Whew, these matches are flying by! European football associations should consider making this sort of schedule permanent : by adding a Champions League tournament at the end of the season, it would ensure that players are able to focus more on their league games. It would also mean with a less-congested fixture timetable, the less likelihood of injuries.. Just my two cents (or pence, I guess?).
Anyway, this will serve as a wrap-up for Matchweeks 33-36, since i’m apparently too much of a slacker to write an article every three days. This was an interesting set of matches: Chelsea and Liverpool both picked up their first six points, albeit in harrowing fashion for Chelsea against Crystal Palace. Manchester United, in much better form, also picked up their first six points, winning by three-goal margins in both fixtures. City remain wildly inconsistent since the return, as do Arsenal and Leicester. Norwich are still awful (and are officially relegated), and Sheffield United dropped points against Burnley, but made up for it by surprising an in-form Wolves side. Tottenham also dropped points needlessly, no doubt contributing to Mourinho’s latest aneurysm. In Matchweek 35, the wheels really began to fall off. Chelsea got whipped by Sheffield United, Liverpool dropped points at HOME for the first time all season, Leicester got beaten by Bournemouth so badly they actually began apologizing to their fans, and United dropped points against Southampton. Matchweek 36 saw Chelsea, United, and Leicester return to their winning ways – the race between these three is coming down to the wire, and a week 38 matchup between Leicester and United likely means that Chelsea are guaranteed a Champions League spot, assuming they can pick up points in Matchweek 37. Here’s a closer look at some stats:
Kevin De Bruyne is on course to exceed Thierry Henry’s record for most assists in a Premier League season. By setting up his 18th goal against Newcastle, he comes within two goals of Henry’s record of 20 (set in Arsenal’s memorable 2002/03 season) and is currently six assists clear of second place Trent Alexander-Arnold. Surely he is a nailed-on certainty for playmaker of the season.
Mo Salah reached a combined 100 Premier League goals and assists in the second-fewest number of appearances (116), matching Manchester United legend Eric Cantona. The only player with a better record is all-time Premier League leading goalscorer Alan Shearer, who managed to reach 100 in 100 matches. To compare with two other greats, one still playing, Sergio Aguero did it in 118 matches and Thierry Henry 121.
United’s win over Aston Villa made them the first Premier League team ever to win four consecutive games by a margin of three goals or more. Fuelled largely by electrifying performances from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, United seem to be coming alive just in time to earn a Champions League spot next season.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope notched another clean sheet, bringing him to 14 for the season. Pope must be in strong contention for the Golden Glove, and, with Jordan Pickford’s fluctuating form, could well become England’s number one. Apparently money doesn’t necessarily buy good results, because Chelsea’s Kepa, the most expensive keeper in the league, has only kept half that number this season.
Christian Pulisic is fast becoming the best American footballer in the world. After his goal on Tuesday, Pulisic has now scored three times in the six games since the restart, and has notched another two assists. Pulisic has been involved in ten goals this season, scoring eight, the 24th most in the Premier League. In fact, Pulisic has recently looked like the best player at Chelsea, and the Hazard comparisons continue to come in…
For the first time ever in his career, Pep Guardiola coached a side to three straight away defeats, thanks to City’s loss at the hands of Southampton. Despite an insane 26 shots on goal, City could not get past Alex McCarthy, who put in a fantastic goalkeeping performance.
Meanwhile, at the bottom, with three matches left, it looks as though Aston Villa and Bournemouth are on course to join Norwich in the Championship next season, with Watford and West Ham clawing their way up to go four points clear of Aston Villa’s 30. Monday’s overturning of Manchester City’s Champions League ban was a horrifying decision. The club was instead ordered to pay a €10M fine, even that vastly reduced from the original penalty amount. The decision was reversed due to Manchester City’s refusal to cooperate with the UEFA investigation, meaning that UEFA were unable to procure evidence. This was a massive setback for UEFA and sends a dangerous message to the richest club owners in Europe, effectively telling them that by ignoring the rules and then refusing to provide UEFA with access to any materials, you can receive a slap on the wrist with no further penalty. Several prominent figures in European football have spoken out against the ruling, including Borussia Dortmund CEO and La Liga president. Javier Tebas. He told ESPN: “Manchester City will be in the Champions League next season not because they have acted correctly, but rather because CAS is wrong. In fact, CAS has fined them €10m, that is not just for the sake of it. From what I’ve read I gather it is because they didn’t cooperate with UEFA. Why is that? Have City hidden documentation? I would like to read the final ruling now, if I can. Just as we still have not been able to read PSG’s final ruling from CAS, when a lot of time has passed and it is still not available. The day I sit down and read it I will tell Guardiola that of which I am convinced: Manchester City have not acted right.”