After a busy two week period of international football, the Premier League returned in emphatic fashion, just as it always does.
With a lot to play for down at the bottom of the table for those teams attempting to fight off the clutches of relegation, clubs are beginning to panic and the games are becoming even more decisive in the outcome of the league.
While the title had been sewn up months ago, there was a race for the top four, until Tottenham all but ended Chelsea’s hopes and sent them packing for the Europa League.
Here is Liam Canning’s Premier League review:
Tottenham are London’s best club – and they’re here to stay
It might have been a long wait, but Tottenham ended their 28-year record without a win at Stamford Bridge at the weekend with a mighty fine performance against the Blues.
Even though they went down 1-0 through Álvaro Morata, the Lilywhites showed immense courage, belief and determination to swing things in their favour, and were totally deserving of the three points they came away with.
A little bit of pressure on Chelsea’s back four and the frailties were exposed wide open. Mauricio Pochettino’s men took full advantage of a lacklustre game plan and punished the Blues’s weak defence with balls over the top and playing through their wide men.
It is fair to say that Spurs are London’s best team in this current moment, and there’s no sign of them going anywhere in the near future. With back-to-back Champions League qualification, and a new stadium to enter into, Spurs are going from strength to strength.
Providing they can keep hold of their world class talent, there is no reason why Pochettino’s team can’t genuinely challenge for some major honours. If they fail to do so, then it will have been such a waste with the players they have at their disposal.
Top Four All But Done
With Tottenham’s win over Chelsea, the gap between fourth and fifth extended to eight points with only seven games left to play.
Antonio Conte’s future looks set to be over this summer and so he might well want to focus on the FA Cup, bringing in the last bit of silverware during his tumultuous reign as Chelsea boss.
The two Manchester clubs had their fates in the Champions League sealed for next season several weeks ago, but Liverpool and Tottenham’s appear to be much clearer now too.
A desperately poor title defence and disorder behind the scenes has left Conte tearing his hair out over this season. The Italian will be disappointed to be leaving Chelsea in a sorry state of affairs, but it appears that he has come to terms with his tenure as the Blues boss and just wants to return home to Italy now. The end of the season can’t come soon enough.
Arsenal were never in the running for a top four finish this season, but might well join the other four in Europe’s top tier competition if they are to win the Europa League this season.
Southampton are in a miserable state
One win in six Premier League games – against a desperately shocking West Brom side – says it all for how the season has gone for Southampton this time out.
Mark Hughes’ men looked distinctly average against a West Ham team that are constantly in disarray, but also Southampton’s rivals in maintaining their participation in the league.
The decision to go with two strikers up front – Manolo Gabbiadini partnering Charlie Austin – backfired massively as the Hammers overran their opposition’s midfield with ease and created space in-between the lines. Hughes was quick to mention that it was a ‘learning experience’, but the Saints simply don’t have time to be making mistakes of that magnitude in relegation six-pointers.
With Arsenal and Chelsea next on the agenda for Southampton, it looks incredibly bleak times for Hughes’ side who are tasked with an uphill battle of survival.
Crystal Palace’s hopes of staying up lie on Christian Benteke
Two points ahead of main rivals Southampton, Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace are struggling to consistently finish off golden chances in their pursuit of survival.
The Eagles were in prime position to secure at least a point at Selhurst Park, but they failed to capitalise on Liverpool’s poor defending and squandered many a chance through Christian Benteke.
As expected, the Reds put pressure on Palace’s back four and soon found their way through, scoring twice in the second half to return to Anfield with the three points.
The Belgian striker’s two misses were pivotal in the final result of the match, which will go down as Palace missing out on crucial points that could cost them dearly. Benteke has scored only twice in 26 games, a record that surely has to worry the former England manager.
Even though Benteke’s form is shocking, Hodgson doesn’t have many other options to bring in and use. This isn’t the time to go out on a limb and trust unknowns in the business end of the season.
Alexander Sörloth was purchased in January for an initial £8.75million, but Hodgson appears to be reluctant to use him as a lone striker, and hasn’t even included the Norwegian in the last two match day squads.
Chris Hughton’s stellar job (so far)
There hasn’t been enough said for the job that Chris Hughton has done for Brighton this season. A club that was tipped to go down by practically every bookies, the English-born manager has guided the Seagulls into 13th place, so close to safety for another year.
With Brighton entertaining Huddersfield at the Amex Stadium this weekend, it could well be the moment the Seagulls all but secure their survival in the Premier League. The flip side of this game, if the result goes against them, is that the South Coast club have the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham and Liverpool left to play, which could derail their season quite easily.
Hughton will be hoping for a clinical win against the Terriers, which would quell the fear among the faithful of dropping down into the Championship and starting from scratch.
The Brighton manager has done a mightily impressive job so far, but he must consolidate the huge strides the Seagulls have made by winning against David Wagner’s men. It really is a relegation classic.