Manchester City Football Club – only the 4th club in history to win the top flight three seasons in a row. We salute you – some of us nicely, some of us more likely with one or two fingers.
Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest was the precursor to two big celebrations – City knowing they’d won yet another Premier League and Forest knowing that signing 30 players wasn’t actually that mental as they stayed up.
City had to wait until Sunday for their parade – Raheem Sterling part of the Guard of Honour formed by Chelsea players before losing to the newly-crowned Champions 1-0 at the Etihad. Sterling was one of three big sales last summer that was believed to be making rivals stronger and Pep’s team weaker. In the case of Gabby Jesus and Oleks Zinchenko, it’s a case of stronger, yes – but not strong enough. And as for Sterling at Chelsea, well enough has been said about that rabble already this season.
Knowing the title was done (and probably knowing that Jack Grealish might have celebrated it) Peppy G span the roulette wheel once again and made nine changes to the side – you felt a bit for Ederson who had dyed his hair blue and everything and ended up being a mere spectator. And, as expected, City’s reserve team didn’t find the latest selection of random footballers by Frank Lampard much competition.
Sure, Stefan Ortega had to make a couple of saves and John Stones had to clear one off the line but City played like Champions who knew they now had two much bigger games coming up to create history – their midweek 4-0 battering of Real Madrid no doubt scaring the bejesus out of Inter who will need to summon the spirit of Helenio Herrera and Jose Mourinho to get anything out of the game in Istanbul in June.
The key turning point in the title charge was undoubtedly February 6th – the day the Premier League decided to charge City with 115 alleged financial fair play misdemeanours. It galvanised City and they’ve barely put a foot wrong since – in fact, it’s not a massive stretch to suggest that the biggest threat to the club’s continued Premier League dominance isn’t Arsenal, United, Newcastle or Liverpool – no, it’s the courtroom in which these charges will (eventually) be challenged and answered. City are already 1-0 up in that battle too, the Premier League’s lawyer being stood down for being an Arsenal fan which almost makes sense until you understand that City’s main legal threat is, er, an Arsenal fan.
The on-the-pitch ceremony was also laced in weirdness as the Premier League trophy was handed over by the guy who runs the Premier League to the captain of the club his very organisation has very publicly accused of cheating. You couldn’t make it up.
Whether City are guilty or not does not overshadow that this is one hell of a football team – if they did find a way to inflate their finances then just having lots of money to spend on players never guarantees this level of success, does it United? Does it Chelsea? Everyone is playing catch-up until the charges are proven or until Pep moves on. And if they are not and he doesn’t, then good luck to everyone else.
Credit to Arsenal for making it fun for a while – even if, deep down, we all knew it was fun we shouldn’t be having and would eventually be over. Micky Arteta’s young team have been the season’s biggest surprise but didn’t have enough to get over the line – their defeat at Forest put them out of their misery and meant Cooper showed that you don’t have to sack a manager who has got you promoted. Yes, they brought in 30+ players – but it takes one hell of a coach to turn that into a team capable of winning enough games. Maybe Chelsea should be having a word for some advice?
West Ham have had a wonderful week as well – fresh from booking their spot in the Conference League Final they hammered another nail into Leeds’ relegation coffin by beating them 3-1 at the Athletics Stadium. Leeds led and you wondered whether the Moysiah’s lot would be too emotionally drained from Thursday’s semi plus the post-match antics to have a go given their safety was not under threat (Premier League safety that is, not in the stands).
But have a go they did and their win means that Leeds need to beat Spurs at home on Sunday (entirely possible) and hope that Everton lose to Bournemouth at home (hard to see given what’s at stake). A draw for the Ev would mean Leeds need to find a way of winning by four against a Tottenham defence that concedes three goals for everyone Harry Kane scores, basically. Mind you, Leicester have almost the same conundrum now – minus the goal difference issue.
The reason Everton could probably get away with a point is down to Yerry Mina’s 90+8.54th minute leveller away at Wolves. Survival bids often have unforgettable seminal moments and this goalmouth scramble could be one of them. Everton have been in the top flight since 1951 yet have been run like a non-league club since (Everton fans, insert your own date here as you know better than me). Yet, they could stay up, again. Which tells you how bad the other teams in the mix must be.
Speaking of bad teams, and given we’ve already talked Chelsea that means we must be pointing at Daniel Levy’s Tottenham. In their final home game of the season, the atmosphere was far from partylike as it dawned on fans that this could well be the last time they see Harry Kane in a Spurs shirt on this ground.
Brentford went into the game without Ivan Toney – now banned for eight months for his betting past, for falling into the trap that almost every Premier League club wants punters to fall into – giving their money to the companies that sponsor them. Toney isn’t even allowed to train until September and the club don’t know if he is even allowed to enter the building – great rehab idea that folks, isolate the guy from his support network and just keep your fingers crossed he doesn’t, you know, find something to do with his time?
We digress as the real headline from this game was the new low Spurs managed to sink to – yes, Kane scored another lovely goal and could still beat his best-ever haul for a season but Brentford battered them over and over again to win 3-1. A lack of Toney could hold Brentford back? Not a bit of it when they have Bryan Mbuemo and Yoane Wissa plus the supporting cast. At the start of the season, many a Tottenham follower would have bitten your hand off to be 14 points ahead of Chelsea come this point – be careful what you wish for and all that.
Daniel Levy has promised to leave no stone unturned to get the club back to their traditional roots – probably forgetting that their traditional roots are being a bit rubbish and losing games they really shouldn’t before having to sell their best players because they are sick of it.
When Graham Potter left Brighton for Chelsea, you had to wonder whether the Seagulls would be OK – many assumed they would be because, you know, well run and all that. But few predicted they’d be even better. Bobby de Zerbi brushed off the midweek 4-1 defeat at Newcastle to see his team beat Southampton 3-1 and qualify for Europe next season – the actual competition to be confirmed. Now they just have to try and keep their best players because if they do, they could genuinely push for top four next time out. Oh, and keep RDZ too as there’s going to be one or two big teams thinking he’s better than their current interim no doubt.
In the top-four chase, Newcastle and Man United had good weekends – United beat Bournemouth 1-0 away with Casemiro scoring an overhead kick. That win plus Liverpool’s draw to Aston Villa pretty much sews up United’s Champions League place next season – though if they lose to Chelsea and Fulham and Liverpool beat Southampton then that would be a very impressive way to screw it up. Newcastle’s win against Brighton and 0-0 with Leicester sees them back amongst Europe’s elite for the first time since Bobby Robson’s days.
Bobby Firmino scored his last Anfield goal and Klopp talked like a manager who knew there was no chance of Chelsea getting anything at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Still, given how rubbish they’ve been for long spells of the season to even get this close suggests they’ll be back in the top four next season.
Fulham and Palace drew 2-2 in the Roy Hodgson Derby. Big Mitro was back after his ban and scored twice – maybe giving him a bloody nose wasn’t the best idea.