WHAT a busy week it has been in the Premier League with decisive action at both ends of the league.
But with barely time to take breath and digest what has happened, the action is back as PREMIER LEAGUE WEEKLY looks at Tottenham trying to put pressure on Chelsea at the top and a key game at the bottom at the London Stadium.
Have Tottenham turned a corner?
FOR 88 minutes at Swansea on Wednesday night, one feeling abounded, ‘Same old Spurs’. Given a chink of hope in the title race, they were trailing to a team in relegation trouble. But this Spurs team kept going and eventually produced a thrilling 3-1 victory with those late goals from Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen. They may not win the title, but it was the sort of comeback that title winners produce.
Tottenham remain seven points behind leaders Chelsea and are still distinctly second favourites to win the league. But what happens over the next eight games is important. Mauricio Pochettino’s men must push their rivals from West London as hard as they can. Make sure only wins are good enough for Chelsea. And take the fight to the last week of the season if possible.
For the next two weekends, Spurs play first, at home to Watford and then Bournemouth. They are the ideal opportunities to grab convincing victories and then sit back and ask Chelsea, who have away games at Bournemouth and Manchester United to match them. If Spurs drop any points at White Hart Lane, Chelsea will cruise to glory without any pressure on them.
Last year, Spurs had to chase Leicester but blinked first and allowed the Foxes to win the title with two games to spare. Spurs won only two of their last seven matches and were famously pipped for second spot by Arsenal on the final day. 12 months on, there is so much at stake with an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on April 22 on the horizon. A strong second place and taking down Chelsea and either Manchester City or Arsenal in the FA Cup final would be a big statement to show that Tottenham are a rising power.
What ending will be there to the West Ham soap opera?
THERE is never a good time of the season to have a bad run. But West Ham’s current slump is not doing any favours for manager Slaven Bilic. Without a win in seven and five defeats on the spin has seen the Hammers drift back towards trouble. Now they are 15th, and five points above the bottom three.
That is still a useful cushion at this stage of the campaign, but their match against Swansea at the London Stadium is a biggie. The Swans occupy that last spot in the bottom three and so a victory for them would reduce the gap to West Ham to just two points. Then the jitters would really set in amongst everyone connected to the East London club.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A move to a trendy new stadium with nearly 60,000 fans was supposed to be the launch of a new all-glittering West Ham. But it hasn’t worked like that. Bad results, a sense of unease in their new surroundings for players and fans alike, star player Dmitri Payet going on strike before eventually leaving, there has been little good news around the place. With that unremitting doom and gloom and melodrama, it’s football’s version of Eastenders. No wonder Bilic’s beard seems to get greyer every time he appears in front of the cameras!
Somehow, West Ham and calm do not go together. In their final season at Upton Park, the club and players were supercharged with emotion and produced some special performances, over and above their natural level. This season, they have dropped below that level. Where is the middle ground? Owners David Sullivan and David Gold are very public figures – often too public – and that doesn’t always help the manager. Their grand plan to take transform the club did not involve the London Stadium being a Championship venue, so the hope must be that West Ham rediscover their mojo quickly if a season of farce is not to have the worst ending possible.
Player of the Day: Fernando Llorente
FERNANDO LLORENTE has won the World Cup and European Championship with Spain. He has appeared in a Champions League final, won the Europa League and he has three Serie A titles. His mission in the next month should seem simple by comparison – keep Swansea in the Premier League.
There are plenty of better strikers in the league, but few have as pivotal a role on their team as Llorente. Five goals in seven games from the Spaniard when manager Paul Clement first came in delivered four victories and moved the Swans out of the bottom three. Since Llorente went off injured at half-time against Hull on March 11, it is one point from four games.
Swansea want to put crosses into the box for Llorente to get on the end of them. When he wasn’t there, the crosses were still delivered but no one was there to head them in. Clement will know that if he gets his target man back on the field and he nicks three or four more goals between now and the end of the season, Swansea will have a fighting chance of survival.
That is why Llorente is so badly needed, starting at West Ham. Spain could have coped without him at the World Cup and the Euros. But you can’t say the same for Swansea.
Stat of the Day
35.9 – The average number of points for a team finishing 18th in a 20-team Premier League. 37 or 38 points this year will almost certainly guarantee survival once again this season.
Adam’s Saturday Scores
Tottenham 3 Watford 0
Manchester City 2 Hull 1
Middlesbrough 2 Burnley 0
Stoke 1 Liverpool 1
West Brom 2 Southampton 1
West Ham 3 Swansea 2
Bournemouth 1 Chelsea 3
Do you agree with Adam’s predictions? Tweet yours to @Sunday_Post using #PLScores
Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamLanigan
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