Liverpool break magic 90-point barrier
Before this season, only five teams in Premier League history had broken the 90-point barrier. The list of exceptional sides who missed that mark includes Arsenal’s Invincibles, Manchester City’s first title-winning team in 2011/12, and Manchester United in 2006/07, who had eight representatives in the PFA Team of the Year.
It will not temper Jurgen Klopp’s disappointment if they finish second, but this weekend his side became the first Liverpool team to break 90 points in the club’s history and also matched Manchester United’s record points total in a Premier League season. That is a measure of their wonderful consistency.
It may not be enough. Liverpool are powerless in the destiny of the title race, desperately waiting for a Manchester City slip that may well never come. But their points total should be a reason for immense pride, and persuasive evidence that this title bid is not a one off.
But Manchester City grind on...
It was at least a test. This title race has contained precious little tension as Liverpool and City have trampled over almost every opponent, but on Sunday Burnley pushed their prodigious opponents to the limit. If City merited victory by every metric, they were at least rattled. Ilkay Gundogan was booked for time-wasting in stoppage time.
It was enjoyable to see a degree of jeopardy. You cannot fault either Liverpool or City for their incessant run of victories, but it does create an unusual title race. We are used to twists and turns, nip and tuck, light and shade. In 2018/19, the only twists and turns are whether the top two win by one goal or more.
Arsenal ceding all their goodwill
This all started with a foolish team selection from Unai Emery, picking a weakened midfield to face Crystal Palace last weekend. That home defeat pricked Arsenal’s bubble of self-belief, and their away form doesn’t need any help to capitulate. Arsenal have kept two clean sheets away from home in the league since December 2017. They have conceded six goals away from home in five days; the same number that they have scored in 2019.
Until this week, Emery came out of this season with his reputation improved since his appointment. Arsenal’s squad contains plenty of deadwood and their new manager was given less money to spend on it than plenty of his Premier League peers.
But that broadly positive assessment must surely now be in question. If Arsenal lose their hold on a top-four place, as now looks likely, they are reliant upon Europa League success to bring the Champions League football required to attract potential signings this summer. This is a miserable end to a promising season.
Defeat only highlights Tottenham’s achievement
The players that remained on the pitch as Tottenham limply attempted to equalise against West Ham was a list of the worn-out and unwanted. A strikeforce of Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen might not be enough to keep a club’s head above water in the Premier League. Christian Eriksen is shattered and Heung-Min Son cannot be far behind. Juan Foyth is not a right-back, just another square peg forced into round hole by circumstance.
Defeat to West Ham, their first in their new stadium, could yet be damaging to Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League football. But more importantly, it highlights the surgery needed on this squad over the summer to keep Mauricio Pochettino happy. That a team likely containing Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente will start a Champions League semi-final this midweek is extraordinary, but there will be some regret if a lack of squad depth hampers passage to the final. After all, this is their big chance.
Cardiff’s time is running out
Neil Warnock merits effusive praise for even making survival from relegation a possibility so late in the season. Cardiff City are a team made up of bargain and free transfers, built using a budget that is miniscule in comparison to their Premier League peers.
But just because Cardiff shouldn’t be competing does not mean they — or their manager — are immune from criticism. Cardiff attacked Fulham in the last ten minutes of their defeat at Craven Cottage, knowing that they desperately needed a goal to make survival a reasonable possibility. Sergio Rico made two or three smart saves to keep Cardiff at bay.
But why oh why were Cardiff not more proactive against a team comfortably below them in the league? By being so passive until falling behind, Warnock afforded Fulham the upper hand and cannot complain that his team were unable to respond. Brighton’s draw means that only one set of results — Brighton losing both remaining matches, Cardiff winning both — can keep them up. It will be far harder to win at Old Trafford than Craven Cottage.
Wilson deserves to play part in England’s summer
Callum Wilson was first called up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad in November 2018, and made his debut when starting against USA. That evening, he became the first Bournemouth player to score for England.
Now, with Harry Kane injured and England heading to Portugal in early June for the UEFA Nations League, Wilson merits a starting role in a competitive fixture. He has contributed six goals and four assists in his last nine Premier League matches for a team struggling for form. That puts to shame the performances of some strikers far higher up the Premier League.
If Kane is not fit for the Nations League, Southgate should trust Wilson to play a similar centre-forward role rather than changing the shape and style of the team just to cover for his captain’s absence. England’s manager may well be pleasantly surprised.