus they are no longer competing in Europe, many of their rivals are.
Could their new manager provide a dramatic end of season climax for the Reds, instead if their usual decrescendo?
Goals from Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany helped City to a 4-0 win over struggling Newcastle United.
The Citizens are unlikely to close the gap on league leaders United, and have Champions League football more or less secured.
Roberto Mancini is likely to turn his attention to the FA Cup, as City will face either United or Chelsea in the semi-final of football’s oldest tournament.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils were lucky to come away from the Stadium of Light with all three points as a poor performance saw Titus Bramble score the only goal of the game. Unfortunately, he put the ball in his own net.
The win maintains a fifteen point gap over City for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, but Sunderland dropped to sixteenth place in the league, not something that was expected at the beginning of the season.
The Black Cats executives were obviously not pleased, as it was announced on Saturday evening that Martin O’Neill had been sacked and that the club were searching for a new manger.
This just shows how fragile managerial positions are these days, as O’Neill was added to the long list of sackings across the Football League this season.
At Upton Park West Ham secured three points with a 3-1 win over West Brom.
Andy Carroll was the star of the show, bagging two goals in front of the home crowd, whilst Gary O’Neil added a third.
Manager Sam Allardyce will be hoping the win can put his side on the path to Premier League survival after their recent slump, which followed a bright start to the season.
The Hammers now sit 11th in the league.
Wigan seem to be initiating their end of season charge, after they beat Norwich City 1-0 at the DW Stadium.
Arouna Kone’s goal helped Roberto Marrinez’s side climb out of the bottom three as Norwich slump to 14th.
Both West Ham and the Latics will be hoping to escape the relegation threatened area in the next few weeks, and it seems as if the likes of Sunderland and Norwich could be dragged down to join those I’m danger.