May 2, 2017

St. Totteringham Day is cancelled

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It’s a day that Arsenal fans have celebrated for 22 straight years, but this year there will no Christmas in spring for the Gooners.

Yes, with its 2-0 win over Arsenal in White Hart Lane’s final North London derby, Tottenham ensured that it would finish the season above its chief rival in the table for the first time since 1995.

It has been that type of season for Arsenal, clearly a team in decline. Years of foolhardily declining to address team needs have put this potential contender into a downward spiral.

On the other side, Spurs have invested in their future, bringing up young players like Dele Alli and Harry Kane – once an Arsenal prospect – as well as buying high-potential players like Christian Eriksen, who’s now one of the best attacking midfielders in the world.

It’s really night and day when looking at the two clubs. Even worse for Arsenal, it looks like its two biggest stars, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could leave in the summer in the midst of contract talks.

Spurs remain four games back of leaders Chelsea – who also won this weekend, taking apart Everton 3-0 – and have essentially sewn up their Champions League spot for next season.

In the 2017-18 campaign, Arsenal is looking at no Alexis, no Ozil, no Champions League and no real hope of improvement unless something happens at the management level.

At least all the cries for “Wenger Out” may finally be answered.


Hull has quietly made its way out of the relegation zone and that is in no small part thanks to goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. On Saturday, he was at it again, picking up a clean sheet and saving a penalty to help get a 0-0 draw against Southampton. After coming into the season with barely a full roster, sacking their manager in July before the season and then his replacement in January, there’s some actual hope that the Tigers can avoid relegation.

With matches against already-relegated Sunderland and fellow lowlight Crystal Palace on tap the next two weeks, there are some points certainly there to be had before its finale against Spurs.


Manchester United may be on a incredible 25-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League, but its roster is falling apart at the seams.

In the past few weeks, the Red Devils have lost Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to torn ACLs, Luke Shaw’s season could be over due to a badly bruised foot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah is out with a shoulder injury, Paul Pogba with a “muscle injury,” Eric Bailly suffered a knock on the weekend and Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are already on the shelf.

That’s a tremendously long injury report for a team that also has the Europa League semifinals coming up and another midweek game to go before the end of the season.

Heck, even Wayne Rooney has been pressed into service, making just his second start of the season last week. Anthony Martial has also found his way back into the side after some sparing play throughout the season.

Youngsters Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will now surely play huge roles as United looks to get back into Champions League, either through winning Europa League or getting into fourth place in the league, which is only a point away and held by Manchester City.

Can they do it? Well, they’ve already got the “don’t lose games” portion down, but this unbeaten streak is one of the most boring there have been. Of United’s 25 games unbeaten, 12 of those are draws. Since starting the streak, they’ve actually fallen one place to fifth.

So can Jose Mourinho get that little bit more out of a skeleton crew with a tight fixture list? That would be the most impressive thing a United manager has done in years.


How in the world does Manchester City give up two goals to Middlesbrough? Boro had only scored 24 goals in 34 games going in. Pep Guardiola will have to overhaul his defence or his defensive tactics in the off-season … After being bounced by the Gunners in FA Cup, this will be the first season of his career that Guardiola doesn’t win some silverware. Looks like he has finally found a real challenge … Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free kick was about as smart and stunning as it could get. After seeing a United player retreat to the goal line to help out keeper David De Gea, a Swans attacker moved up as well, no longer being played offside. Seeing this, the United defender was forced to creep back up to the line. Sigurdsson then hit his free kick right into the top corner the player had been defending to tie the game. Brilliant stuff … Remember when everyone was talking about West Brom’s chances at a Europa League spot back in December? Well, after another loss, at least it is still top of the mid-table. The Baggies are at 44 points in eighth place, a whopping 14 points back of seventh-place Everton … Another big demarcation between the European contenders and the mid-table: Every team in the Top 7 has a goal differential of at least 20 while every team below is in the negatives, with West Brom the best at -4 … While we don’t think they’re in any danger of being relegated at this point in the season, it’s a bit shocking to see how far West Ham has fallen. The Irons sit in 15th place, seven points out of the relegation zone after their 0-0 draw with Stoke City … Gabriel Jesus is back and just in time for Manchester City. The Brazilian wunderkind who lit it up after debuting in January has returned after several months off with an ankle injury. And after seeing Sergio Aguero pick up a knock this week, Jesus could be asked to shoulder the attacking load almost immediately … Whose dive was worse: Leroy Sane’s or Marcus Rashford’s? Both should be punished by the FA … What an incredible goal by Emre Can. That overhead volley from outside the box was a thing of beauty and deserved winner for Liverpool … Did anybody else captain Philippe Coutinho and then burst into tears seeing him limp off with a hamstring injury after just 13 minutes?


While we’ve only officially lost one team from the Premier League, we’ve already learned two of the three Championship teams that will be coming up.

In the past week, both Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle secured their spots in the world’s top soccer league for next season, clinching the top two spots in the second tier.

This will be the Seagulls’ first appearance in the Premier League while the Magpies are back after spending just a year in the wilderness following relegation after the 2014-15 campaign.

While Albion is the top team in the Championship, the more interesting side is Newcastle, due to its rich history in England’s top tier.

Managed by Rafa Benitez, who took them over in the midst of their relegation season, this is a side that has some solid players, should have a sizable budget and will likely jump right into the mid-table fray.

As for the Brighton, it will really depend on how much it spends and how well its players and manager adapt to the big time. We’ve seen how a team like Middlesbrough can struggle mightily without the right mix of players.

At the other end of the Championship, two former EPL stalwarts could be heading down to League One, with both Blackburn Rovers (sigh), and Wigan Athletic both in the relegation zone with two games to play. It’s always sad to see a team like Rovers – one of the few Premier League winners – fall so far from grace.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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