Premier League Matchday in Review
Those who have not been keeping up with the Premier League in 2016/17 should be kicking themselves as this campaign is set to end in fantastic fashion. The title race is legitimate and all bets are off as every match is critical for squads looking to reach the top four and achieve automatic qualifying spots for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Equally as important is the fight to stay out of the relegation spots in the bottom three. On this day two years ago, Leicester City defeated Swansea to move out of last place in the league and begin their climb out of the relegation zone to remain in the Premier League and shock the world the following season. Here’s how the fixtures played out:
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 – 0 BOURNEMOUTH
WATFORD 1 – 0 SWANSEA CITY
SUNDERLAND 2 – 2 WEST HAM
STOKE CITY 3 – 1 HULL CITY
EVERTON 3 – 1 BURNLEY
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 – 2 LEICESTER CITY
SOUTHAMPTON 0 – 3 MANCHESTER CITY
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0 – 1 LIVERPOOL
MANCHESTER UNITED 2 – 0 CHELSEA
MIDDLESBROUGH 1 – 2 ARSENAL
Key Matches and Storylines:
Tottenham are four points back from the top of the table. I can confirm that this is not a drill. A few weeks ago, the league had seemed all but won by Chelsea, but it now looks as if it may come down to some massive ties at the end of the season. They have won their last 7 in the Premier League, outscoring opponents 22 – 4 across that span. Yet again, the Hotspur were getting their fill of goals including contributions from the main man Harry Kane and the South Korean international Heung-Min Son. The creativity of Christian Eriksen was on display as well as he picked up his 12th assist, good enough for second most in the PL.
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku finds the back of the net again for Everton as he remains in the lead for the Golden Boot this season. The combination of pace, power, and technical ability that Lukaku routinely displays is almost completely unrivaled across the top leagues in Europe. With 24 goals and 6 assists thus far in this campaign, the Everton board of directors have hinted that they would not be willing to let Lukaku go unless they receive an offer in excess of £100 million. If these rumors have any merit to them and if a club were to make an offer, it would break the £89 million record transfer fee that was set just last summer when Paul Pogba left Juventus for Manchester United.
Manchester City are getting major production from the trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Agüero, and the lightning-fast 21-year-old Leroy Sané. These boys seem to all be in sync and some of the skills displayed on counterattacks by Sané are just ridiculous. City really do have one of the most purely talented squads on the planet, but they’ll need to continue putting in good performances to ensure their finish in the top four.
Roberto Firmino scores again for Liverpool as they hold their third place position in the PL. The Reds were put to the test by West Brom’s persistent defensive line but one goal proved to be enough as Tony Pulis’ side has lost some of the offensive fluidity that they showed earlier on in the season.
On Sunday morning Chelsea and Manchester United were set to clash in a vital match for both sides. The Chelsea players were well aware of the 4 – 0 victory for Tottenham the day before, and many expected a strong response from the London club. However, they had likely been preparing for a Manchester United lineup that would include the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Jose Mourinho instead opted for young studs Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard to lead the attacking front line and Chelsea were unconvincing across the board. 2 of Chelsea’s 5 Premier League losses this season have come in their last 4 matches so Antonio Conte will be looking to rally the group and finish atop the table.
In the last fixture of Matchday 33, Arsenal regained their footing after turmoil has surrounded the club in recent weeks. Arsène Wenger finally made structural adjustments to the lineup, switching to a 3-4-2-1 formation and bringing Rob Holding back into the squad after a long drought of Premier League appearances. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also started for the first time as a right wing back, and his tenacity, versatility, and commitment to the club were all apparent in his Man of the Match performance. Although it was not a completely dominant display, the Gunners will look to use this as momentum moving forward. They sit sixth in the table and it looks as if they will need Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil to string together quality performances if they are to snap up a top four spot. Quick reminder: the North London Derby is set for 4/30 at 11:30 EST.
In other news across the league, Xherdan Shaqiri scored another screamer for Stoke City as they leapfrog Leicester into 11th place. The ex-Bayern Munich man made his signature cut onto his left foot before placing a beautiful strike into the top corner from almost 30 yards out.
18th place Swansea City really could have used the 3 points against Watford and they are still struggling to find form. The only Welsh team in the Premier League may be sent down to the Championship next season.
The upcoming week hosts UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, FA Cup semi-finals, and Premier League matches. Today, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich square off as well as Leicester City and Atletico Madrid. Tomorrow’s slate features AS Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, and Juventus. All games kick-off 2:45 EST.