With 10 games to go, it’s time to look at the various races taking place in the Premier League. In Part II we check out the fight for European football.
This was originally going to be a look at only four teams, as I obviously despise Liverpool and I wish the very worst upon them and every member of their club. But then they went out and dick-stomped Everton, and then Arsenal beat Newcastle, and now ‘Pool are only 7 back of Chelsea.
And in reality, I don’t like any of these teams. I guess Spurs are tolerable, and I pity Newcastle and their fans as long as that fat whistleblower (what a gash) remains in charge. But as for Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool? Woof.
I mentioned in Part I that there has been a real drop in quality at the top of the EPL this season, and that is further reflected by English results in Europe. Nobody gives a shit about the Europa League, but both United and City trail by a goal heading into their second legs this afternoon. And Chelsea stand alone as the one English team to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League. The last time England had only one team reach this stage was 2005-06, and since then they’ve had 3, 4, 4, 2, and 3 of the last 8.
So which pathetic trio will join Team Manchester in trying to restore some dignity to England’s European reputation?
Tottenham Hotspur: 53 pts, +18 GD
vs. Stoke, @ Chelsea, vs. Swansea, @ Sunderland, vs. Norwich, @ Bolton, @ QPR, vs. Blackburn, @ Villa, vs. Fulham (average place: 12.5)
Good news: 9 out of 10 are “should-win” games.
Bad news: their heads appear to have fallen off. Whether it’s the “Arry for England” news or the difficulty of opponents or a sudden matzo ball crisis in North London, they’ve been outscored 9-1 since going up 2-nil on Arsenal.
Summary: they must right the ship at home to both Bolton (FA Cup) this weekend and Stoke next Wednesday, or they’ll be in trouble at Stamford Bridge. There are several teams on better form lurking right behind them…
Arsenal: 52 pts, +18 GD
@ Everton, vs. Villa, @ QPR, vs. Manchester City, @ Wolves, vs. Wigan, vs. Chelsea, @ Stoke, vs. Norwich, @ West Brom (average place: 12.7)
Good news: they are in cracking form and get both City and Chelsea at home.
Bad news: not much, given their recent run of results. Road games at Everton and Stoke could be tricky.
Summary: I mean, it’s Arsenal. On paper they should have no issue qualifying for UCL, given that their form is on the opposite trajectory of Spurs’. But will they be able to secure full points from the must-win games? Couldn’t you just see Norwich grabbing a late winner at the Emirates in May, with Arsenal’s European place on the line?
Chelsea: 49 pts, +16 GD
@ Manchester City, vs. Tottenham, @ Villa, vs. Wigan, @ Fulham, vs. Newcastle, @ Arsenal, vs. QPR, @ Liverpool, vs. Blackburn (average place: 10.1)
Good news: since firing AVB they’ve beaten Stoke and overturned a 3-1 first leg deficit by thrashing Napoli 4-1. They control their own destiny, as they get to play Spurs, Newcastle, Arsenal, and Liverpool.
Bad news: they have to play Spurs, Newcastle, Arsenal, and Liverpool, which leaves them with by far the hardest remaining set of fixtures (5 of their 10 remaining matches are against top 7 sides).
Summary: tough to tell what effect di Matteo will have on the squad, but so far so good. They’ll need to keep up this pace if they hope to return to the Champions League, as Spurs and Arsenal are ahead on points and GD and have far easier schedules.
Newcastle: 44 pts, -1 GD
vs. Norwich, @ West Brom, vs. Liverpool, @ Swansea, vs. Bolton, @ Chelsea, vs. Stoke, @ Wigan, vs. Manchester City, @ Everton (average place: 11.0)
Good news: no FA Cup games to worry about. Somehow still in 6th despite a negative goal differential.
Bad news: they’ve been hit with the injury bug and are in a tough run of form, having lost to Spurs (5-0), drawing with Sunderland and Wolves, then surrendering a late winner to Arsenal.
Summary: they don’t have the easiest run-in and currently 5 points behind Chelsea. They’ll probably have to hope the Blues slip up, and now they can add Ryan Taylor’s ankle and Tiote’s hamstring to the injury list.
Liverpool: 42 pts, +7 GD
@ QPR, vs. Wigan, @ Newcastle, vs. Villa, @ Blackburn, vs. Fulham, vs. West Brom, @ Norwich, vs. Chelsea, @ Swansea (average place: 12.7)
Good news: somehow not involved in this week’s racism claim (LINK: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2114560/Arsenal-probe-racism-claim-fan-abused-Cheick-Tiote.html?ito=feeds-newsxml)!
Bad news: currently 7 points out of 5th. Relying on Stevie G to score all of their goals.
Summary: it was a bit of a stretch to include them in this list, especially since they’ve only won 13 points in their last 10 games. But that stretch included City, Spurs, United, and Arsenal, and their next 8 are very winnable – you would have to think that 6 or more wins would put them right in the thick of things.
Tomorrow we finish up with a look at the relegation battle.