As week 26 of the Premier League season comes and goes, I start to take for granted the entertainment I receive weekly. It’s only through writing this blog that I truly realized how far in to the season we actually were. Only 11 more match days remain between now and the final day, and it’s scary to think that we’re way past the halfway mark and are moving in to the nitty gritty of relegation battles and the fight for the top four.
Weeks like matchday 26 are the reason we keep coming back each week instead of pushing it off to the side as one team continues to dominate. Sure, that’s still happening at the top, but we’re seeing more and more battles open up around the league with some extremely surprising results.
It would be remiss of me to not mention Swansea City’s astronomical rise after hiring Carlos Carvalhal in December. Not only
did he take 10 points from his first five games (including games against Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal), he has lost only one game in his first ten!
The turnaround that Swansea City are seeing under their new manager is nothing short of remarkable, especially with the board not exactly showing full confidence in their man by only giving him a contract till the end of the season.
Regardless, in week 26 they managed to hold Leicester City to a draw away from home, and in week 25 they dismantled Arsenal 3-1. They welcome Burnley at home on Saturday, and three points will clearly be on their mind as they look to stake their claim as a solid Premier League side and not a relegation contender.
They’re currently sitting in 17th place on level points with 18th Stoke City and 19th Huddersfield Town, but a win could potentially put then 12th if results go their way elsewhere, which would prompt a collective sigh of relief in South Wales.
Carvalhal is also one for an incredible analogy, saying this week when asked about his side’s injury list “like the people say, when one swan falls, another swan begins to fly.” It’s not as poetic as the Olde English proverb “if my auntie had bollocks she’d be my uncle,” but it definitely works for the situation.
I’d be a bad writer if I spoke about a dismantling and didn’t mention Watford’s 4-1 win over Chelsea in week 26. The game itself started off relatively slow, staying 0-0 up until just before half time, but during that time we were able to bear witness to quite possibly the worst 30-minute performance by any player in the Premier League era.
Tiemoue Bakayoko’s turgid performance was only saved when he was sent off in the 30th minute for quite a weak challenge that, in my opinion, did not amount to a second yellow card, but referee Mike Dean may well have just felt sorry for the midfielder.
Chelsea actually improved as a team after Bakayoko left the field, and it took a penalty from Troy Deeney to break the deadlock. Eden Hazard tied the game up in the 82nd minute, but things simply fell apart from there for Chelsea, conceding three goals in seven minutes to turn a dreary draw in to a dismal defeat with Chelsea walking away empty handed.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, a respite may not present itself with games coming up against Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City. Antonio Conte has presumably been given till the Barcelona game to turn things around, but it’s not looking good for the Italian who seems to have crumbled after the war of words with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho earlier this year.
Personally I hate to see a manager get sacked the year after they won the Premier League, and I don’t think Chelsea should take things to that extreme. Teams have bad patches, and unfortunately for Chelsea, there’s has come at a ti
me where they really needed to pick up some points, but a couple wins over the next few weeks and they could easily be back on track to a top three finish.
The only problem I foresee is that Chelsea itself is a “sacking club.” As soon as things start to go off the rails, they do seem to
seek out different management. It’s how their club is run, and it’s worked relatively well for them which is most likely why nothing has changed since Roman Abramovich bought the club.
One thing is for sure though, if Chelsea do decide to sack Antonio Conte, they can kiss top four goodbye till next season when they’ll presumably walk the league again, rinse and repeat!
See you next week for more fun with the North London Derby and Southampton vs. Southampton B (Liverpool) taking place in week 27.
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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