This weekend saw yet another formative shift in the Premier League season, and with just nine games to go, the battles at the top and bottom of the table are really hotting up.
Here are five questions from this weekend’s action:
1. Leicester HAVE to win now, right?
After Leicester dropped two points on Tuesday night, there were a lot of people writing off the title credentials of Claudio Ranieri’s side. This was, according to plenty of people, the first stumble that would put Spurs and Arsenal in the box seat and damage Leicester’s chances.
Then both the North London sides lost. Now all of a sudden, the Foxes were in a fantastic position once again, cemented even further by their 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday following the draw at White Hart Lane.
Leicester now sit five points clear with just nine games to go, and although there are a few tricky fixtures in there, you simply have to back Ranieri and his men to get over the line at this point.
2. Does this prove that Tottenham aren’t ready?
Following Tottenham’s loss at West Ham on Wednesday night, Mauricio Pochettino was relatively chipper, commenting that they’d played okay, and that he wasn’t too concerned.
He had every right to make a statement like that – West Ham are a good side and Spurs, although not at their vintage best, put in a decent performance.
But their Hammers loss notwithstanding, Saturday provided Tottenham with the golden opportunity to really state their case for the title. When Francis Coquelin got his idiotic second yellow, Spurs had everything they needed.
Two quick-fire goals followed, and had Tottenham got the third they would have almost certainly killed the game – and Arsenal’s title chances – right off.
As it was, they let Arsenal back in and this latest result sees them a full five points shy of Leicester. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s now unlikely.
3. When will Steve McClaren be shown the door?
Schteve’s latest shot at redemption must surely be coming to a conclusion very soon. Only Aston Villa have had a worse season than the Magpies, and that’s without spending the millions that McClaren has lavished on his squad.
Simply put, McClaren WILL take Newcastle down if he is left to his own devices. It’s best for all involved if he’s put out of his misery before things get even worse.
4. Should Louis van Gaal stay this summer?
In recent weeks it has seemed like the tide has turned for Louis van Gaal and his United side. The emergence of Marcus Rashford has resulted in a couple of good performances from the Red Devils, and whispers that ‘the top four’ might still be ‘on’.
Sunday afternoon’s fixture with West Brom showed why that is foolhardy thinking and furthermore that one swallow does not a summer make. Despite Rashford’s performances, United are still poor with the Dutchman at the helm and it’s time for him to go. To preserve his dignity it won’t be until the summer, but if United are serious about returning to the top table of elite football it must be done then.
5. Is it time for Palace to panic? (It is.)
I wrote a number of weeks ago about Crystal Palace’s dramatic downturn in results and asked the question of whether it was time for Pardew and his men to panic.
To be honest, it probably wasn’t then – but it is now. The Eagles are without a win in 2016 (the only side in the top flight to be awarded that dubious honour), and they’re sinking. At the time of writing, Pardew’s men sit in 15th, nine points off relegation. Whilst they’d still be an outside bet to go down this year, they’d also be an outside bet to win any game against any team right now.
Even if they escape relegation, questions must be asked over how the club have gone so far backwards in such a short space of time; and one imagines there will be a few long boardroom meetings this summer.