The Relegation Battle
You know that seventh season episode of The Simpsons with George Bush (the first of the Bush dynasty)? The big gag of the episode is when Bush unfurls a banner where he drew pictures of Bart and Homer with text that reads “Two Bad Neighbors.” But nobody can understand what Bush is trying to say; his drawings of Bart and Homer are crude at best. People who see Bush’s sign just assume there are two bad neighbors in the area, but aren’t sure of their identity.
That’s what it was like watching today’s Premier League relegation battles. Matches between “Two Bad Teams” where it slowly became impossible to tell them apart. Two games of association football were played today between relegation-quality clubs: Queen’s Park Rangers v. Newcastle and Sunderland v. Leicester City. Watching these games simultaneously, the only significant difference was Sunderland continued to play a man facing child sex charges, and Leicester don’t wear stripey kits.
The QPR-Newcastle game gave us a few solid goals, but this was a rather cynical game. This was a game only for those reveling in the schadenfreude of Newcastle’s late season collapse. Neither team looked energized or like they even wanted to be there. One can only feel pangs of sadness watching Jonás Gutiérrez run, play, and care his heart out while most of his teammates go through the motions. The game was largely defined by Newcastle’s poor marking, which led to a stroke of brilliance from QPR’s Leroy Fer to put them up 2-1.
There’s little to say in reviewing Sunderland-Leicester. Leicester were content to play for the draw, securing their position outside of the relegation zone. Sunderland pressed, but just did not have the quality in the final third to mount any real challenge.
Entering today, Aston Villa was still in the relegation discussion, but despite their best efforts — in losing 6 to 1 — they are now safely clear of the bottom three. Southamption’s —and Sadio Mane’s — incredible offensive performance made Aston Villa look like a League One side. How else can you explain the fastest hat trick in Premier League history.
The Fair Play Derby
As reported on this site, England have been “awarded” an extra UEFA Europa League spot to be awarded to the champion of the often overlooked EPL Fair Play Table. As it stands now, there’s an epic battle of no-fouling going on between Everton and West Ham United, with already relegated Burnley a distant outsider.
Today, it was West Ham who looked like the team possessed to play in the junior varsity of European football. Final tally of fouls revealed West Ham committing 12, Everton 14. West Ham had just one yellow card, while Everton had four. Based on these results, for next season it’s looking more like West Ham will enjoy their extra midweek games in Cyprus or Slovakia. No really, that’s where Hull City and Tottenham traveled this year.
Congratulations to Everton on their immense victory today and for likely fouling their way out of Europe. I’m sure Big Sam will send you a postcard on those special Thursdays from the beaches on the Black Sea.
Summary of Relegation Relevance
- Aston Villa (38) — SAFE
- Leicester City (38) –SAFE
- Sunderland (37) — DANGER
- Newcastle (36) — DANGER
- Hull City (34) — EXTREME DANGER
- Burnley (30) — Relegated, but still have Dave Fishwick
- QPR (30) — Relegated
Next Week’s Fixtures
Based on next week’s fixtures, it’s really anyone’s to lose (but it’s probably Hull City’s). Please don’t leave us yet Steve Bruce!
- Sunderland (37 points): @ Arsenal; @ Chelsea
- Newcastle (36 points): v. West Ham
- Hull City (34 points): v. Man United