It’s that time of year when there are games that matter and games that don’t. We’re lucky in a way that all of our remaining games are ‘live’ and have implications up and down the league - even if they make no difference to our own league standing.
Hull underestimated us in their effort to secure survival, and became the only team in the Premier League not to score against us this season – and if that doesn’t have 'relegation' written all over it then what does?
Swansea on the other hand were absolutely woeful at their place, but still managed to put three past us and now visit ‘Fortress SOL’ next Saturday. They beat Everton – who have clearly given up already - last week in what Paul Clement described as ‘a huge day in their history’. That being said, the attendance was about 20,000, so either it wasn’t as huge as Clement made out or Swansea have a relatively small stadium.
The Swansea players are paying for the Swansea fans to come up to Sunderland this Saturday as a gesture of thanks, and perhaps a gesture such as that might be enough to help carry the Welsh club over the line.
Personally, I think Hull will go down. They have Palace away followed by Spurs at home, whereas Swansea have us followed by West Brom, who basically gave up back in February like all Tony Pulis sides do. Did you know he never sits down in press conferences? Always stands. I never knew that.
It’s a shame because Swansea are going to be the whipping boys of the Prem next year. They’ll lose Llorente and Sigurdsson over the summer, while there are still question marks as to whether Clement is good enough. Without some form of minor miracle, I think they’ll really struggle. That being said, there have been so many bad teams in the Premier League this year, you never know what’s going to happen. If only we could just be one of the bad, but not so bad, ones.
On a side note: if Hull and Swansea finish dead even, then there’ll be a play-off game to decide who goes down, and that made me think – why not have a play-off for the last relegation place amongst the four lowest teams above the bottom two? It could be structured like the promotion play-offs with a first round of home and away except the losers would go through to the final where the losers are relegated. It would be a lot more interesting, and could certainly help prevent teams from switching off once they feel they’ve achieved safety.
However, I digress, back to the world of the current Premier League.
Much like Moyes’ reign at Sunderland, there are also doubts as to whether Marco Silva will stay at Hull considering his contract expires at the end of the season. Despite the many attractions of the ‘City of Culture’ (I’ve never been so I’m just making this up), he may be less than impressed with the rugby league ground sharing, and dealing with owners who are seemingly desperate to sell the club. Does any of this appeal to a man who’s stock has risen dramatically thanks to his brief spell at the club? He might just fancy a bigger fish.
Silva’s next destination certainly won’t be Middlesbrough, who have decided to join us in our Championship sabbatical next season, and that’s a good thing because the team that has scored the least number of goals since records began unbelievably did the double against us this season, and we owe them big time. However, joining Marco Silva on the way out of a town called contract will be Steve Agnew, whose 6 points from a possible 27 probably won’t grant him a seat in the queue for the first interview.
Instead, rumours are abound that Steve Gibson will turn to Ryan Giggs, and I hope he does. Partly because the guy deserves a chance, partly because I don’t think he’ll be any good meaning they’ll be one less team to worry about, and also because then he won’t be linked to every bloody possible managerial vacancy that may or may not come up.
Arsene Wenger meanwhile, whilst visibly excited about the Bananarama reunion, has poured scorn on the role of Directors of Football in the modern game.
I don’t know what director of football means. Is it somebody who stands in the road and directs play right and left?
Thereby confirming everything you ever thought about French people, Arsene Wenger and humour. The thing is, his own chief executive has announced that he would like to appoint a sporting director – so just who wears les pantalons at Arsenal? Arsene is certain that’s him, but perhaps his time is up?
I’m the manager of Arsenal football club and as long as I’m manager of Arsenal football club I will decide what happens on the technical front. That’s it.
We shall see.
I’m starting to see Wenger as a ‘Gollum’ type of personality, fiercely hissing and spitting when his ‘Precious’ is threatened. If he’s ever ousted I can imagine him mysteriously disappearing from public view overnight and rumours starting up of this thin ravaged creature with straggly hair and a filthy loin cloth lurking in the Emirates Stadium, preying on stray pigeons and being heard to whisper ‘Fergusssson’ in the depths of the night.
Frenchmen in general aren’t particularly popular with Martin Keown either. Him and little Neville had a pop at the Arsenal and Man Utd players for ‘hugging and kissing’ in the tunnel before their match on Sunday.
I can't imagine doing that to Martin Keown ten years ago in the tunnel at Highbury.
Those were the words from little Neville, which may mean he could imagine doing it now which is frankly worrying. Keown meanwhile:
This is what modern day players are like. I hated it when French players were like this with one another.
Well that’s Keown guaranteeing that every time he visits The Emirates from now on he’s going to be stalked by a small shadowy figure whispering ‘Fergusssson’ into his ear until his dying day.
As an aside, it states on Martin Keowns’ Wikipedia page that:
He spends his nights reviewing old Arsenal games he played in whilst eating his favourite selection of cheeses.
You can’t make this stuff up. Or perhaps you can?
Anyway, how big is Fraser Forster? Jeez, the guy is like a bloody Transformer. I expected him to spontaneously convert into a truck and a fire engine when he celebrated saving the penalty against Liverpool at the weekend. He’s absolutely enormous and totally dwarfed James Milner - I just wondered what was being said in the lead up – ‘bottom right-hand corner or I rip your arms off, little man...’
On the topic of Southampton, in all the weeks I’ve been writing this drivel, I’ve never once mentioned Claude Puel. Obviously because he is far and away not just the most boring manager in the League, but possibly because he is simultaneously the most boring person on the planet. That being said, as I watched him on Sunday evening it struck me – he’s Leonard Nimoy! Puel is Spock! He looks like Spock, he sounds like Spock (if he had a French accent), and he has all the unemotional detachment of Spock. I just need him to say ‘dilithium crystals’ in a post match interview before the end of the season and I’ll be happy.
Jurgen Klopp blamed the hard pitch and the wind for the draw. Klopp is looking tired, so there are fewer hugs these days - much to Keown and Neville’s delight - however, if he clinches a Champions League place, he’ll need to expand his squad, or indeed his little book of things to blame, as the games will come thick and fast. Nein!
One place below him in the table are Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, and the Spaniard is looking sad despite slotting five past Palace at the weekend. In fact he’s looked sad all season; it’s as if as if it’s too much for him:
There’s not another competition in the world with six strong teams fighting for four positions.
He obviously wasn’t around the County Durham badminton scene in the early seventies then, but I really don’t know if he can hack it in this league, both from the pressure and endurance perspective. He needed a year off after managing Barcelona for goodness sake when he admitted his sole tactic was to ‘just give the ball to Messi’.
So, what we need over the summer is Messi to City, Neymar to United, Suarez back to Liverpool. And Guardiola to Middlesbrough.
And finally in Russia, Sochi’s Fisht Stadium - hosting the Russian Cup final as a dry run for the 2018 World Cup games - had the match ending in a mass brawl, four red cards and 64 arrests.
Deputy PM Vitaly Mutko:
It was a good ending. It’s like a good wedding – not without a fight.