Liverpool are the champions elect as Mourinho’s little horse stumbles coming into the final straight; Tony Pulis is a magician whilst things just get worse and worse for David Moyes …
Barring a serious and unlikely catastrophe for Brendan Rodgers’ men, Liverpool will end their 24-year wait for a league title this season. The Reds were tested perhaps more than they would have liked against Norwich City, but once again it was their explosive start that allowed them to finish with all three points at Carrow Road.
A ferocious, pacy and aggressive start has now become a key hallmark of Rodgers’ tactical masterplan, and as their 3-2 victory over Manchester City will attest to (as well as the easy wins against Arsenal and Manchester United), this gameplan has yet to meet its match. Scoring early allows Liverpool to sit back in the second half and force their opposition to play, and no doubt this is precisely what Rodgers will be hoping to do when his side welcomes Chelsea to Anfield next Sunday.
Given what happened this weekend over at Stamford Bridge, it is now unlikely that the Chelsea/Liverpool game will decide the title, but Liverpool will now have an opportunity to win in style by vanquishing yet another rival.
After a midweek setback, a return to the brilliant performances that have characterised Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge of Everton.
The truth is that United are not exactly the most fearsome of opponents under David Moyes, but it is equally true that Martinez’s ability to do the double over his predecessor is highly significant.
When Moyes was at the helm at Goodison, it was felt by many that there was a glass ceiling above the Merseyside club that was simply impossible to break through. We were told by the media that Moyes had done a simply incredible job at Everton, and that he should be praised for his ability in the transfer market and the way in which he could work on a shoestring budget.
Quite simply, this point of view has been blown out of the water by the Spaniard’s first season in charge.
He has guided Everton to their record points haul in the Premier League and he has taken the club to the brink of Champions League qualification. His side are likely to finish fifth, but crucially, there is obvious and tangible progress at Goodison Park that was impossible with Moyes in charge. The future is bright at Everton.
Palace under Tony Pulis continue to confound and confuse. This was the side who were absolutely destined for the drop, the side who had amassed a paltry six points from their first eleven games.
Since Pulis took over, the club have amassed 39 points from 24 matches. The Welshman has singlehandedly rescued the Eagles from the drop, and in reality, he should be the leading candidate for manager of the year. A Liverpool title is likely to give Rodgers that particular honour, but we should not be under any illusions: the job that Pulis has done at Selhurst Park is akin to sorcery. I truly cannot think of a more astounding turnaround.
Fresh from their draw against Manchester City, Gus Poyet’s side continue to refuse to go gently into that good night. Their win at Chelsea represented the first time that Mourinho has lost at Stamford Bridge in 77 games, and given the miserly nature of the Chelsea defence, Poyet should be congratulated for architecting a performance that managed twice to breach Chelsea’s back four.
After looking all but relegated, the Black Cats’ win has given them a slim chance of staying afloat this season. Poyet’s side face three of the bottom eight in their final four fixtures, and given that Norwich face Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal in their last three games, the Wearside outfit may just get out of jail this time around.
It is the same old story for Chelsea this season. Mourinho has been superb at architecting wins in the big contests against City, Liverpool and Man United, but too often his team has come unstuck in the seemingly ‘easier’ contests.
This was a case in point, as Chelsea dominated Sunderland at Stamford Bridge but failed to turn their dominance into points. Once again Mourinho’s decision not to recruit a more established striker in either transfer window this season has been exposed as a glaring error, with his side having a massive 31 shots and less than 50% of them hitting the target. His signing of Samuel Eto’o was a shrewd one, but the Portuguese should have realised that his side required more firepower.
The reality is that although Liverpool have been brilliant this season, the league was effectively available for Chelsea to win this year. Man United have underperformed, City have improved but are still just short of the composure required whilst Arsenal have been their usual Jekyll and Hyde self. If Chelsea had signed one more forward, they would have won the league, and for all Mourinho’s posturing that his side have not been focusing on winning the league this season, this season will most likely be branded as the one that got away. With United, City and Liverpool all likely to strengthen this summer, Mourinho may find that next season will not be quite so straightforward.
A new low in a diabolical season for Manchester United and David Moyes. Last season’s champions have now lost 11 games and drawn six whilst winning 17: in short they have only won 50% of their games.
No matter what spin you put on it, this is totally unacceptable for a side that cantered to the Premier League title last season. Moyes has used every excuse in the book to try and justify his side’s appalling season, but the reality is that none of them wash under close examination.
What will have made this defeat even more galling for David Moyes is that it was at the hands of Everton, the club where he was formerly adored, now in the hands of a better, more tactically astute manager, now in the hands of a man who has immediately improved upon Moyes’ ten-year tenure.
The noises coming out of Old Trafford indicate that Moyes will be in charge at the beginning of next season and that he will be given substantial funds to improve his side. It seems obvious to me that this would be absolute folly. There is nothing in the Scot’s calamitous nine-month stint at Old Trafford that indicates he is capable of dragging the team out of the doldrums that are entirely of his own making. Whatever the British media say, Moyes needs to go—for himself as much for United. He is not a bad manager, but he is quite patently not a good enough manager for Manchester United, and unless the United board want their worldwide empire to continue to descend into embarrassment they will terminate Moyes’ contract this summer. It is the kindest thing to do for all involved.
Fulham lie in 19th place with three games to go. They must face Hull City, Stoke City and Crystal Palace. Despite this, Felix Magath is “sure” that the Cottagers will stay up. There has been nothing in Fulham’s displays this season that indicate they can extract more than three points from these three games, and the likelihood is that they will need at least six to stay in the division.
It truly has been a torrid second half of the season for Newcastle. First there was star player Yohan Cabaye leaving for PSG. Then there was the ‘headbutt’ incident involving manager Alan Pardew. Then there was a run of five defeats culminating in this latest embarrassing loss at home to Swansea. The Magpies are on a dire run of form, and it would not be surprising to see Pardew looking for a new job this summer.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!