Monday’s win at Burnley was an enormous second for West Ham. With Chelsea and Tottenham each successful in excellent style over the week, the highlight was on the Hammers as they proceed to push for a European spot.
David Moyes was sincere from the beginning that West Ham could be going for all-out assault at Turf Moor. He made 5 adjustments to his beginning XI, three of which got here in assault with Manuel Lanzini, Mentioned Benrahma and Michail Antonio.
And all three gamers have been nothing quick on sensational – Antonio scored twice and was awarded the Sky Sports activities Man of the Match award, whereas Benrahma nabbed an help and each gamers ought to have added extra. Lanzini was additionally on the cusp of a purpose, however his general play was excellent.
Moyes has constructed up a repertoire of unimaginable attacking expertise in his squad – we have not even talked about Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen or Tomas Soucek. West Ham additionally registered an eye-watering 22 photographs at Turf Moor and have been scintillating on the counter-attack.
West Ham have 4 sort fixtures to safe themselves a European spot, and it appears to be like like they’re choosing an attacking strategy. The return of Declan Rice will even shore issues up in midfield and provides them extra stability because the surge ahead.
However as Jamie Carragher mentioned on Monday Night time Soccer: “In the event that they get into the Europa League, it is nonetheless unbelievable, however the probability for West Ham to get into the Champions League? Go for it!”
Gareth Bale was unplayable in Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Sheffield United and took his Premier League tally to eight objectives within the final eight video games, however with that should come a way of what may need been this season.
The Welshman was alarmingly under-used by former boss Jose Mourinho, even when he had regained peak situation, and taking part in with freedom in a entrance 4 with Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli, Spurs have been a relentless menace and a far cry from the pragmatic fashion that dogged Mourinho’s period.
After scoring his first Tottenham hat-trick since 2012, Bale advised Sky Sports activities: “It is at all times good to get one other hat-trick and one other match ball.
“I bear in mind my final hat-trick – Villa away I believe. It was some time in the past and it is good to get a hat-trick, however extra importantly it is three factors for the workforce and we transfer on to the following one.
“It was an amazing efficiency by everybody particularly Serge [Aurier, who provided two assists]. I mentioned if it was three assists he may have the match ball.
“Profitable at all times makes everybody glad and offers a successful mentality to the dressing room. It isn’t going to occur in a single day however I really feel like we’re taking a step in the suitable route.
“Clearly it’s important to take your probabilities after they come, and fortunately I had a couple of tonight. I am feeling good. As I’ve mentioned earlier than I simply wanted to play video games and get a run of video games and I am doing that now, so I am glad and once I’m glad I usually play properly.”
Wolves’ season has been a difficult one and the information that Willy Boly might be struggling the consequences of lengthy Covid provides to the sensation of frustration that Nuno Espirito Santo has been unable to discipline his first-choice beginning line-up even as soon as because the season started in September.
Boly was amongst a listing of absentees that additionally included Raul Jimenez, Jonny, Pedro Neto and Joao Moutinho – arguably Wolves’ 5 finest gamers – for the Black Nation derby towards West Brom. In consequence, it’ll have heartened Nuno that the youthful performers did properly in his workforce’s 1-1 draw on the Hawthorns.
Being with out 5 gamers shouldn’t be disastrous to a facet’s ambitions however this Wolves squad is smaller than most. The trio of gamers introduced in for the sport meaning most to supporters had simply 9 league begins in English soccer between them. However these three mixed for Wolves’ purpose.
Owen Otasowie fed Vitinha who flicked the ball ahead earlier than Fabio Silva was in a position to deflect the ball into the West Brom web. With Rayan Ait-Nouri additionally impressing at left-back, Wolves began the sport with 4 gamers born because the flip of the century.
There are solely two different groups which have began 4 such gamers in complete all season not to mention in the identical match. Wolves have given begins to seven gamers in that age bracket throughout the marketing campaign, way over every other facet.
It’s a reminder of why there’s a want for a little bit of persistence at Molineux. This season may need appeared like a backward step however these gamers will likely be stronger for this expertise. The potential for development is clear.
9 years in the past, Sergio Aguero wrote his identify into soccer folklore together with his 93.20 purpose to win Manchester Metropolis their first Premier League title and has continued to be their ‘Mr Dependable’ ever since.
On Saturday, he did it once more – albeit in far much less dramatic circumstances. Man Metropolis had laboured within the first half, struggling to seek out that spark to edge them nearer to Premier League glory.
He had confirmed indicators of the unimaginable expertise he possess, however his management and end from Benjamin’s Mendy excellent cross was world class. Aguero additionally had a job within the build-up to Ferran Torres’ purpose 83 seconds later.
“There’s nothing we will evaluate to that second for Manchester Metropolis in 2012,” Guardiola mentioned. “However he is proven once more what he has proven all his profession, many occasions – what a purpose, what a participant, what a person.”
Aguero has as soon as once more helped Man Metropolis to place one hand on the trophy – they want simply two factors from 4 video games to clinch their newest Premier League crown.
With just some months left of his decade at Man Metropolis, Aguero will likely be hoping to contribute as many objectives as potential to attain success for the membership – may he carry out comparable heroics to 2012 in a Champions League remaining, maybe? It might definitely be a becoming finish to a glittering Man Metropolis profession.
One factor is for certain although, whoever snaps Aguero up on a free this summer time will likely be getting a striker who nonetheless has baggage of ability, expertise and objectives, simply as he demonstrated on Saturday.
“He is a completely high legend, extraordinary participant, behaving as essentially the most humble and nicest human being and it is not straightforward to seek out that. That is why I like him as a person,” Guardiola added.
“Hopefully he can go within the place he desires to be and play the final years of his profession in a excessive degree. I by no means will neglect it, he helped me lots and it is a pleasure to work with him.”
Thomas Tuchel would have been forgiven for having an eye fixed on Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg with Actual Madrid, however he was adamant, regardless of making 5 pre-match alterations, that Chelsea focus lied solely on Saturday’s derby with Fulham.
It was the sort of assertion managers make again and again, one they nearly must minutes earlier than a recreation, however any suggestion his feedback have been mentioned for impact have been dispelled by one other flawless Chelsea efficiency.
Sure Tuchel made 5 adjustments, however Chelsea’s degree of efficiency was simply as ruthless and scientific as they’ve been because the German took the reins at Stamford Bridge.
Fulham’s quick begin was extinguished by a second of magic from Mason Mount and a cool end from Kai Havertz, who killed off the sport and doubled his Premier League objectives tally with a second early after the break.
Chelsea loved a measure of management all through which allowed them to maintain Fulham at arm’s size with relative ease and, crucially, left lots in reserve forward of the midweek showdown with the 13-time European champions.
If the victory over Fulham was symptomatic of Tuchel’s transformation of Chelsea, then Madrid’s go to to west London presents the German with the chance to safe a tangible reward for his efforts.
The case for the defence…
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has stored extra clear sheets (11) than every other supervisor in Premier League historical past from their first 15 video games in cost within the competitors (overtaking Mourinho and Scolari, 10 every from their first 15).
It could have come too late for Aston Villa to generate sufficient momentum in direction of snatching a European spot, however in beating Everton 2-1, Ollie Watkins may but cap a memorable first season within the Premier League with a spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer time’s European Championships.
Watkins produced a vastly spectacular show at Goodison Park, bullying Mason Holgate for his fifteenth membership purpose in all competitions and the striker confirmed good improvisation to very practically rating a second throughout an intriguing particular person battle with Jordan Pickford.
Certainly, the striker has scored 13 objectives within the Premier League this season – just one Englishman has scored extra for Aston Villa in a single season within the competitors (Julian Joachim, 14 in 1998/99).
Had been it not for Pickford, Villa would have held a commanding lead earlier than half-time. Watkins wasn’t alone in impressing, however supervisor Dean Smith reserved particular reward for the person he additionally managed at Brentford.
“He was excellent tonight and really troublesome to deal with. It is what we paid some huge cash for. I knew how good he was, and I knew what he is like as an individual, desirous to develop and get higher. I believed he was excellent. He pickpocketed the defender properly to attain his purpose and Pickford regained parity with among the saves he made as properly.”
This was one other vastly irritating evening at Goodison for Everton, who should iron out the errors of their remaining 5 Premier League video games if they’re to retain any hope of securing a European berth. The Toffees have gained simply one in every of their final 10 dwelling league video games, with that victory coming towards Southampton in March.
It’s onerous for Carlo Ancelotti to place a finger on why the performances on the highway can’t be mirrored again on Merseyside.
“We weren’t adequate,” the Italian mentioned. “It was fully completely different from the final recreation we performed towards Arsenal with extra focus, extra spirit and extra perspective. The beginning of the sport was actually unhealthy and there have been lots of poor passes.
“We had alternatives however we additionally conceded lots and ultimately we deserved to lose and so it is troublesome to say why we now have this type of dwelling run. It is a fully completely different workforce with a very completely different perspective.”
Solely Sheffield United and Fulham have misplaced extra Premier League dwelling video games than Everton (eight), whose away document is simply bettered by Manchester Metropolis. Enormous lapses in focus in the end price them towards an Aston Villa facet who seemed higher ready.
With James Rodriguez injured within the warm-up, Everton lacked steadiness. Andre Gomes is easing his means again to full health, however he was once more wasteful in possession because the hosts struggled to achieve a foothold. Ancelotti arrived with a 60 per cent win document as a supervisor, however he’s discovering out the dimensions of his activity in turning Everton right into a facet befitting of his illustrious profession.
When pressed on the impression of Rodriguez’s absence, Ancelotti added: “He had a bit downside and wasn’t comfy to play. However I believe he’ll be OK within the subsequent recreation. We had some particular person errors, however the workforce spirit and the workforce work wasn’t adequate.”
An impeccable chested move again to his goalkeeper Robert Sanchez – that drew comparisons with Paolo Maldini from some quarters – on 74 minutes triggered a thought: why is not Gareth Southgate watching Lewis Dunk?
Conor Coady appears to be the probably back-up for John Stones and Harry Maguire on the Euros as a consequence of his capacity to play on the coronary heart of a again three. However Dunk is equally, if no more, efficient at such position judged on his performances within the second half of this season. He’s the chief in the most effective defence of sides within the backside 9, conceding 39 objectives and has stored six clear sheets of their final eight dwelling video games.
He was completely faultless on this victory over Leeds, marking Patrick Bamford out of the sport, who didn’t have a shot at purpose, and repelling every thing Leeds mustered in his route. When you think about the dearth of choices within the centre of England’s defence, how he solely has one cap for his nation is a thriller.
Brighton boss Graham Potter, often so reserved, was beaming in his evaluation of his skipper: “His efficiency was sensational,” he mentioned.
“I have never seen him play in addition to that. He is been so constant at a excessive degree. How he leads the road, he was wonderful at the moment.”
Stranger issues have occurred than West Ham pipping Leicester to a top-four place within the remaining 5 video games of the season. The hole to the Foxes might be diminished to 5 factors by the tip of the weekend, with a tough run-in to comply with for Brendan Rodgers’ facet.
The Leicester supervisor’s sense of deja vu won’t have been aided by the Foxes failing to reap the benefits of by far their best remaining recreation at Southampton on Friday evening, particularly when mentioned opponent has gained solely two out of 15 video games, and much more particularly when they’re compelled to play for greater than 80 minutes with 10 males.
Journeys to Manchester United and Chelsea are nonetheless to come back, plus the distraction – and fatigue – of an FA Cup remaining look, and it’s not too late for Leicester’s bubble to burst for the second season in a row.
“The soccer they’ve performed has been so good, however after their wobble final yr you might be simply involved whether or not it may occur once more,” Jamie Redknapp mentioned on Friday Night time Soccer after their draw at St Mary’s, however added a phrase of encouragement: “I believe this workforce is just too good this yr and have realized from final season’s errors.”
Worries about fourth spot lacking out on Champions League qualification would want Chelsea to complete outdoors the highest 4, which means West Ham would probably have to complete in third place for Leicester to be in bother – even in David Moyes’ wildest desires that appears a stretch.
However the Foxes can draw on one word of positivity. It is troublesome to reward a facet dropping factors towards essentially the most out-of-form workforce within the division however let’s take a look at it from a really low bar – Leicester’s run-in final season.
It is fairly potential that at this stage in 2019/20, when the Foxes gained solely two of their remaining eight video games to overlook out on the Champions League, that after falling behind to James Ward-Prowse’s penalty on the hour mark, they won’t have had sufficient sufficient character to dig their well beyond low block and dogged defending of Southampton.
It took struggle, and it took persistence. And sure, it nonetheless lacked high quality and creativity, however psychological energy is required in spades on this a part of a marketing campaign. Particularly whenever you’ve obtained journeys to Outdated Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Wembley nonetheless to come back.
Fulham have been brushed apart by Chelsea with the minimal of fuss within the west London derby and it leaves their Premier League standing hanging by a thread.
The two-0 defeat leaves Scott Parker’s facet in 18th place, 9 factors adrift of Newcastle and Burnley having crucially performed a recreation greater than their relegation rivals. And with simply 12 factors left to play for it is a actually tall order for Fulham.
Nevertheless, Parker nonetheless believes his facet can provide themselves an opportunity of survival… he has to, however he additionally is aware of how troublesome will probably be for his facet.
When requested what Fulham want from their remaining 4 video games to outlive, Parker mentioned: “4 wins. It may be finished. Now we have to win 4 video games. What I do know is that if we hold this degree we now have probability of beating Burnley, then beating Southampton, Man Utd after which Newcastle. In fact, it’s troublesome.”
Fulham stay winless of their final 24 Premier League London derbies (D5 L19), since a 2-1 victory towards West Ham in January 2014 – in top-flight historical past, solely Crystal Palace have endured an extended winless run in London derbies (31 video games between August 1969 – March 1973).
It is admirable stuff from Parker contemplating Fulham have by no means gained 4 Premier League video games in a row.
“That’s the problem for us,” the Fulham boss added. “I perceive it. However anybody who watched this recreation at the moment will see a workforce who wished to win. I do know we will win 4 video games and that’s our goal. It might be some escape, however we have seen it earlier than.
“Individuals will snort at their screens and suppose I am residing in cuckooland. Possibly I’m. However till that curtain comes down, we are going to see.”
He often is the solely one that believes, however what is definite is Parker will give it his all and demand the identical from his facet till relegation is confirmed.