Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 37: Arsenal Loses, Handing Title to Manchester City; Nottingham Forest Safe As Three Clubs Still Battle For Safety; Newcastle Secures Champions League; Liverpool Top Four Hopes Dim After Drawing Aston Villa While Manchester United Wins; Brighton Heading to Europe

A listless 1-0 loss by Arsenal at Nottingham Forest on Saturday made Manchester City the Premier League champions before the Citizens even took the field on Sunday. The title celebrations thus dwarfed a 1-0 victory at the Etihad by a heavily rotated Manchester City’s side, a goal by Julian Alvarez providing all that was needed against toothless Chelsea. Manchester City is champion for the fifth time in six seasons, winning the title for a third consecutive year.

Arsenal can only rue what might have been as they capture the dubious honor of being the club to have led the Premier League for the longest period of any season without capturing the title. The Gunners led the league for more than 90% of the season but fell short in the end as their lack of experience and squad depth came to the fore in an epic late season collapse. The Gunners were eight points ahead of Manchester City on April 1st only to drop 15 points over their next eight matches to fumble away the title. The sad thing is that second in the league is more than what Gunner fans would have hoped for entering this season. The poor form down the final stretch, however, will dominate memories of the Arsenal season.

Manchester City, meanwhile, have checked off the first box of what could be a historic treble. After a middling start to the season, Manager Pep Guardiola has his side firing on all cylinders. The Citizens have won 12 consecutive Premier League matches to overtake Arsenal. The focus for Manchester City now becomes an FA Cup final versus rival Manchester United followed by a Champions League final against Inter Milan.

Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, proved much more than a title chase spoiler at the City Ground on Saturday. Taiwo Awoniyi’s ninth goal of the season, his fifth goal in his last three matches, saw the Tricky Trees lock in their Premier League survival with their win over Arsenal. Forest won for the third time in its last five matches, losing just once in that stretch, to pull clear of the relegation battle with one match to play. Kudos to Nottingham Forest Manager Steve Cooper, one of only two managers in the bottom half of the table who began this season with his current club. The City Ground once again proved a fortress for Nottingham Forest. The Tricky Trees have captured eight of their nine victories and 30 of their 37 points this season at their home ground.

Newcastle United fans are also celebrating as the Magpies clinched Champions League football for next season, capturing the needed point total in a goalless draw with Leicester. Leicester Manager Dean Smith seemed to be playing for the point as he benched attacking players James Maddison and Harvey Barnes in favor of a more defensive lineup. The strategy, though successful in achieving Smith’s seeming objective, raised questions in the context of the complicated survival scenarios at the bottom of the table. The point versus Newcastle means that a Leicester win over West Ham next week will mean survival for the Foxes should Everton achieve no more than a draw in their own match with Bournemouth. A Leicester loss to Newcastle would have required Everton to lose on the final weekend. Three points against Newcastle, however, would have lifted Leicester to a position of safety, albeit on goal differential, entering the final week.

The stage is now set for Week 38 to decide the survival of one of three clubs left in the relegation rumble. Everton is currently safe by a two-point margin over both Leicester and Leeds. The latter two clubs are locked on the same 31 points with Leicester having the far better goal differential over Leeds, and Everton as well. Everton notched a critical point Saturday with a dramatic Yerry Mina goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time in a 1-1 final at Wolves. Leeds, meanwhile, was terrible in a 3-1 loss at West Ham. The Whites still have a chance at survival, but the sun would seem to be setting on their Premier League run after Leeds failed to hold on to a half time lead for a second consecutive week. Leeds Manager Sam Allardyce, facing his second relegation after going down with West Brom two years ago, had nothing but criticism for his players after the West Ham loss and seems resigned to his fate. Leeds has lost three of four matches since the appointment of Allardyce.

With Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle all having qualified for Champions League berths, the chase for the final spot in next year’s competition comes down to Manchester United and Liverpool. Manchester United leads that battle by three points after the Red Devils defeated Bournemouth 1-0 and Liverpool drew 1-1 with Aston Villa.  An overhead bicycle kick by Casemiro in the 9th minute held up for the Red Devils at the home of the Cherries. United has weathered the absence of leading scorer Marcus Rashford to win its last two matches with three different players accounting for the goals. Manchester United can clinch Champions League qualification with a draw or tie against Chelsea on Thursday.

Liverpool failed to win for the first time in eight matches in its draw with Aston Villa. A dramatic 89th minute goal by Bobby Firmino, however, kept Champions League hopes alive for the moment. It was Firmino’s final home match for Liverpool in front of the admiring Anfield supporters. The point for Aston Villa, combined with Tottenham Hotspurs 3-1 loss to Brentford, puts Manager Unai Emery’s squad into seventh place and a presumptive Europa Conference League berth with one match to play.

It was a familiar story for Harry Kane in his 300th appearance for Tottenham Hotspur as the striker scored and Spurs lost. The defeat was the fifth in seven matches as Tottenham Hotspur could well play itself out of the European places altogether. Brentford, meanwhile, got a brace from Bryan Mbeumo to win for the fourth time in the Bees’ last five outings. The scramble for the Europa Conference League berth now includes the Bees who are one point behind Spurs and two points behind seventh place Aston Villa as each club has one match to play.

Brighton has all but secured a Europa League berth after a 3-1 win by the Seagulls at Southampton. While Aston Villa could theoretically match Brighton’s point total, the Seagulls have an overwhelming goal differential advantage. If nothing else, the win at Southampton ensures the Seagulls will be in Europe next season for the first time in their history.

In perhaps the only match that had no bearing on anything this past weekend, Crystal Palace earned a 2-2 draw with Fulham on an equalizing 83rd minute goal by defender Joel Ward, his first scoring strike in four years. Both Fulham goals came from striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who made his first start since sitting out an eight-match suspension.

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