Newcastle have the momentum to pip Tottenham to fourth
Alex Sharp looks back at a hectic weekend of Premier League football, as Chelsea and Spurs slipped up
Unfortunately the title race seems over with the Premier League crown once again flying into Manchester United’s extensive trophy cabinet – but the race for Champions League football is still alive and kicking.
Manchester City have completely lost their head and their unity whereas Manchester United keep rolling out results even thanks to Ashley Young’s best Tom Daley impression.
Strikers normally get the headlines and glory for a team’s success but last weekend was truly a midfield affair.
The talk of the Toon has been the ‘Double Dembas’ destroying defences in Alan Pardew’s pursuit of European football next campaign.
January signing Papiss Demba Cisse has notched up 10 Premier League goals in only nine games, which is one match quicker than a certain Alan Shearer managed.
However, it is his midfield buys that have been instrumental this year. The dirt cheap Yohan Cabaye has replaced Joey Barton’s flair, while Hatem Ben Arfa certainly isn’t Lionel Messi but has returned from injury to inject class and precision into Newcastle’s fierce front line.
Newcastle have the momentum to pip a capitulating Spurs and a heavily occupied Chelsea to Champions League football.
It was a case of 150 at Craven Cottage on Monday night as a tiring Chelsea were held by Fulham, tarnishing the Blues’ run under Roberto Di Matteo and increasing their monumental task of sealing a top-four finish.
The supreme Clint Dempsey headed in his 16th league goal this campaign, breaking all sorts of Fulham records, on his 150th appearance for the West Londoners.
In addition, Frank Lampard fired in his 37th Chelsea league penalty to hit 150 league goals for the Blues. His impact over the past decade has been massive at Stamford Bridge and if used sensibly in the hectic run in, his composure could be crucial for Di Matteo’s men.
The problem for Chelsea is that they play Tottenham, Barcelona, Arsenal then Barcelona. The pressure to get a result on Sunday, coupled with Roman Abramovich’s obsession for the Champions League title makes Di Matteo’s task incredibly difficult. It would test the best of coaches.
Chelsea have already played 50 games this season and with the FA Cup and Barcelona games coming up, there are huge questions surrounding the depth of their squad.
Talisman captain John Terry has cracked ribs – he won’t realistically make it through those four titanic games and the likes of Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel and Ryan Bertrand don’t scream quality.
In north London, Tottenham’s glorious season is falling apart – they’ve lost their intent and confidence.
The Gunners have been galvanised by a superb derby comeback and have won back the support of the Emirates faithful.
Surprisingly, Robin Van Persie hasn’t scored all of Arsenal’s recent goals and Arsene Wenger will certainly hope the burden is shared next campaign.
Mikel Arteta is doing a fine job in helping his captain, firing in the winner against City on Sunday. After a slow start, the Spaniard is incrementally playing himself into fine form and proves the Gunners can grab goals from midfield.
With Newcastle acting as a stumbling block, Spurs imploding and Chelsea having to tackle Barça, it all plays kindly into Arsenal’s hands, who have won 24 from a possible 27 points.
A finish above Spurs and Champion League football next season would be a fine result for Wenger considering the dire situation he faced earlier in the season. The home tie against Chelsea will be pivotal but who would bet against the Gunners in this form?