6 Things We Learned from Premier League Week 32: Mourinho's Always Right
After what has been yet another incident-packed weekend of Premier League football full of captivating drama at both ends of the table, shock results, six-goal thrillers, a new league leader and a fly-by protest at the home of the champions, we have chosen six talking points to discuss from the past two days of top-flight action.
At Last Some Light at the End of the Tunnel for The Chosen One
One hesitates to say it, especially after so many false dawns recently, but you do get the distinct impression people may look back on Saturday’s off-pitch events at Old Trafford as being a watershed moment in beleaguered manager David Moyes’ career at Manchester United.
The fly-past protest organised by some disgruntled Red Devils fans unhappy with the Scot’s appointment, just two minutes into the match with Aston Villa, involved the displaying of a banner that read: “Wrong One - Moyes Out.”
However, the message was greeted with a resounding chorus of boos from all four sections of the Theatre of Dreams, before a concerted shout of “One David Moyes” rang out around the ground, while the United boss was also applauded by the home supporters both before and after the champions’ come-from-behind 4-1 win.
And Moyes, who took the unprecedented pre-match step in his so far nascent United career of walking out at Old Trafford before any of his players to what was a rousing reception from the Red Devils faithful, was in bullish mood after the game.
Moyes told BBC Sport Online:
I just wanted everybody to know I'm the manager and you know where I am - standing at the side of the pitch every week, that's my job.
For the people who have spent money on the plane, it would have been better served by putting it into [United midfielder] Darren Fletcher's colitis charity instead.
Amazing to see David Moyes given a standing ovation. Shows difference in class between those buy tickets & those who are all talk #MUFC— Adam Digby (@Adz77) March 29, 2014
Mourinho Was Right All Along About Chelsea’s Title Chances
Crystal Palace’s first-ever win over London rivals Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, secured thanks to a second-half own goal visiting skipper John Terry, proved Blues coach Jose Mourinho has been right all along to question his side’s chances of winning the title this season.
The wily Special One may have slightly overplayed his hand at times by describing the West London club as the little horse in the shadow of both rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, however, Mourinho did have a point when highlighting his comparative lack of options up front so far this campaign.
And once again at Selhurst Park, as has also been the case in many of their other disappointing displays so far this season, not only did Chelsea begin this crucial contest badly off the pace and lethargic, but their only out-and-out striker also misfired.
All of which means that unexpected defeats at the hands of of Newcastle United, Stoke City, Aston Villa, and now this most surprising of all in Southeast London, have left Chelsea needing to rely on other teams doing them a favour in the remaining six contests, a scenario Mou described as being “impossible” after the game:
Jose Mourinho taking mind games to an all new level now. He's just conceded defeat in a title race that Chelsea weren't even in.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) March 29, 2014
Gunners at Last Show Some Pride, but It’s Too Little, Too Late for the Title
So Arsenal do have fight, heart and pride in themselves and their performances judging by the way in which Arsene Wenger’s men turned around their lacklustre first half against Manchester City on Saturday evening to earn a creditable and well-deserved 1-1 draw that just about still keeps the Gunners alive in this ever-intriguing Premier League title race.
The North Londoners had been on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism leading up to their massive showdown with City at the Emirates in the aftermath of their record-breaking 6-0 annihilation at the hands of Chelsea last Saturday and their damaging concession of an injury-time equaliser at home to struggling Swansea City three days later.
And with some in the media even questioning Arsenal’s ability to cope with the pressure of the big occasion, the home team needed to stand up and be counted against the title favourites, although after a first period in which the visitors dominated throughout while also exposing yet more of the same old Arsenal frailties, it appeared to be a case of déjà vu all over again.
However, that was reckoning without some spirit from Wenger and Co., of which we saw plenty of after the break as Arsenal started to play like the team we saw in the first half of the campaign, drawing level and then even nearly claiming all three points but for a fine save from City keeper Joe Hart.
And while the home team could soon conceivably be a massive nine points behind their opponents with just six matches remaining in the season, at least they were able to end what had otherwise been a demoralising week with a smile, of sorts.
Stat of the Day: Crystal Palace have won more points from their last 10 Premier League games than Arsenal - 14 to 13. (h/t @OptaJoe)— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 30, 2014
Complacent City May Rue a Missed Opportunity at the Emirates
While the destiny of this season’s Premier League title is still very much in Manchester City’s own hands, you do wonder whether Manuel Pellegrini’s side may come to regret not leaving the Emirates on Saturday with all three points come the end of the season.
For 45 minutes in the capital on Saturday night, the visitors were in total control of proceedings, much as they were when they also went in leading 1-0 at half-time at Manchester United on Tuesday.
However, just as at Old Trafford in midweek, City knew they needed to score a second goal to make the points safe, especially when faced with a wounded Arsenal, although unlike against the champions, on this occasion City were unable to keep a clean sheet.
As a result, Mathieu Flamini became the first player since Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on Feb. 3 to score against the Northwest outfit in the league, an incredible run stretching back 561 minutes.
And while Pellegrini was happy in the end to leave North London with a share of the spoils, City may just come to rue not killing Arsenal off when they had the chance to in the first half come the final reckoning.
Suarez Is One of the 3 Best Players in the World
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers claimed on the eve of Sunday afternoon’s huge Premier League encounter with Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield that star striker Luis Suarez was “right at that level” as the Real Madrid duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
And after yet another all-action display against the North London club that helped inspire the Reds to an eighth straight league win and a place at the top of the table, it is hard to disagree really with Rodgers’ assertion in the Daily Mirror.
The Uruguay attacker was a constant menace to the visitors’ harangued back line throughout, his mere presence forcing Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul into a state of panic midway through the first half, before Suarez then pounced to fire home his 29th league goal in only 27 games this season, surpassing Robbie Fowler’s Premier League scoring record for the club in the process.
That strike made it 2-0 to the home side, and while Suarez could have added to his goals tally, but for a fine save from Hugo Lloris who somehow tipped the frontman’s close-range header on to the underside of the bar just before half-time, in the end it did not matter as Liverpool ran out comfortable 4-0 winners.
Now win their remaining six top-flight encounters and the Merseysiders will be champions again for the first time since 1990, and with Suarez and Co. in this kind of form, who knows, anything is possible.
History! Luis Suarez surpassed Robbie Fowler to become Liverpool's all-time single-season PL goal scorer (29). pic.twitter.com/fEBNmjKAho— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 30, 2014
Sherwood’s Time at the Lane Set to Be Brought to a Premature End
Following Tottenham’s limp surrender in their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, boss Tim Sherwood must now start preparing for what will be his final six games in charge at White Hart Lane.
Sherwood took over the reins from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas in the aftermath of Spurs’ 5-0 humiliation at home to the Reds back in December, with chairman Daniel Levy surprising many by handing the 45-year-old his first-ever managerial job on an 18-month contract:
Wasn't Tim Sherwood telling us the other day that his post-Chelsea rant had produced a 'good response'? The improvement is obvious... #THFC— Duncan Castles (@DuncanCastles) March 30, 2014
However, judging by their weak surrender on Merseyside, things are no better now than they were under the Portuguese. In fact, you could even argue they are worse, with the club eight points behind archrivals Arsenal in fourth with only six fixtures left in the campaign after what was a seventh loss in eighth matches against top-four opposition this season.
And now Ruud Gullit’s pre-match comments on BBC Sport Online that it was already “a done deal” that Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal would replace Sherwood this summer are starting to look more and more believable by the minute.