The final word on the weekend’s action…
1. Portsmouth got the point this evening that keeps them up I think. They remain seven points clear of the relegation zone but now with just four games remaining. They would have to lose all four remaining fixtures to be in danger of going down and even then Newcastle or Boro would have to go on a monster run of form (especially given their remaining fixtures). Newcastle were very flat and you wonder whether the defining moment of their season will be the great one on one chance Owen missed in the second half.
Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.
2. After Blackburn got an important win over Wigan, in my eyes the relegation battle focuses solely on the northeast. West Brom are down, and it leaves two spots to be filled by Sunderland, Hull, Newcastle or Middlesbrough. Four points separate them and they each have four games left. All face a top four team, which in theory leaves three games each to gain points from. The former two have a head start but Newcastle have a better goal difference, which will be worth a point should they ever catch up. Right now, I reckon Hull and the losers of the Newcastle vs Middlesbrough match go down.
3. Has Everton’s chance of winning the FA Cup gone with the injury to Phil Jagielka? Maybe not, but he is certainly their best defender and his calmness will be missed in the end of season showpiece. In a funny way I reckon his replacement Yobo is actually better equipped to individually deal with Drogba, but as a four the Everton defence is certainly more solid with the ex Sheffield Utd man in it. His presence will missed.
There goes the cup.
4. Was it a penalty for Man Utd on Saturday? No, probably not. Carrick did get to the ball first, but then Gomes took the ball not the man. Howard Webb is quickly turning into Fergie’s favourite ref, given how many decisions he gives in Man Utd’s favour. He is one of the better refs around but in recent high profile games seems to be forgetting that the best game a referee can have is one where he isn’t noticed. I don’t really know why Spurs are moaning so much though. After C-Ron converted they were still 2-1 up – they only have themselves to blame for conceding another four goals. I only caught highlights after the game but was surprised to see that Ledley King played. When I first saw the score I thought he couldn’t be playing, but evidently he can’t defend Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov all on his own. A thought on that fearsome foursome too. I know it isn’t particularly balanced when you play all four of those guys, but boy can they be effective going forward.
Carrick falls in three, two, one...
5. Considering Middlesbrough are a team fighting relegation and fast running out of games where they can feasibly pick up points, the lack of fight and commitment against Arsenal was quite worrying. They only need to leapfrog one side, yet there seemed a real air of resignation about them. Perhaps they felt they were never getting anything from Arsenal away, but given their good recent record against them it was odd they didn’t go for it more. we’ve speculated before on whether Southgate is someone that could fire you up, and judging by recent performance it seems not. This coupled with Boro’s strikers spells doom.
6. The biggest problem the teams at the bottom have is the fear factor. The second half this evening saw Newcastle team that had frozen, so paralysed were they by the fear of losing. Getting teams to play without fear and pressure is perhaps asking too much given the gravity of their situations, but managers will do will to remind their players that three points will go a lot further at this stage than one. Going for broke and winning one of two games while losing the other leaves you in a better position than drawing both. It’s got to stage where you need to gamble and no team will want to leave it to the last day needing a win. Why? Just look at the final day opponents for the team in trouble…
Sunderland v Chelsea
Hull v Manchester United
West Ham v Middlesbrough
Aston Villa v Newcastle