In a little bit of irony to cap off a season that could use a laugh, Tottenham Hotspur played one of their best games under Tim Sherwood last Sunday. It was a must-win game for the club, they played their hearts out, and they still lost. Both clubs missed their best chances of the match—for Arsenal a chip by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he had been put behind the defense with a through-ball, and for Spurs a blocked shot by Nacer Chadli facing an otherwise open goal after Wojciech Szczesny failed to claim a cross. Most of the non-big chances in the match were produced by Spurs' attack, notching four danger zone shots compared to just one for Arsenal. An early screamer from wide by Tomas Rosicky made the difference, and Tottenham could not capitalize on any of their other opportunities. After weeks of winning close matches by efficiently converting their chances, this time Spurs could not capitalize.
Now nine points behind Arsenal, the Gunners holding a game in hand. Spurs' season looks roughly over. I explained where I thought Tottenham's season went wrong earlier in the week. For the rest of the league, Arsenal's victory means that the top four race is over for pretty much everyone. I have Everton with a three percent chance after the barely pulled out a win home to Cardiff City, but that's not much to write about.
It's the title race that's become exciting. A horrible foul by Ramires earned a red card and Fabian Delph scored one of the great goals of the season as Chelsea blew their lead at the top of the table. Manchester City escaped the KC with a win, surviving their own idiotic sending off, and Liverpool stomped Manchester United. My stats show now a tight three-way race for the title.
I'm going to show the projected table next, and then afterward in lieu of comments on last week's matches I'll have a few thoughts, plus projections, for this week's biggest matchups.
Projections and Power Rankings
Because of rounding, not all the numbers necessarily add up quite right.
|West Bromwich Albion||8||16||14||40||-10||91||0%||0||6%||-9||0%||0||0%|
|West Ham United||10||9||19||38||-14||64||0%||0||10%||+4||0%||0||0%|
Matches to Watch (1): Chelsea-Arsenal
Saturday's early game is clearly the matchup of the week in the Premier League. Chelsea, coming off a bad loss, face an Arsenal club coming off a bad win. As I showed two weeks ago, Arsenal have been playing below average football in the league during 2014. A victory in which they attempted only two shots from inside the box did not change my opinion that this is a struggling club well short of league-winning form.
In nine matches since their victory over Cardiff on New Year's Day, Arsenal have attempted 38 shots from the danger zone and conceded 43. They are even with Liverpool on points, but my ratings see Liverpool as legitimate title contenders while Arsenal appear to be hanging on to their title chances by a thread. This all means that the match as Stamford Bridge is basically an elimination match for Arsenal. Lose, and their title hopes are dashed. Win, and Arsenal are still plausibly alive for the double.
|Outcome||MCofA%||Bookie%||CHE %Title||ARS %Title||ARS %Top4|
Matches to Watch (2): Tottenham - Southampton
Catch Europa fever. While Spurs can fan the flames of their meager top four hopes with a victory, Southampton suddenly stand a chance of qualifying for European competition. A victory at White Hart Lane over struggling Spurs would give Mauricio Pochettino's side a legitimate shot at finishing 5th or 6th in the league.
As has been the case for weeks now, my stats project Tottenham as a worse side overall than the Saints. Home field advantage means Spurs are still favored, but I think it's by a step less than the bookies say.
|Outcome||MCofA%||Bookie%||TOT %Top4||SOT %Eur|
Matches to Watch (3): Norwich - Sunderland
I'm not really saying you should watch this. While the Cardiff-Fulham bottom of the table clash was a laugh-a-minute thrill ride, I'm expecting a much more dour affair at Carrow Road. Still, the relegation implications are large. Both sides have been unable to get the win that would put them through to safety, and even with Fulham and Cardiff looking like pretty sure bets to be relegated, the loser of this match will be the most likely 18th place finisher.
|Outcome||MCofA%||Bookie%||NOR %Rel||SUN %Rel|
For both clubs, there are possible 30-40 percentage point swings in relegation expectation. Hopefully that can provide excitement if the football fails.