Title challenge truly intensifies
The top four in the Premier League are separated by six points with less than a third of the season remaining. Leicester City, the long-time leaders, were pegged back by a last-minute goal from Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck, himself returning from almost a year out. Spurs meanwhile showed their increasing grit by grinding out a victory away at the Etihad to further solidify their own daring title push. Manchester City, the team now ‘out of the running’ according to some, have their captain returning to a side with a serious point to prove. These mini-stories are collecting up into a rush to the finish like few others in recent memory. It is truly exciting, and looks set to continue twisting and turning right up until the season’s final curtain.
United continue to puzzle
After looking like they had turned a corner, Louis van Gaal’s side returned to their predictably unpredictable selves by deservedly losing at Sunderland. In this craziest of seasons, they are still unfathomably close to a Champion’s League position and could well end the season back in Europe’s premier competition. However, with their noisy neighbours welcoming Guardiola next summer and other teams likely to continue improving, Old Trafford could well see drastic action taken to halt this great side’s continuing slump into insignificance. Lavish expenditure on the squad has been tried and hasn’t yet worked, so it could be higher up that the changes will occur this summer.
Forward thinking may hinder relegation candidates
The winter transfer window saw lavish spending by several struggling clubs, particularly on their attacks. However, while the likes of Newcastle and Bournemouth spent big on strong offensive talent, they left their defences sorely lacking. More goals may be enough to secure their safeties, and there is no doubting the talent of their acquisitions. Yet, after shipping a combined eight goals this weekend, the time may come when club and fan wished a little more had been spent on protecting the goal as was spent on trying to break it.
Like Joleon Lescott’s self-tweeting phone, Villa have a lot of explaining to do after their horrid capitulation against Liverpool. If it had been against a great side – a Bayern, a Juventus – then such crippling embarrassment is at least understandable. However, in the face of Klopp’s Koppites – a side so thoroughly lukewarm – they should have put up more of a fight. The ease with which they stood back and let their fans down was a crying disappointment for such an illustrious club. They will go down, and can hopefully rebuild from there. Until then however, Villa Park has more depressing afternoons in store.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisDWorrall