Premier League

Premier League Round-Up: Matchday 37

1.🏆MANCHESTER CITY (97 pts, GD + 78)
LAST GAMES: 0-0 D vs. Huddersfield, 3-1 W vs. Brighton
NEXT GAME: at Southampton

I know this round-up is meant to recap the games and biggest moments from the last week, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to get personal with this City recap.

Though I’ve always done my best to be an unbiased spectator (like a true sports journalist should) when I watch City, it’s no secret that I’m a Manchester City fan. Yes, it’s been a fantastic season to be a City fan, but I always made sure my journalistic instinct kicked in and stopped myself from getting caught up in it all. However, that would not be possible for Wednesday night’s game. It was a meaningless game between the Champions and a newly-promoted side happy to be in the PL against next season, but for me and millions of City fans across the world, it was anything but meaningless. Wednesday’s game was the last time Yaya Toure would wear the City blue in front of the home fans.

For a club with “no history,” Yaya will go down as one of the greatest City players of all time. He wasn’t always the best player on the field, he wasn’t always the hardest working and one time he didn’t get a birthday cake, but Man City wouldn’t be who they are today if it wasn’t for Yaya Toure. (Yes, I know it’s also because of all the $$$$$.) Yaya was one of the first players the new ownership brought in to turn the club around and he has scored some of the most important goals in the club’s history. Yaya was a part of the initial cornerstone that City was to take over the football world. Alongside Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Nigel De Jong, David Silva and Mario Balotelli, Yaya will be seen as a City “founding father” years down the line. It was because of Yaya Toure that I chose to be a City fan when I first started watching the PL in 2009. At his prime, Yaya was a marauding beast in the midfield that could strike fear at any defender in his path.  Yaya galloped all over the field but did with light feet and elegance. During the 2013/2014 season, by far the best season of his career, he was arguably one of the best midfielders in the world. In 35 PL appearances that season, Yaya scored 20 goals (10 goals from 13 set pieces), 9 assists and 90% passing accuracy.

So, Wednesday night, I watched while holding back tears while my first favorite player played in his final home game. I joined the fans at the Etihad in yelling shoot anytime Yaya got within 40 yards of goal. I sighed when Yaya’s only shot went straight to Matt Ryan. When Yaya came off the field in the 84thand every City player surrounded him and hugged him, I had actual tears coming out. It was finally real at that point. Even though Yaya has spent most of the season as an afterthought and not even in the matchday squad, he is Manchester City.

8 years. 316 career City appearances. 3 PL titles, 1 FA Cup, 3 League Cups. 82 goals.

Thank you, Yaya.

  1. MANCHESTER UNITED (78 pts, GD +39)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Brighton, 0-0 D at West Ham
    NEXT GAME: vs. Watford

With their draw against West Ham on Thursday, Manchester United locked up second in the table. It is their best finish since they won the league in 2012/2013. In their loss against Brighton, it was the first time that United suffered away defeats to all three newly-promoted clubs in the same season. It’s been a real up and down season for the Red Devils, but they have been the second-best team for most of the season, even if the point total doesn’t show it.

Anthony Martial will probably be sold in the summer and it’s a real shame. Martial is incredibly talented, but with his dip in form since the arrival of Alexis, he quickly fell out of favor with Jose. I think United should bring in another holding midfielder to play alongside Matic. That holding midfielder will allow Pogba to play in his preferred position further up the field.

  1. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (74 PTS, GD +37)
    LAST GAME:1-0 L at West Brom, 1-0 W vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: vs. Leicester

Tottenham’s top-four hopes took a big hit with WBA’s stoppage-time winner, but with Liverpool’s loss against Chelsea, Spurs was able to lock up a top-four spot with their win against Newcastle. After the win against Newcastle, Hugo Lloris said, “Today means more than a trophy,” and that is Tottenham’s problem. Tottenham has an endless amount of talent and they need to be winning talents with their core group of young talent. The Champions League and the Premier League are incredibly tough, but Tottenham has left more to be desired in the domestic cups.

  1. LIVERPOOL (72 PTS, GD +42)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L vs. Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Brighton

Liverpool just did not show up against Chelsea. After a difficult two legs against Roma in the Champions League, it makes sense as to why they were second rate against a motivated Chelsea team. Liverpool only needs one point on the final day to seal a top-four spot. Brighton will play tough, but with their safety secured, expect Liverpool to control most of the game.

  1. CHELSEA (70 PTS, GD +27)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Liverpool, 1-1 D vs. Huddersfield
    NEXT GAME: at Newcastle

Chelsea’s draw with Huddersfield put a serious dent into their Champions League hopes. When their hopes to make the Champions League seem done and dusted, four straight wins—including one over Liverpool—made it possible again. However, with the draw against the Terriers, Chelsea now needs a win against Newcastle and a Liverpool loss against Brighton to earn a spot in the Champions League.

  1. ARSENAL (60 PTS, GD +22)
    LAST GAME: 5-0 W vs. Burnley, 3-1 L at Leicester
    NEXT GAME: at Huddersfield

With Wenger finally announcing that he will be stepping down at the end of the season, two quotes come to mind: one from T.S. Eliot and one from F. Scott Fitzgerald. T.S. Eliot: “This is the way the world ends, now with a bang, but a whimper.” Fitzgerald: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Aside from the 5-0 win over Burnley in his final game at the Emirates, Wenger and Arsenal have been limping to the end of the season. Goals have been coming from Lacazette and Aubameyang, which will give fans hope for next season, but they needed to come months ago. Even worse, the Gunners have yet to win on the road in 2018. But even with Arsenal’s struggles this season, their past under Wenger still gives Arsenal fans hope for the future. With a new manager still to be decided, Arsenal’s future is the brightest it has been in a long time.

Wenger, despite all of the jokes he’s been the punchline too, deserves all the respect he’s been getting and will possibly go down as one of the best managers of all time. We will probably never see a manager stay at a club for as long as Wenger did. He changed the way the game is played in England and many of the greatest players of all time owe their career to Wenger. But the team’s performance under Wenger since he announced that he will be stepping down perfectly sums up his last few seasons at the club.

  1. BURNLEY (54 PTS, GD -2)
    LAST GAME:5-0 L at Arsenal
    NEXT GAME: vs. Bournemouth

Burnley has been my underdog team all season, and I’m elated for Burnley fans. The Clarets will be playing European football for the first time in 51 years next season. Their seventh-place finish guarantees them a spot in next season’s Europa League. Burnley deserves this after the way they have played this season and you can only hope that they represent themselves well in the Europa League.

  1. EVERTON (49 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D vs. Southampton
    NEXT GAME: at West Ham

Everton was safe before the game, but they broke Southampton hearts when Tom Davies scored in the 96thminute. At the time, Davies’ stoppage-time equalizer meant that Southampton was still in the relegation zone. However, with Southampton’s win over Swansea during the week pretty much securing their place in the PL next season, their draw against Everton didn’t really matter.

Something has to change for Everton next season. I’ve said for the last couple weeks that Big Sam won’t be the manager going forward, but from the recent news to come out of Goodison Park, it looks like Big Sam will be in charge next season. News also broke this week that Wayne Rooney will be crossing the pond and joining D.C United. His glorious return to Everton turned sour quickly and he never looked up to par this season. As for what has to change at the club, your guess is as good as mine. If it’s not the manager, then it’s the way he controls and motivates his team. If it’s the players, they need to step or realize they can be replaced.

  1. LEICESTER CITY (47 PTS, GD -3)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 L vs. West Ham, 3-1 W vs. Arsenal
    NEXT GAME: at Tottenham

Leicester thrashed Arsenal during the week after a disappointing loss to West Ham at home. Goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy, and Riyad Mahrez sealed the win against the Gunners. After a failed move to Manchester City in January, Riyad Mahrez may have played his last game in front of the Leicester fans. It’s clear that Mahrez wants to move on to bigger and better things, so it is unlikely that will be at the KP Stadium next season. And if it was his last game, Mahrez left the Leicester fans with a wonder goal that perfectly summed up the kind of player he was for the club.

  1. NEWCASTLE (41 PTS, GD -11)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L at Watford, 1-0 L at Tottenham
    NEXT GAME: vs. Chelsea

For most of the season, Newcastle looked like they didn’t have enough to stay in the league, but Rafa Benitez rallied his team and they are safely into the PL next season. Newcastle was safe before their 2-1 loss against Watford, which explains their nonchalant approach to the game. Newcastle is a stalwart in English football, so it is good to see the Magpies in the Prem for another season.

  1. CRYSTAL PALACE (41 PTS, GD -12)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W at Stoke
    NEXT GAME: at West Brom

Palace fans can finally breathe easy—the Eagles are officially safe. Crystal Palace is the first team since the 1899/1900 (!!) Liverpool team to avoid relegation from the top-flight despite losing their first seven games of the season. Palace conceded 17 times and didn’t score a single goal in the first seven games. In the last 30 games, Palace has picked up 41 points and has scored 43 goals. It will be interesting to see if Wilfried Zaha will stay next season. Zaha was named Palace player of the year for the third season in a row and has said he has no plans on leaving. Zaha is a great player and a fan favorite at Selhurst Park.

Palace will need Zaha to stay and need Benteke to be back in the goals next season, so they can avoid another relegation scare.

  1. AFC BOURNEMOUTH (41 PTS, GD -17)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Swansea
    NEXT GAME: at Burnley

Bournemouth crushed some Swansea hearts with their win on Saturday. Swansea desperately needed a win and the Swans started the game the better of the two sides. Swansea had a few chances to score early in the game, but like they have all season, struggled to capitalize and paid for it. They paid for it when Ryan Fraser curled one into the top right corner.  Bournemouth held off Swansea for the rest of the game and finished their last home game with a win.

  1. WATFORD (41 PTS, GD -19)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 W vs. Newcastle
    NEXT GAME: at United

Watford’s PL status was never in doubt, but with their win against Newcastle, it became official. Roberto Pereyra got the Hornets going with a goal in the second minute and it was all Watford for most of the game. Newcastle pulled one back 10 minutes after halftime, but never found an equalizer. After a good start to the season, Watford struggled at the start of the festive period and took one step forward, one step back for the rest of the season.

  1. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (40 PTS, GD -16)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. United, 3-1 L at City
    NEXT GAME: at Liverpool

In exciting fashion, the Seagulls guaranteed their PL safety with a thrilling 1-0 win over United. The club’s player of the year Pascal Gross scored the goal that guaranteed their safety. Brighton ends the season at Anfield against Liverpool. Liverpool needs at least a point to guarantee a spot in the Champions League next season, so expect Liverpool to dominate the game.

  1. WEST HAM UNITED (39 PTS, GD -22)
    LAST GAME: 2-0 W at Leicester, 0-0 D vs. United
    NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal

West Ham’s dominant performance against Leicester means they are safe and will be playing in the PL again next season. It’s been a very challenging season for the Hammers and their fans. From pitch invasions to outright fan protest, West Ham has seen the worst at times. In the end, West Ham did just enough to earn survival.

  1. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (37 PTS, GD -29)
    LAST GAME: 0-0 D at City, 1-1 D at Chelsea
    NEXT GAME: vs. Arsenal

Off all the sides battling relegation, Huddersfield had the hardest schedule. The Terriers had City, Chelsea and they finish the season on Sunday against Arsenal. Somehow, Huddersfield held City goalless at the Etihad and broke Chelsea hearts by stealing a point at Stamford Bridge. Those two draws gave Huddersfield enough points to confirm their safety for next season.

All three newly-promoted sides, Huddersfield, Newcastle, and Brighton have officially secured their PL status for next season. It is only the third time in PL history that all three newly-promoted teams avoided relegation.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (36 PTS, GD -18)
    LAST GAME: 1-1 D at Everton, 1-0 W at Swansea
    NEXT GAMES: vs. City

The Saints picked up a vital win on Tuesday that almost ensures their PL status. With the 1-0 win over fellow relegation rival Swansea, the Saints moved ahead of the Swans and Huddersfield. They only need a point on the final day to secure their stay in the PL. Manolo Gabbiadini scored on his first attempt on goal since Feb. 24th, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. There is a mathematical chance that the Saints could be relegated, however, it is incredibly unlikely given their superior goal difference compared to Swansea and Huddersfield.

  1. SWANSEA CITY (33 PTS, GD -27)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 L at Bournemouth, 1-0 L vs. Southampton
    NEXT GAME: at Stoke

Swansea’s loss on Tuesday against Southampton was the first swing on the final nail in their coffin. Swansea’s fate is no longer in their hands. They will be relegated with a draw or loss against Stoke on Sunday. Swansea will need Manchester City to put five or six goals past the Southampton while scoring five or six of their own against Stoke. Anything is possible, but Swansea needs a miracle.

The Swans and the Saints both came into the game level on points and knowing that a win would all but confirm safety for the winner. Swansea started the best out of the two sides, but it wasn’t until the 47thminute when Jordan Ayew forced a save from Alex McCarthy. After that, it was all Southampton.

  1. 🔻WEST BROMWICH ALBION (31 PTS, GD -23)
    LAST GAME: 1-0 W vs. Tottenham
    NEXT GAME: at Palace

WBA is officially relegated from the PL with Southampton’s win over Swansea during the week. The Baggies came so close to saving themselves. For the longest time, it looked like WBA was certain to be relegated, but then came Darren Moore. The club-legend stepped in as interim manager and hasn’t lost since he has taken over. It’s inevitable, but WBA fans will say that Alan Pardew should have been fired sooner, but even if he was, safety was still a long way away for WBA.

  1. 🔻STOKE CITY (30 PTS, GD -34)
    LAST GAME: 2-1 L vs. Palace
    NEXT GAME: at Swansea

Stoke City is officially relegated from the PL. Crystal Palace’s two second half goals combined with WBA’s last-second win over Tottenham last weekend sealed the Potters fate. The Potters lasted 10 seasons in the PL and if I’m being honest, it may be a few more years until we see them back in the PL. Stoke will probably lose their best two players Jack Butland and Xherdan Shaqiri to transfers and they will be tough to replace, especially without the money they will be receiving from the PL.

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