Jamie Thomas takes a look at the talking points in this weekend’s Premier League . . .
1. So long, Stevie G!
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard said an ’emotional’ goodbye to the Anfield faithful after their defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Reds played the game like a testimonial and you’ve got to wonder if the attention surrounding his final games at the business end of the season became a distraction for the team.
Alan Pardew’s men had spoiled the leaving party with goals from Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray, but still the one-club man didn’t shed one tear. He didn’t let the occasion overawe him and remained cool under pressure like a true captain until the very end.
2. Persistent Pearson
Leicester ensured Premier League survival with one game to go after earning a point at Sunderland. It’s a remarkable achievement, considering they were rock bottom only last month, but the Foxes have transformed their fortunes with an incredible run of six wins in eight matches.
Controversial gaffer Nigel Pearson has proved his on-field doubters wrong, however, he remains a divisive figure off it. He insists people can “like me or lump me” and after pulling off the “greatest escape ever” according to keeper Kasper Schmeichel, you have no choice but to lump him for another season.
3. We’re down to three . . .
With only one more weekend of action to go, it is now clear: Hull, Newcastle or Sunderland will join Burnley and Queens Park Rangers in the Championship next term. Newcastle squandered their chance to survive after losing 2-1 at QPR – and it doesn’t bode well for them against Hammers next week when they can’t beat a team who have nothing to play for but pride.
Black Cats could go down on goal difference after being held by the Foxes, while Hull wasted good chances at Spurs and eventually lost thanks to some dire defending. Tigers boss Steve Bruce admitted it’s been a “terrible week” after Jake Livermore was suspended for testing positive for cocaine and with injuries, but this weekend could be even worse . . .
4. Final say
Hat-trick hero Sadio Mane made history with the quickest trio ever in the EPL against Tim Sherwood’s resurgent side as Southampton annihilated Aston Villa 6-1. Star man Christian Benteke was kept quiet, which isn’t ideal ahead of the FA Cup final, and perhaps there’s a danger of complacency creeping into this inexperienced squad.
Their cup rivals Arsenal were impressive in trying to get in behind Manchester United – minus Wayne Rooney – at times, but the game ended in a score draw at Old Trafford. The players could just be saving themselves for the final on the 30th – but on their current form, the Wembley showpiece is hard to call!
5. Best man
Who is going to win Manager of the Season? Even if you leave the ‘best coach in the league’ John Carver out of the running, you’re still spoiled for choice. While Pardew has seen his case strengthened by his former assistant, as everyone realises now he didn’t do that badly at Newcastle, he’s also done a marvellous job at Palace.
Saints boss Ronald Koeman has transformed what was a threadbare squad with some wonderful acquisitions and taken them to the brink of European football. Or it could be Jose Mourinho considering how convincingly Chelsea won the league. While Foxes manager Pearson (ostrich insults aside) is being touted by some and Swansea’s Garry Monk, too!
Who would you nominate for Manager of the Season? Let us know in the comments section!
Read more from Jamie Thomas here.