Welcome back to the show that never ends (except actually, the finishing line is in sight and some teams have already crossed it). The Premier League has once again gifted us a twist in the plot as Big Sam Allardyce returns to the soap opera, fresh from having two years to process the fact that he failed to save West Bromwich Albion.
Yes, Leeds have rolled the dice once again and have completed the unexpected evolution of Marcelo Bielsa to Big Sam in the space of just 12 months – impressive work and work that has cost the outspoken, self-publicising, not to bothered about getting on with the fans Victor Orta his job.
Big Sam had four games to keep Leeds in the top flight for which he has been offered £500k basic and an extra £2m or so if he succeeds. As an hourly rate, given that Leeds could have stayed up with them losing all four games before the contract was signed, it must have been attractive.
Except, Allardyce now actually has to win one given the long weekend results and teams “down there” picking up some valuable Ws. But we’ll get on to them.
Before all that, let’s remember last week’s midweek – Arsenal got back on their bike beating Chelsea 3-1 and reminding us that the title race isn’t over (except that it is over really). But hey, look – Chelsea scored an actual goal! Progress comes in all shapes and sizes.
Liverpool scored and didn’t concede, talking of that there progress thing. Mo Salah got the goal and Virgil van Dijk managed to look like a defender again for long enough for Liverpool to keep their dreams of catching Man United alive.
All of which was helped massively by Luke Shaw gifting Brighton a 97th-minute penalty at the Amex. Solly March, keen to exorcise his semi-final penalty demons sensibly handed the ball to Alexis Mac Allister who made no mistake. You can’t blame Shaw – with David de Gea’s recent form it’s no wonder players are having to use their hands to stop the opposition scoring.
Ah yes, and City won again. 3-0 against West Ham this time with Erling Haaland skipping past Alan Shearer and Andy Cole as the Premier League’s record scorer in a season with, at the last time of counting, 35. No, it’s not the 60 that Dixie Dean scored for Everton 1000 years ago – as we’ve been reminded once or twice – but it’s still pretty decent and there’s a few more to come yet and it’ll be joined at the very by least a league medal come the end of the season.
In his press conference unveiling, Big Sam reminded us of what we’ve been missing in his absence – an English manager confident enough in his own worth to tell us he is as good as Pep, Jurgen and, basically, anyone else. Misguided or not, if confidence alone was worth points to Leeds they’d be safe today.
However, they do actually have to try and play some football and when facing City in their first game Allardyce was as good as the name of his podcast – Leeds certainly aren’t going to attempt to play their way out of the mess they are in.
They succeeded – in stopping Haaland. He remains on the mere 51 for the season – unfortunately for Leeds Ilkay Gundogan remembered how to score goals. Haaland was even kind enough to give Gundogan the chance for a hattrick from the spot, which he missed, which angered Peppy G greatly. 2-1 to City, can that be considered enough to give Leeds the belief that Allardyce can save them? We shall see. Results around them certainly didn’t help.
If anyone tells you they predicted Everton popping down to Brighton and winning 5-1 then they are a liar. The culture contrast of a Sean Dyche team lining up in pink aside, Everton were unrecognisable and scored within 35 seconds – and didn’t stop there. Brighton were so off it it was almost like their CEO Tony Bloom had realised they might actually qualify for Europe and he already owns a team that could well be playing in Europe and that could get a bit tricky in the eyes of Uefa. Far easier to let someone else qualify for the Conference League, right?
And Dean Smith must have thought that if Leicester could score three at Fulham then they’d be walking away with the same number of points as goals – the issue here is that Leicester really, really cannot defend and Smith’s pre-match hopes of four clean sheets equalling Premier League survival were fanciful at best. The best way Leicester can keep three clean ones in a row now is to actually pick John Terry rather than hope he can quickly revive the Foxes’ backline. Fulham scored five and Jamie Vardy even managed to miss another penalty – conceding lots and not scoring from free shots at goal does not maketh another season in the top flight, unfortunately.
Given how utterly inept Southampton are now, Steve Cooper will have earmarked Forest’s home match against them as the one to give them any hope of staying up. Of course, he’d have preferred it if Everton hadn’t also found the balls to win on the same day but their 4-3 win over the Sinners buys Forest a ticket in the safety lottery.
It really is two from the four of Leeds, Leicester, Forest and Everton now – and which two is anyone’s guess (some of us have given up trying).
Today, Chelsea are managed by Frank W-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-L-Lampard. Yes, you read that right – Lamps finally has a win to end that horrible little streak of ten defeats on the bounce. Post-match, he mused that he would have to be very picky about his next job – let’s hope someone educates him on the meaning of beggars and choosers before the Poch takes over his desk in July.
Bournemouth might have been, you know, on their local beach for this one – as Chelsea swept to a 3-1 win on the South Coast meaning they are now mathematically safe, just like their hosts.
Liverpool beat Brentford 1-0 and it was Mo Salah once more – he now was 30 for the season again and Liverpool have another clean sheet in the bank plus 180 minutes free of Jurgen being a very naughty boy. They really could catch United, you know.
And that’s because Erik ten Hag’s gang lost away from home AGAIN, this time against their old boss David Moyes and West Ham. Well, I guess if United are that keen for DDG to take a pay cut next season it’s only right that he saves fewer shots? Another one slipped under the Spaniard – and let us not forget, it’s his shot-stopping that makes his inability with his feet OK.
Tottenham beat Crystal Palace, Harry Kane scored again and Ryan Mason reminded the world that he is “ready” to take the job on – and he’s doing better than most so far. Oh, and he’ll be cheap. Daniel Levy will have noted that last bit.
The rule of thumb is when the media start saying what an amazing job you’ve been doing, the football gods bring you back down to Earth with a bump. The latest example of this is at Aston Villa, where Unai Emery’s European hopefuls lost 1-0 at Wolves without laying so much as a glove on them. That’s football Unai, that’s football.