Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 38: Down Go Leicester and Leeds As Everton Survives; Aston Villa Heads To Europe As Spurs Stay Home; Pochettino To Take Over At Chelsea

Everton has barely escaped relegation once again. The escape artists in blue required an additional week versus last year to ensure their survival, pushing it to the final match day before defeating Bournemouth 1-0 to lock up the final spot in the Premier League for next season. Abdel Doucoure struck the winner in the 57th minute and Jordan Pickford made one last sensational save and it was job done for the Toffees. The question now becomes whether Everton will take the necessary actions to avoid this annual nail-biting experience. The club is still facing financial strictures which limit the change that can be made to a poor squad. There is also the question of whether Manger Sean Dyche is the man to lead an Everton rebuild. He delivered safety largely though the defensive pragmatism and mental toughness he displayed at Burnley. Dyche was perhaps precisely the right man to drag this threadbare Everton roster across the finish line. But can he one day lead Everton into the top half?

Everton’s huge sigh of relief contrasted with the disappointment, resignation and a bit of anger felt by supporters of Leicester and Leeds. Leicester did their bit on the final day, beating West Ham 2-1 but it was too little, too late for the Foxes and Manager Dean Smith. Smith was relegated for a second consecutive year, having taken Norwich down last year. Smith only shares the blame, however, having taken over from Brendan Rodgers with eight matches remaining in a shockingly poor season for the one-time Premier League champions who were a top half club each of the previous five seasons. The Leicester roster is much better than Everton’s and arguably quite a few other clubs farther up the table. Unfortunately, the squad is unbalanced with an attack which scored more goals than any club in the bottom half the table and a defense which conceded the fourth highest number of goals in the league this season. It was still somewhat odd to see players such as James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Kelechi Iheanacho  hanging their heads after the Foxes’ fate was sealed.

Leeds’s relegation, on the other hand, was less surprising. Like Everton, the Whites had struggled to survive the previous season and there was little to recommend a comfortable ride this season. A 4-1 thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur put an exclamation point on a season where the Whites conceded a league high 78 goals in their 39 matches. It’s two relegations in three years for Leeds Manager Sam Allardyce as the Whites head down to the second tier where their opponents will include West Bromwich Albion, a team which Allardyce took down at the end of the 2020/21 season. Allardyce at least picked up a nice paycheck for the four matches he was on the touch line. The desperation appointment of Allardyce proved a failure as Big Sam failed to deliver a single win as the club continued its descent from a barely safe position at the time of his appointment to their ultimate dismissal from England’s top tier. Tottenham Hotspur’s dismantling of Leeds on the final day was a hollow victory for the north London side which lost out on a European place for next year when Aston Villa defeated Brighton. Harry Kane scored his 29th and 30th Premier League goals of the season for Spurs as conversation will now once again turn to the striker’s future. Does Kane loyally stay the course by staying at the club where he is a club legend? Or does he seek to win trophies at a more competitive top club?

Kane’s contract has one year to run before he can walk as a free agent so both Kane and Spurs management must wrestle with his future as suitors such as Manchester United are rumored to be in the picture. And, oh by the way, Spurs are still searching for a permanent manager.

Aston Villa will compete in the Europa Conference League next season as the club’s 2-1 victory over Brighton at Villa Park kept the Villans a point ahead of Spurs for the league’s final European place. The victory punctuated a striking turn in the club’s fortunes following the appointment of Manager Unai Emery. The club were safe only by virtue of goal differential when Manager Steven Gerrard was sacked and replaced by the one-time Arsenal manager. From the time of Emery’s appointment, Aston Villa would accumulate the fifth highest point total in the league.

A far different scenario unfolded with the appointment of Frank Lampard to his interim role at Chelsea. From the time of Lampard’s appointment, Chelsea accumulated the second fewest points in the league, winning just once in nine league contests, eleven matches in total, despite having one of the league’s most expensive squads. Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle was one of the better outings under Lampard. The best news for Chelsea fans came on Monday, however, as the club formally announced Mauricio Pochettino as manager with effect from July 1st. The long-rumored appointment is a first step to restoring order at Stamford Bridge after the club suffered its lowest point total and first bottom half finish in more than a quarter century.

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