…Is the Premier League table from 15th downwards, or so it seems anyway. Whenever I consider the subject, my mind goes into overdrive with different scenarios that could occur and what will mean what come the end of the season. Obviously thus far, none of my thought processes have been conclusive.
Last week, I was celebrating Latics’ recent miraculous results and much improved performances and everyone could have been forgiven for getting a little carried away. But of course, those of us with an ounce of realism inside us will realise that nothing has been resolved yet, beating United and Arsenal doesn’t guarantee survival and that there are many twists in the tale to come.
Not even William Shakespeare could rival this one, and not even William Hill can accurately predict it. With every game that passes, relegation odds fluctuate and the pendulum swings, pointing at those looking most vulnerable with a sinister arrogance. Jesus, this is far too poetic for a football related review.
This weekend was just as inconclusive as any other. Blackburn kept their hopes alive by triumphing in their ‘must-win’ encounter with Norwich, Bolton only managed a draw at home to Swansea, QPR shocked us by beating the out-of-form Spurs (or the Tottanic if you’re the Sun), the only conclusive result was the one at Molineaux that finally confirmed Wolves’ relegation. Latics meanwhile proved that they’re not the greatest team in the world like we’d previously convinced ourselves by losing at Fulham.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Fulham are an excellent team with a solid manager and some class players. But after going to the Emirates and winning, the Latics fans (who sold out their allocation) were expectant of another victory to aid the survival bid.
As I often mention in my articles, this performance was vintage ‘Typical Wigan’.
After a goalless first half in which both sides showed glimpses of their attacking potential, Emmerson Boyce fired Wigan ahead with only his fifth goal in six seasons as a Latics player to put the visitors ahead. Rather than keep it tight for ten minutes to prevent a quick fire Fulham response, Wigan switched off and Pavel Pogrebnyak equalised just 71 seconds after the restart. See what I mean?
Still, taking a point from Craven Cottage would have been a point well earned at a place that a lot of teams struggle at. Considering those around us are picking up points, a point towards an eighth Premier League campaign would have been gratefully received.
Yet it wasn’t received at all in the end after Phillipe Senderos headed home an 89th minute winner from a free kick past Ali Al-Habsi.
The 2-1 defeat leaves Martinez’s team down but certainly not out, at the time of writing, Wigan are still outside the bottom three in eighteenth with 34 points. A few weeks ago, that scenario looked relatively impossible, almost as impossible as Spurs throwing away a ten point lead to surrender their place in the top four, or Liverpool reaching two Wembley cup finals in one season…
Even at this stage, it’s very hard to predict who will go and who won’t. All the relevant teams have some tricky fixtures, but at this stage of the season, anybody can literally beat anybody.
This means I can’t watch Blackburn against Chelsea with a Rovers defeat guaranteed, it means I can’t disregard QPR’s match against City as a formality for Mancini’s men, which is a shame because it puts extra pressure on the mental state of all the Wigan fans out there.
Equally, it does mean we could quite realistically turn Newcastle over at the DW, even if it does mean kidnapping Pappis Cisse and slipping some laxatives into Johan Cabaye’s pre-match Steak Pie.
At the other end…
Of course, there are two sides to every coin, and two ends to every league. As opposed to the perils of watching your team’s next few seasons potentially being dictated by 90 minutes worth of football, is the perennial struggles of seeing if your team will finish fourth or fifth, and potentially not even make the Champions League. I mean, only terrible teams don’t make the Champions League, don’t they?
Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of a bitter and ignorant view, but you can’t deny there’s less at stake. Tottenham could finish as low a sixth, but they can still try again for fourth next season. If Latics, or indeed anyone else at the bottom, get relegated, they could spend several years trying to get back up. In the cases of Ipswich, Coventry, Portsmouth, Bradford, Barnsley, the Sheffield clubs, Leeds, Charlton and co, it can mean several years of mediocrity, further relegations and even administration.
Yet you can’t deny it’s refreshing to watch the top of the table and dream of what it’d be like to be up there, like looking up at the top of Kilimanjaro whilst being chased by a man with a cricket bat.
You have to admire Alan Pardew for what he’s done at Newcastle, he’s formed a great team with a seemingly excellent team spirit and some classy individuals. It’s a far cry from the dark days of Kinnear, Keegan (the second time round) and Charles Insomnia.
Yet if they do pip Tottenham, and indeed Chelsea, to fourth spot, I’ll still feel sorry for Spurs.
I really admire the way they play and what Harry has achieved there with less resources than those he’s competing with (expect Newcastle of course), when they’re on top form they’re irresistible. The best example of this was when they hammered Newcastle themselves 5-0 at White Hart Lane.
But the England manager scenario threw a spanner in the works and now Spurs will be delighted with a fourth place finish, when back in January they looked nailed on for third and people were even talking of an ambitious title challenge.
The key for them now is to keep their squad together, regardless of where they end up, and build again for next season. Ideally, they could keep Modric, Bale and Van Der Vaart and add the likes of Hazard and Remy to an already accomplished squad. Equally, they could lose the aforementioned and be left with a side that may struggle to finish ahead of Liverpool next season, now that’s saying something. Although, you can’t help but feel the deciding factor of which scenario occurs is which side of the gates of the top four they end up on.
Also, didn’t United treat us to an entertaining game at Old Trafford this weekend? Apparently City aren’t too far behind them now, so I’ve heard. It must be so easy to be so care free at the less entertaining end of the league…
Goal of the Week: Emmerson Boyce’s finish was that of a prime time Alan Shearer, but the interplay between Rooney and Welbeck for Rooney’s second goal against Everton was truly mind blowing. It was a nostalgic throwback to the era of Cole and Yorke if I ever saw one.
Gary Teale of the Week: Going to Anfield and winning is meat and drink for most teams nowadays, but for Roy Hodgson to go back and do it with his West Brom team to prove his Liverpool doubters wrong must have been very satisfying. It also must have done his England credentials no harm at all, if Redknapp rejects it that is.
Gary Neville of the Week: You had to feel for Terry Connor as he fought off the tears during the post match interview at Molineaux as his side were relegated. It wasn’t his fault he was hurled out of his depth with nothing but a defence with more holes than a golf course to save him.
Quote of the Week: “The funniest thing was at the end of the game, Shaun Derry didn’t even realise we were down to ten men.” Nedum Onouha reveals his captain isn’t the observant type.
Boselli Watch: After seeking advice on his career, Mauro got the wrong idea when his therapist asked him to recall his last goal in life. His response was “Dundee away, pre season friendly two years ago.”