5 Talking Points From Premier League Gameweek 31: The Weekly EPL
With nine Premier League games being played over the weekend, we bring you the points that made headlines this gameweek.
1. The Managerial Merry-go-round keeps on spinning
Roberto Di Matteo, Mark Hughes, Nigel Adkins, Brian McDermott. Martin O’Neill joins the list of managers who got the sack after a lacklustre showing versus Manchester United. With only three points from the last 24 and scoring only six goals in the process, O’Neill was always threading the thin line. The dam finally broke this week as Sunderland owner Ellis Short pressed the eject button somewhat justifiably with O’Neill failing to get the best out of his players. What is baffling is the installment of Paolo Di Canio to the hotseat – a manager with no previous top flight experience tasked with making Sunderland stay up in the league this season. Deprived of their injured leading scorer, Steven Fletcher and captain Lee Cattermole until the end of the season, and desperately short of goals, it increasingly looks like the Wearside outfit are Championship bound, especially as they are only a point above the relegation zone. Who’s next in the Premier League sack race?
2. Race to the top-four: Chelsea slips, the Bale-force powers Tottenham on and Arsenal thrash Reading
The Blues find their resources stretched as they face a gruelling run of 7 matches in 19 days. And if “the morning shows the day” adage is considered to be irrevocably true, the dusk will definitely not paint a pretty picture for Chelsea. With the manager having to resort to making seven changes from their last match, the Blues slipped to fourth position after their third away defeat in a row. Meanwhile Gareth Bale inspired Tottenham with a sublime winner as Spurs came back strongly after 2 consecutive losses to record a hard fought 2-1 victory away at Swansea. In the process they leapfrogged Chelsea to the third spot in the table.
Arsenal will probably finish their eight consecutive trophy-less campaign but they refuse to be bogged down in their quest of a 16th consecutive outing in the premier European competition. A commanding performance from the hosts as they hammered Reading 4-1, who were playing their first match under new manager Nigel Adkins.
3. Mauricio Pochettino plots a Southampton revolution as the Latics emerge on their customary late season run
Of all the managerial changes rung in by trigger-itchy owners, there is one which stands out as an inspired choice. When the Saints’ executive chairman Nicola Cortese announced that the club had decided to replace Nigel Adkins after a rousing comeback from 2 goals down to grab a point at Stamford Bridge, the decision did seem a bit high handed. However, on evidence of what Southampton have dished out over the last few weeks, the gamble seems to have paid off. For a team who were once languishing in the 19th spot in the league table, wins against the big boys of the league (Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea) are surely commendable. The Saints find themselves in the 13th position now; the highest they have been all season.
With 3 wins in their last 4 matches, Wigan Athletic seem to have finally hit their stride in the run in to the end of the season. The sequence of results from Roberto Martinez’s men is strangely reminiscent of the back end of the 2011/12 and 2010/11 seasons where they survived by the skin of their teeth.
4. Sir Alex eyes José Mourinho’s record
The Scotsman has made no secret of his desire that he aims to match or possibly overtake the record points haul of 95 points that Chelsea side amassed under The Special One’s tutelage in the 2004-05 season en route to the league title. With 18 points in their last six fixtures and with 9 games and a possible 27 points still up for grabs for the Red Devils, it would take a brave man to bet against them. Standing in their way in the upcoming week is their noisy neighbours, Manchester City, who recorded a thumping 4-0 victory over Newcastle United in this game week. There are crucial fixtures for Sir Alex’s charges on the horizon like top four hopefuls Arsenal and Chelsea. Also there is a small matter of negotiating a Tony Pulis managed Stoke City away at the Britannia in gameweek 33.
5. Carroll, Gervinho, Mirallas: On the road to redemption?
With two well taken goals in a crucial tie versus the Baggies, Andy Carroll finally seem to reaching the ‘heights’ that once prompted a certain Kenny Dalglish to fork out a princely sum of £35m for his signature. He needs to be doing much of the same to force his way into Sam Allardyce’s plans for the next season, in the process strengthening his claims to an England call-up.
Elsewhere a prolific Gervinho netted once and claimed two assists in a win over a hapless Reading side. The 25-year old Ivory Coast forward has often cut a controversial figure among Arsenal fans but with goals in consecutive league matches, he finally seems to be winning them over.
With a brilliant 70-yard run and finish, Kevin Mirallas ensured that Everton take all the points on offer to keep their top four hopes alive. The Belgian has only appeared sporadically for the Toffees but his participation might prove crucial in the business end of the league as they chase the final Champions League position.