English Premier League talking points
HAVE CHELSEA GAINED A PSYCHOLOGICAL EDGE
Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City made sure City’s title celebrations remained on hold but perhaps more importantly sent out a message to Pep Guardiola’s side for the Champions League final and next season’s title race.
Surprisingly, Guardiola made wholesale changes to his side when victory would have sealed a third title in five seasons.
When Sergio Aguero fluffed a Panenka-style penalty to give City a 2-0 lead, it sparked a Chelsea revival where they dominated the second half.
It will be a very different City side that starts in the Champions League final. However, Chelsea will start that game knowing they have beaten City twice this season, having also wrecked their quadruple bid in the FA Cup semi-final.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will still be underdogs when the sides meet at the end of May, but those wins will fuel belief and could sow seeds of doubt into City’s players.
UNITED LEFT TO RUE DROPPED POINTS EARLIER IN SEASON
Manchester United put on hold City’s title celebrations with a comeback 3-1 win at Aston Villa, but the result left many of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men wandering what might have been.
A series of draws and the odd defeat against unfancied opposition, none more so than a 2-1 home loss to relegated Sheffield United, had denied United a chance to mount a stronger title challenge in the run-in.
Snatching the title from City’s grasp is still theoretically possible but highly unlikely, and left back Luke Shaw made it clear in no uncertain terms how much United rued their poor early-season form.
“We are just focusing on ourselves, even more so we look at the City result (2-1 defeat by Chelsea), and we are disappointed with the points we have let go this season,” Shaw said.
HIRING ALLARDYCE EARLIER MIGHT HAVE SAVED WEST BROM
Sam Allardyce’s proud record of never taking a Premier League down came to an end as his West Bromwich Albion side lost 3-1 at Arsenal on Sunday, condemning the Baggies to the drop.
Bizarrely it came in the same weekend that Allardyce was nominated for the Manager of the Month award after some stirring displays – notably a 5-2 hammering of Champions League finalists Chelsea in April.
Fans of the Midlands club might well ask whether the club should have acted earlier than December to replace Slaven Bilic with Allardyce, one of the game’s great survivors.
West Brom were 19th, with seven points from 13 games, when Allardyce took command and they have taken 19 points since, losing only three of their previous 11 games before the defeat by Arsenal confirmed the inevitable relegation.
LEICESTER LOOKING OVER THEIR SHOULDERS
There is a horrible sense of déjá vu closing in on Leicester. An ugly 4-2 home defeat by Newcastle United on Friday, when they trailed 4-0, has left their top-four place in peril and fans fearing that they will miss out as they did last season having looked odds-on to make the Champions League.
Last season in their 35th game they lost 4-1 to Bournemouth, after which they faced Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, two of the three sides they play in their run-in this time.
Jonny Evans was injured shortly before kick-off on Friday, and Brandan Rodgers conceded afterwards he is the brains of their defence. Without him, Leicester looked wobbly at the back, while their attack has lost its spark with Jamie Vardy struggling for goals and James Maddison not back to full speed after injury.
Rodgers said his side still have their destiny in their own hands, but defeat by Manchester United today will set the alarm bells ringing loudly.