By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from match-week 26 of the Premier League season
- Full weekend results
Two games being postponed to a later date did not stop Match-week 26 from producing some interesting stories in the Premier League. Here are five lessons we learned.
Ranieri’s sacking is understandable
Despite the footballing action taking place all over the country, the main talking point over the weekend was the shock sacking of Claudio Ranieri by Leicester City. The decision came just nine months after the Italian guided the Foxes to an historic Premier League title victory, but this season’s poor form has left them in the middle of a relegation battle.
Rumours from a number of reports have suggested the players and the owners had a meeting that led to the sacking, reports that have been denied by the likes of Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmiechel.
Many pundits have labelled the decision as a ‘disgrace’ and claimed that football has ‘lost its soul’, but the fact is football lost its soul a long time ago. The beautiful game is just as much of a business as it is a sport, if not more so. The aim for clubs is less about success and more about money, and if you look at it from that perspective you can understand Leicester’s decision.
The team has struggled all season in the league, so much so that relegation is a possibility. The difference financially between being in the Premier League and the Championship is huge, and relegation will see a big loss to the money Leicester will be able to generate. Ranieri might have been able to turn it around, and you would think he should have been given the chance to do that, however in this situation it is understandable why Leicester will look for a new direction. A change in manager can often lead to a change in fortune, but if this fails to happen then the already questionable decision will be under even more scrutiny.
Life without the Italian began in a positive way with a 3-0 win over Liverpool. Two goals from Vardy and one from Danny Drinkwater ensured the Foxes stay out of the bottom three for another match-week.
Who will take charge? That question is still yet to be answered, but we may find out by the start of match-week 27. Craig Shakespeare has certainly staked his claim with the way the side performed on Monday, but there are also rumours of Roberto Mancini taking over and Nigel Pearson returning. For now, Leicester fans can smile again at their team’s performance.
With no distraction, Spurs have the best shot at catching Chelsea
It was a mixed week for Spurs. The team and the fans were left frustrated as they were dumped out of the Europa League in mid-week by Gent, lessening their chance of claiming that elusive trophy the supporters crave. Their performance against Stoke however will no doubt have lifted the spirits.
Harry Kane struck a first half hat trick as Tottenham romped to a 4-0 lead against Stoke in the first half. With the work done half way through the match, Mauricio Pochettino’s side cruised in the second half to a comprehensive victory. Though Chelsea’s win means Spurs did not close the gap at the top of the Premier League, it was a signal of intent from the North London club, they are making a late surge for the title.
With no mid-week Europa League action to worry about, Spurs can keep their focus directly on the league and the FA Cup. It is unlikely that anyone will be able to catch Chelsea, but Tottenham are perhaps in the best position to do so.
Kane has found some form, meaning they have the goals to go with their stellar defence, and as one of the more consistent sides in the league, Spurs will not drop many points in the remaining 12 games.
Romelu Lukaku may not be at Everton for much longer
Another match-week, another goal for Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian scored the second in Everton’s 2-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday, taking his overall tally for the season to 17, joint best in the division.
It is clear the 23 year old is destined for bigger things. He has already matched Duncan Ferguson’s goal-scoring record for the Toffee’s and he will likely break it in the coming weeks. It is this sort of form that gets you noticed by the big clubs around Europe, and Lukaku will be itching to play in the Champions league sooner rather than later.
The offer, from whoever it may be, will be a big one and it is hard to see Everton turning it down. Lukaku will likely be gone from Goodison Park by the end of the 2018 at the latest unless they can be guided into the top four within that time period.
Bournemouth are very much in a relegation scrap
A 2-1 defeat at West Brom was Bournemouth’s fourth straight loss, leaving them just five points clear of the relegation zone. Every season there seems to be a side that is not in the fight for much of the season that slips into it before the end – is that Bournemouth this campaign? Five points looks a good gap on paper, but with the Cherries struggling for form and many of the relegation candidates improving in that regard, it may only take one more defeat to leave them right in the thick of it.
Crystal Palace took a big step towards survival with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. Patrick van Aanholt scored the winner for Crystal Palace as they moved out of the bottom three and level on points with their rivals. It is a big win for Sam Allardyce who has so far struggled since joining the club.
There was no such luck for Hull City who could only muster a 1-1 draw at home to Burnley. It will be seen as a disappointing result for the Tigers given that Burnley’s away form is less than stellar. Marco Silva’s side will finish the week inside the relegation zone as a result.
Sunderland lost 2-0 away at Everton to remain bottom. It was not a happy return to Goodison Park for David Moyes, whose side edge closer and closer to relegation every week. Swansea were predictably beaten by Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and remain 15th.
What else happened?
Chelsea made no mistake at keeping their lead at the top of the table after a 3-1 win against Swansea. Cesc Fabregas gave the hosts the lead after 19 minutes as it looked like an easy afternoon for the league leaders. Swansea fought back however and levelled on the stroke of half time thanks to Fernando Llorente. The blues took control of proceedings through Pedro’s goal after 72 minutes. Diego Costa made sure for the win five minutes from time.
Watford and West Ham played out a 1-1 draw at Vicarage road. The hosts went ahead on three minutes through Troy Deeney’s penalty after Mauro Zarate was brought down in the box by Cheikhou Kouyate. The Hammers managed to rescue a point through substitute Andre Ayew’s strike.
Full Premier League results
|Premier League Match-Week 26|
|Chelsea 3-1 Swansea City|
|Crystal Palace 1-0 Middlesbrough|
|Everton 2-0 Sunderland|
|Hull City 1-1 Burnley|
|Southampton P-P Arsenal|
|West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Bournemouth|
|Watford 1-1 West Ham United|
|Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Stoke City|
|Manchester City P-P Manchester United|
|Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool|
The Premier League returns on Saturday 4 March.
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