Tales from the Top Flight

Ah, the business end of the season where we start searching for some remaining business to make the footballing weekends vaguely interesting.

Manchester City finally stumbled over the Premier League line thanks to Manchester United reserves not really being up to scratch.

Leicester City made Gary Lineker cry by nicking the FA Cup from Chelsea thanks to a Tielemens thunderbolt.

Fulham joined West Brom and Sheffield United as thoroughly condemned to Championship football next season.

So what’s left then? Can we really get that excited by whether Liverpool can somehow find a way into the Champions League places? Will Leicester’s last seven days be enough to see them through to the end of the season meaning either one of Tommy T and King Kloppo won’t be among Europe’s elite next time around? Unless, of course, Tuchel learns how to win a cup final and lifts the Champions League trophy ahead of Peppy G in a fortnight.

Having seen their top-four dreams fade and die, can West Ham burst their bubble sufficiently to avoid both the Europa League and the Europa Conference and, therefore, avoid a relegation battle next season?

And what about Tottenham? Will their new gaffer prefer a non-European season or a jaunt in an utterly pointless gig to kick start his reign? And who will he actually be?

As mentioned, City were crowned champions by virtue of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserves losing to Leicester on Tuesday. Resting the team made a lot of sense, given they’d want to beat Liverpool on Thursday but hey, the best-laid plans and all that.

Peppy G treated his football family to some dancing, some beer and then, the best bit – some pizza – to celebrate regaining what was previously theirs. They then headed to St James’ Park to take part in a Premier League classic, beating Manager of the Month Steve Bruce’s Newcastle 4-3 with a cheeky little hat-trick from Ferran Torres.

Does Torres’ triple convince Pep even more that he can play as a nine? Meaning that it doesn’t really matter that Borussia Dortmund are reaching peak Borussia Dortmund levels with their claims that Erling Haaland is going nowhere this summer? That won’t please Noel Gallagher.

In the distant past, an FA Cup Final would have been the lead in this column – but if football cannot be bothered to make it top priority in a weekend neither can I. If it is to be crowbarred in amongst many other matches, I will lose it somewhere in the middle of this malarky.

But, massive congratulations to Leicester City who, against some odds beat Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley in front of 22,000 actual football fans. Chelsea were utterly toothless for the second game running, having contrived to lose to Arsenal 1-0 during the week, but take nothing away from the class shown by Brendan Rodgers’ team.

The winner was a goal befitting a Cup Final – Youri Tielemens picking it up and absolutely larruping it past Kepa in goal. Naturally, as is their want, Chelsea fans talked of conspiracy forgetting that Ayoze Perez didn’t handball it according to the Laws of the game and that Ben Chilwell, no matter how harsh it might feel, was actually offside in the build-up to that very late non-equaliser.

Kasper Schmeichel, a man with significant boots to fill, was a hero alongside young Wesley Fofana who marshalled the defence brilliantly – mind you, on reflection, he only really had to mark Timo Werner.

The win made Lineker cry – or, alternatively as suggested by Have I Got News For You, he’d just seen his tax bill.

Tommy T’s wife might also be regretting her decision to change up her pre-match routine. Apparently, the manager’s missus felt that seeing as her hubby always loses a cup final she might try something different. That’s going to make her decision on the day of the Champions League Final a must-know detail.

Given the goal he was responsible for against Arsenal and his complete disinterest in closing Tielemans down at Wembley, the proposed swap deal seeing Jorginho head to Barcelona in return for Pjanic might catch Tuchel’s eye. He’d rather get Marco Veratti, though.

Liverpool kept their outside chance to nip into 4th place alive with the last touch of the game at the Hawthorns. Alisson, having a challenging year, became the first Premier League player ever to score in tracky bottoms – something that will now haunt Gabor Kiraly forever.

Big Sham might have seen his proud record of never being relegated go up in smoke, but he’ll always have that point against at Anfield, right? Hal Robson-Kanu, an amalgamation of two of my favourite footballers of all time, incidentally, might wonder why nobody has let him start a match since 2017 after his lethal finish to put the Albion ahead. Mohamed Salah equalised, but this was all about Alisson and his bonce.

Tottenham’s match against Wolves was considered an audition for Nuno Espirito Santos in some people’s eyes. His team did the eminently sensible thing in which case and lost – 2-0, Harry Kane in the goals again, obviously. What odds on Daniel Levy panicking in the summer and giving Ryan Mason the job?

With Uncle Roy Hodgson likely to be announcing his departure from Crystal Palace in the next week, he’ll be able to look back on their 3-2 win over Aston Villa as one of their best attacking performances during his time there. Christian Benteke looked like the striker Tim Sherwood reckons he got a tune out of, Wilf Zaha and Andros Townsend ran riot and then there was Eze – a player who will be getting a few top-six phonecalls this summer for sure. Jack Grealish was back and notching up his 101st foul against him within 2.6 seconds of coming on the pitch.

Burnley were confirmed as safe earlier in the week and their performance against a rampant Leeds would suggest they might have enjoyed a little too much dancing, real ale and hot pot in the coming days. Leeds smashed them in a way not many other than Leeds have enjoyed doing this season.

Southampton and Fulham both put in performances that kinda summed up their respective seasons. Southampton, pretty good when it all comes together (also see their 3-1 win over Palace earlier in the week). Even Theo Walcott turned up. Fulham, pretty good for ten-minute spells which, as we all know, isn’t really enough to stay in the league.

Sheffield United spent £20m+ on a young striker supposed to score the goals that kept them in the Premier League this season. On Sunday evening, a young striker scored his first goal for the club as they beat Everton (at Goodison Park, obviously) 1-0. Daniel Jebbison, not Rhian Brewster, opened his club account at the age of just 17 meaning he is now linked to every big club in the land. Everton? Well, they are just Evertoning themselves to 8th place now.

It’s everyone out at Arsenal this summer (other than the manager, apparently) as Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Bernd Leno, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (to United, really? Surely not), Granit Xhaka and many more being directed to the exit. This usually means some players are being targetted – and Arsenal are being linked to Europe’s hottest young central midfielder in France’s Eduardo Camavinga. Just the small matter of seeing off PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona to get that deal over the line.

More likely is that Ryan Bertrand will join them on a free – be still those beating Arsenal hearts.

Less likely is that Silent Stan will ever tell the truth – Daniel Ek, he of Spotify wealth, reckons he made quite an attractive offer to buy the club last week. Kroenke denies any bid was received. It’s probably more fun to believe Ek.