In a weekend that saw only seven matches because of a combination of the Capital One Cup final and a Monday night game, there was still goals and plenty of entertaining action. The leaders had the chance to win and take yet another step in the slow, yet confident, march to the title with a few teams in the chasing pack not being involved. The relegation fight is now heating up with only seven points separating the bottom seven teams. Here are a few of the talking points
Swansea Make Chelsea Work
It’s getting really boring now. The leaders defeated the Swans to pick up their twentieth win of the league season. They have now won twenty out of twenty-six league games, scoring fifty-five goals and conceding only nineteen. They have lost only once in the last twenty league games. The numbers are difficult to argue against. The Blues have been excellent this season and if they continue to pick up pints at their current rate, they would end up with ninety-two points (one of the highest totals recorded). Yet, they could afford a drop off and still finish with a total as high as eighty-nine points. This has been an exceptional season especially for their manager who has come in and made a difference while improving the team and the players he inherited as managers are supposed to do.
This is not to entirely ignore Swansea’s performance. After conceding early, they held on got themselves back in the game just before halftime. They can feel hard done by having been denied a penalty with the scores tied. At that point, it could have been a very different game. Swansea will go back and look to continue their revival under Paul Clement but this win means that Chelsea will most likely win a second league title in three seasons. Only a few will bet against them with twelve games to go.
Everton Target Europe
Before the game against Manchester City in mid-January, it seemed like the Toffees had nothing to play in the remainder of the season. They were out of the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup and were some way off sixth place. After the game which they convincingly won, the feeling remained the same. Ever since though, the guys from the blue side of Merseyside have been chugging along and doing well, winning three and drawing two of the five games since. They are the form team in the league. They have closed the gap between seventh and sixth to four points (albeit having played one more game than the team in sixth place) while there’s only nine points between themselves and Spurs in second place (they face Spurs next weekend). This weekend they defeated Sunderland, not without a scare or two, and things are looking really good right now. To cap it all up, Manchester United went and won the Capital One Cup meaning that seventh place is now a Europa league spot. Although they’re in the close fight for the places below Chelsea, they know that even if they fail and finish in their current position they will still qualify for European competition. Next week, they’ll be aiming to do something no team has done this season: defeat Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Burnley Hold Out
In the first of the four matches that look like defining where the Clarets finish this season, they picked up only their second point on the road and it was against one of the teams below them. They snatched a draw from what looked like it was going to be a defeat having gone down to a very harsh penalty. They hit back quickly scoring only their sixth goal in twelve away matches this season. Their form on the road has been miserable this season and it is the main reason they aren’t challenging West Bromwich Albion for eight place. Regardless of that, it’s still been a great season for a club of their size and resources but they’ll need to avoid defeat in the two coming away games against teams mired in the relegation fight so they don’t dragged into the mix.
Bournemouth Are On the Slide
Only two points from a possible twenty-one and no win in 2017. That’s an alarming record on its own. At the end of 2016, the team sat comfortably in mid-table and could’ve even made an assault on the top ten against the likes of Saturdays opponents, West Brom. But it’s been an abysmal run of form since the end of 2016. In their seven league games in 2017, they have won none and conceded twenty goals. Only Leicester City have picked up fewer points in 2017 (one point from six matches) and the Foxes have parted ways with their league-winning manager. Teams that face Bournemouth always pick them off like cherries consequently, only Swansea have conceded more goals in the league this season. In the last six games, Swansea have conceded five goals fewer than the Cherries. Things look really bad right now and the manager doesn’t look like he has any ideas how to fix it. Last season, only Aston Villa (who finished twentieth) conceded more goals than Bournemouth. This is a problem that has existed and shown no signs of going away. Unlike Burnley who have had to made do because of financial constraints, Bournemouth have a wealthy owner and their manager has been allowed to spend a lot of money in bringing in players. Eddie Howe needs to make team team stronger defensively otherwise they could find themselves in a spot of bother. Their next task is to try to beat Manchester United and give themselves some respite. It might not be pretty.
Article written by Omorogbe Usuomon, follow him on Twitter – @Claspie