This weekend’s fixtures saw Manchester United confirm to Leicester what they may have known all along, that they are in a relegation battle. From United’s point of view the weekend could not have been better. Their Sunday tea time 3-0 win at the King Power saw them gain points on some of their rivals for the top four. In less than ten minutes either side of half time the game was won. Two quick fire goals from Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic gave United the control before the break. Then, four minutes into the second half Juan Mata added the third to condemn the hosts to a fifth straight game without a win. That result leaves Man United still in sixth but now only two points behind fourth place. Leicester also remain unmoved in 16th, but they are now only one point clear of the drop zone.
Chelsea’s victory in the top of the table clash with Arsenal briefly extended to 12 points over the chasing pack. The Blues have now picked up an average of 2.9 points per game since the 3-0 loss to Arsenal earlier in the season. The Gunners on the other hand are now without a win against a team in the current top seven since that same game in September. Arsenal now need to make up twelve points on Chelsea over the final 14 games is they are to take the title.
Tottenham cut Chelsea’s lead back down to 9 points with their disciplined, but marginal, victory over Middlesbrough. Harry Kane’s second half penalty was enough to seal the win and now gives them clear space above their north London rivals Arsenal. Middlesbrough however fall closer to the relegation zone. They were unable to cause any serious problems when facing a depleted Spurs defence. This lack of cutting edge has seen them score just three goals in their last seven games, picking up just three points over the same period.
The new team to enter the top four is Manchester City, their late goal against Swansea means that they move ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool into third. Having taken the lead after eleven minutes through new signing Gabriel Jesus, he was needed again in injury time to take all three point for City. That win means that it is five without defeat for City who appear to be building momentum into the end season. Swansea on the other hand remain in 17th place and out of the relegation places by a single point.
Liverpool were the big losers from weekend’s action. Their 2-0 defeat away to Hull now means that they have only beaten Plymouth in 2017. That loss sees them slip down to 5th and out Champions League qualification. For Hull however, it was another impressive performance under Marco Silva meaning that they move up to 18th place. The Tigers have now picked up 7 points since January began and are one of the inform teams in the bottom half.
Everton kept in the hunt for the European places by putting six passed Bournemouth. They stay in 7th place but remain five points behind United, and seven from the Champions League places. It is now seven games without defeat for the Toffees, and they have favourable fixtures going forward. Bournemouth are without a win since New Year’s Eve and are sliding closer to the bottom. With other teams below them improving, Eddie Howe’s team may need to pick up some points to prevent being dragged into the relegation conversation.
Crystal Palace’s hopes of survival took a huge dent as they lost 4-0 at home to fellow strugglers Sunderland. The Eagles are now only off the bottom due to goal difference and were beaten in this game by four first half goals, three of which happened in the final 6 minutes before the interval. Sunderland, after an undefeated week, remain foot of the table but now only two points separate the bottom six teams.
West Brom remain leaders of the mid table places due to their 1-0 home win against Stoke. An early goal from James Morrison was enough to keep the Baggies in an impressive 8th place in the table despite late pressure from Stoke. West Brom have not lost to a team outside the top six since early September and sit nine points behind United. Stoke on the other hand slip out of the top half of the table following their third straight game without a win.
West Ham moved up to 9th in the league after coming from behind to beat Southampton at St Mary’s. The Hammers have now scored three goals in three of their last four games and have not lost to a team outside of Manchester since the turn of the year. For Southampton though, it is just one win in their last seven games, conceding 15 goals in that time. Sitting six points ahead of the relegation places they should have enough to be safe, but their decline in form must be a concern.
The final game of the weekend saw Watford jump over Burnley into 10th place and complete a good week for the Hornets. Following a poor run of form, it is now two wins from two for Watford as they arrest their slide down the table. Burnley’s terrible away form continues however, their solitary point on the road this season coming from Old Trafford. If they can continue their home form then the Clarets won’t have any worries when the season closes in May.
Going into the weekend Man United fans would have expected to close the gap on some of their rivals above. Although they did not make up ground on Tottenham or Man City, the way in which these teams played may give comfort going forward. With Liverpool hosting Spurs on Saturday, there could be more improvement on United’s league position. Maintaining momentum ahead of the league cup final will be important as the Red Devils return to Old Trafford to face Watford this coming weekend.