The Premier League season is winding down, so each fixture takes on an added importance.
Earlier in the season, a manager could've dismissed a bad loss with the justification that his club still had time to recover. Or a manager might have wanted to temper expectations in order for his players not to get too ahead of themselves.
No longer is that the case. The clock is ticking for those trying to make a last-ditch move up the table.
Here is what the table looks like after Saturday's action.
|10||West Ham United||28||8||7||13||-4||31|
|West Brom||0-3||Manchester United|
|Norwich City||1-1||Stoke City|
These three matches had the largest impact on clubs running out of time to fix their seasons.
Chelsea 4, Tottenham 0
Chelsea keep plugging along. There's a certain efficiency to their performance at this point in the season. Every once in a while, the Blues have their minor hiccup. For the most part, though, Chelsea keep doing enough to maintain the gap between themselves and the other title contenders.
Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City can't win the league if Chelsea don't give them any help.
As good of win as this was for the Blues, the result was more telling about Tottenham.
Tim Sherwood is on borrowed time at this point. He started his reign at White Hart Lane well enough. Over time, his tactical naivety shows more and more with each week.
Playing Kyle Walker in midfield proved a disaster on Saturday, with a mistake from the Englishman leading directly to a Chelsea goal, per ESPN FC:
Of course, the players deserve their share of the blame, and Sherwood wasn't afraid to unload on his squad in post-match aftermath, per The Guardian's Dominic Fifield:
"You can't legislate for the capitulation," said Sherwood, who was appointed on an 18-month contract in December but is already under pressure, given Louis van Gaal's interest in taking the job after the World Cup. "You just can't have that. It's a lack of characters, too many of them [being]too nice to each other, and you need to show a bit more guts and not want to be someone's mate all the time. They need to drag it out of each other. It hurts me and I won't forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might."
This loss puts Spurs four points back of Manchester City, who have three games in hand, and six points behind Liverpool and Arsenal, who both had a game in hand.
Tottenham's top-four hopes look to be over, as do Sherwood's hopes of keeping his job after the season is over.
Cardiff City 3, Fulham 1
What a perfect way to end what had been a dreadful run of results; play the only team that's worse that you are.
Cardiff City shouldn't get too excited after a 3-1 win over Fulham. They have a pretty tough finish to the season, with matches against Everton, Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle and Chelsea remaining.
The Bluebirds still look destined for the drop. But they certainly helped themselves with this win and did well to pull away after Lewis Holtby's equalizer in the 59th minute.
If Cardiff seem likely to get relegated, Fulham are already getting travel plans in place for those trips to Watford, Leeds and Middlesbrough next season.
The arrival of Felix Magath has done nothing to help the squad. And for those arguing that he needs more time, the Cottagers have nine matches left in the season. He doesn't have much time left to figure everything out.
In Magath's defense, this club looked headed for relegation long before he came to Craven Cottage. Retired footballer Danny Higginbotham commented on what he thought was a lack of "battlers":
Big sign of lack of characters at Fulham is obvious. When they concede one it usually leads to two three or four. Very few battlers— Danny Higginbotham (@Higginbotham05) March 8, 2014
This was a great time for Fulham to get three critical points and put Cardiff into a more precarious position. It's a massive opportunity lost.
West Brom 0, Manchester United 3
Manchester United are stuck in a Everton/Newcastle position, where they're good enough to finish comfortably above mid-table, but the top four is a bridge too far.
Considering they lost to West Brom at Old Trafford earlier in the season, a 3-0 win at the Hawthorns is a good result. Maybe Robin van Persie should've been sent off, but sometimes the game breaks that way.
The Baggies didn't come into the match with heavy expectations, but this loss does inch them ever closer to relegation.
Will West Brom be relegated?
Pepe Mel is a good manager, and if he started out the season at West Brom, perhaps the club wouldn't be in the position that it's currently in. However, he entered into a relegation dogfight having no Premier League experience. You have to wonder if somebody like Tony Pulis would've been a better option, if the only goal was to stay up.
Because it doesn't look like the club's long-term plans involve Mel. He lost one of his biggest allies at the club, Dave McDonough, and the Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt reported that the Spaniard may be out by the end of the weekend:
Lots of speculation at The Hawthorns that Pepe Mel will not last the weekend.— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) March 8, 2014
If Fulham have proven anything this season, it's hastily sacking a manager doesn't always bring automatic success, so West Brom would be advised to think long and hard about whether it's the right course of action.