Jamie Thomas takes a look at the talking points in this weekend’s Premier League . . .
1. Much Mour to Chelsea
Chelsea were crowned champions with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, thanks to a debatable penalty by Eden Hazard, but the critics already had all the ammunition they needed at half-time as Juan Cuadrado was replaced by John Obi Mikel. While Jose Mourinho’s men again failed to spark imaginations, they got the job done by wrapping up a fourth Premier League title.
They’re only going to get better, too. There will be additions in the summer, with Barcelona’s Pedro and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane rumoured to be targets, but even having Diego Costa fully fit will be a big boost to the Blues. Detractors bemoan their pragmatic style of play but their game management is something that is the envy of every other team in the league. Winning the title by 13 points with three games to go is exceptional. Not so boring.
2. New low
Nine-man Newcastle lost their eighth straight league match after being defeated 3-0 by resurgent Leicester. They have not managed to win any points since the end of February. Things went from bad to worse for John Carver’s men after Mike Williamson saw red after clattering into Jamie Vardy unnecessarily as the ball ran out of play to the fury of his manager. Daryl Janmaat was then given the death stare when he walked late on for another silly challenge on the same player.
Carver accused defender Williamson of deliberately getting himself sent off and “taking the easy way out” as he’ll get a two-match ban for the struggling Magpies with three games against, West Brom and West Ham at home and QPR away to go. Williamson released a statement to insist the sending off was not on purpose, but things will be interesting in the dressing room when he returns for the last match of the season against Hammers.
3. Rodgers deserves respect
Liverpool’s season has been a disappointment but for some fans (allegedly) to hire a plane to fly past Anfield with a ‘Rodgers out Rafa in’ banner during the game with QPR is taking things too far. The hosts scraped to a narrow victory over lowly QPR as Steven Gerrard recovered from an early penalty miss to net a late winner. It maintains slim hopes of Champions League football next season, much to the relief of Brendan Rodgers.
The Reds boss made light of the banner afterwards, joking Rafa Benitez’s agent was behind the stunt. It was always going to be difficult for them to adjust to losing star man Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to injury for most of this term. It seems the fans have short memories of all Rodgers has achieved after finishing EPL runners-up last term – and they should remember what they were saying about Benitez before he left in 2010.
4. Aguero can’t go
Sergio Aguero showed why he should have been in the PFA Team of the Year instead of Diego Costa at the weekend. In a team with so much attacking talent like Manchester city, he is the only one who consistently performs no matter who the opponent. The Argentine continued to prove his worth as he scored the winner in their away win at Tottenham to all but secure them a top-four finish.
At the same time, Aguero managed to kill off what hopes their rivals had left of Champions League football next season. Some have speculated that a season out of Europe entirely might benefit Spurs if it means they can focus on the league and developing a cohesive system around Harry Kane. There could be big changes at the Etihad, too, if Manuel Pellegrini departs as speculated but City have to do their utmost to keep hold of world-class talent Aguero. They wouldn’t be the same team without him, that’s for sure!
5. Burnley and QPR are sunk
Although it isn’t official yet, I’m going to call it now and say Burnley and QPR will be relegated. Things are looking bleak for the R’s with defeat by Liverpool leaving them seven points from possible safety with games away to Manchester City, home to Newcastle United and away to Leicester City to come. Seven points from those matches is mission impossible for Chris Ramsey, who is one defeat away from going down.
Burnley, meanwhile, had good chances away at West Ham but couldn’t take any of them – surprise, surprise – as they slipped to a narrow defeat. But despite languishing at the bottom of the Premier League, the Clarets have performed very well this season. It’s now very simple for Sean Dyche’s men: they need to win three in a row to survive – which will be nothing short of a miracle if it does come off.
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