Everyone has finally realised they are in a Premier League relegation battle. Palace, Everton and Leicester are in trouble.
In the space of five days they have beaten Newcastle 5-0, Brighton 0-5 and UEFA 1-0. What a week for Dr Ramon Cugat.
For the first time in his career, Dominic Solanke has scored more Premier League goals than Peter Schmeichel, Brad Friedel, Paul Robinson, Tim Howard and Asmir Begovic. It feels like a cliche to say he is finally paying back that Bournemouth investment, but the figures involved in survival reach far beyond £19m.
Letters of thanks are presumably already in the post for Caglar Soyuncu and Kasper Schmeichel, guilty of non-defending and non-goalkeeping respectively. The former inexplicably held the door open while the latter ushered Solanke through.
But that seemed to sharpen the striker’s senses. Solanke was actually already running before Christian Fuchs released his errant second-half pass, identifying an opportunity to press Ryan Bennett. As it happened, that was never required: he intercepted it before it could reach the centre-half, who he rounded with consummate ease before placing the finish between Schmeichel’s legs.
It highlighted the power of confidence in a striker. A moment of fortune helped Solanke rediscover the sort of instincts he had long lost; the England international suddenly and finally looked the part almost three years after being capped.
He sounded desperate when hoping that a second-half stoppage-time consolation against Newcastle “can give us something to cling to”. Eddie Howe had been rendered so delirious by the myriad weaknesses of his Bournemouth side that he had mistaken Dan Gosling for his saviour.
There had been an improvement since then, though. The Cherries took the lead against Manchester United before surrendering in their next game but better sides have struggled to contain the Premier League’s form team in recent months. And they were the unlikely aggressors against Tottenham, fortune again abandoning them.
So when Leicester arrived on the south coast, the outlook was bleak. Bournemouth had already seen the one side below and two teams directly above them earn wins; a defeat would have surely condemned the hosts to relegation.
This at least gives them a chance. And while they benefited from luck in the form of roughly 427 individual errors from Leicester, Bournemouth still had to capitalise.
“I think if we had conceded the early goal today, I think the response from the crowd would have helped us. I don’t think there’s any way that game would have ended up the scoreline it was,” Howe said after losing 4-1 at home to Newcastle. Coming from behind to beat Leicester by the same score might just galvanise them.
A first Premier League win and clean sheet since Boxing Day. A first Premier League win since January, which rather dilutes the impact of the previous sentence but shut up.
Aston Villa benefited from their own freak occurrence – Mamadou Sakho is apparently an anatomical marvel of sorts – but they, too, opted not to examine the gift horse’s dental hygiene. Dean Smith tweaked his formation and, with it, perhaps the course of his club’s season.
That 4-3-3 system does seem to suit the players more. Jack Grealish thrives out on the left, creating three chances and having two shots on target away from prying eyes against Crystal Palace. Mbwana Samatta is a valuable focal point while that midfield base looks far more secure. Douglas Luiz was excellent.
With Trezeguet chipping in and scoring his first goals in July since Euro 2000, Villa keep themselves within touch of the leading pack. It does feel a little like they’re sprinting to keep the pace and a stitch could immobilise them at any minute, but still.
Craig Dawson’s 20 shots in the six games since the Premier League returned are:
* Almost half of Watford’s overall 42 shots.
* Double that of his nearest teammate (Danny Welbeck, eight).
* More than he managed in his 20 previous appearances this season combined (19).
He won 14 headers, created two chances, completed three tackles, made two interceptions and battered out two clearances against Newcastle. It is not hyperbolic to suggest it was one of the greatest all-round performances in the history of any genre.
If in doubt: WWKPD?
The first English player to score four goals in a Premier League game since May 2017. The first English player to score four away goals in a Premier League game since…May 2017.
Sake, Harry Kane.
Fine: the first player with a forename derivation of Michael to score four goals in a Premier League game since Owen in 2003.
That’s it. That’s the stat.
Michail Antonio, genuinely
History is repeating itself. West Ham were 18th in the Premier League table upon the initial appointment of David Moyes as manager in November 2017. When he was kindly asked to leave the premises that summer, his survival notes were found scrawled on a small scrap of Manchester United-branded paper. He’s got loads left.
‘Stick inconsistent winger up top on his own. Win games. Buy Marouane. Don’t forget milk and bread.’
The Hammers were 17th when they pressed the panic button two years later, but Moyes is not about to stray from a tried, tested and trusted script. Marko Arnautovic is long gone; Michail Antonio has replicated his impact without the more questionable character attributes.
Have 16 Conclusions. Don’t be greedy.
They bloody well needed that. From an actual first-half goal to the emergence of Daniel Podence as a legitimate first-team option, down to the dismissal of a possible threat to their Europa League place, Wolves found their footing at just the right time. Even if the Champions League is beyond them – and that is no certainty – Europa League qualification represents success.
The troughs always feel more emphatic than the peaks. That is the draining effect of supporting a modern Jose Mourinho team, as fans often have to wait for the looming clouds to part before catching glimpse of a silver lining.
But only four clubs have more points than Tottenham since his appointment. They might soon regret it but it is difficult to suggest he does not deserve at least one full summer to shape a club in his image. Maybe the three-year cycle is simply working in reverse: who else is stoked for Tottenham to win the title in 2022?
Quite good, isn’t he?
They look angry. And not in a constructive sense where that sort of emotion can be used as motivation. Instead, there is an impotence, a feebleness. Leicester wait for events to unfold before getting frustrated at them, rather than actively trying to prevent them in the first place.
Schmeichel leathered the ball after Bournemouth’s penalty was awarded, then when it was converted, because of exasperation at his own dreadful goal-kick.
Caglar Soyuncu kicked out at Callum Wilson because of his annoyance at successfully chauffeuring Dominic Solanke towards goal, likely ruling himself out of the rest of the season.
Christian Fuchs captured the futility of the situation, painfully stationary as Junior Stanislas forced the third goal, before greeting the fourth he had inadvertently created by placing his hands on his knees and staring at the ground.
That was Leicester in a microcosm: resigned to their fate, incapable of changing anything, struggling to understand what is happening until it has already unfolded. A season that promised so much might yet deliver precious little.
He thought Bournemouth were done, didn’t he? That is the only possible explanation for removing Kelechi Iheanacho at half-time, when the forward had already assisted one goal against a defence low on confidence and quality.
It certainly wasn’t to preserve his fitness. Iheanacho had played 59, 64, 45, 69, 7 and 59 minutes in his last six appearances. Adding another 45 only makes his substitutions look planned and formulaic. And that is not a good look.
It is never a great sign when your manager feels compelled to make four substitutions before the hour. And is 63 minutes the earliest all five changes have been made? Either way, that is a statement that must still ring in the ears.
That Seamus Coleman interview was particularly intriguing. He even raised an eyebrow when stating that “we can’t keep hiding behind managers, we’ve hid behind managers for long enough”, as if possessed by Carlo Ancelotti himself in that very moment.
But he is right. This squad contains players that are working under their sixth manager at Goodison Park and at some point the common denominator becomes obvious. While Marco Silva could only be tolerated for so long, the Everton hierarchy cannot afford for Ancelotti to become collateral damage.
Perhaps that is what the club needed: a relationship where they are clearly reaching and punching above their weight rather than settling for someone on their level or lower. The standards across the board at Everton need to be raised and they are fortunate enough to have a European champion in charge.
The buck will therefore stop with the players. If they are not good enough, they will be replaced. No-one should consider themselves safe if the Wolves performance is anything to go by. Ancelotti might cast the largest of shadows but as the captain and one of the longest-serving players says, there will be no more “hiding”.
No club is more of a slave to form than Crystal Palace. They have followed four straight draws with three successive defeats, four consecutive wins and now five sequential losses in their last 16 Premier League games.
Much of this remains true. Palace have comfortably the oldest squad in the top flight, led by the most senior manager in the competition’s history, whose one-year contract extension in March now looks like a wasted opportunity.
Palace have to get rid of their stabilisers eventually and bumps and scrapes are inevitable. While Hodgson is holding their hand, they will forever be safe but cannot possibly progress and develop further.
Seriously, 16 Conclusions. And appoint a defensive coach.
Jose Mourinho had failed to beat the second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth youngest current Premier League managers in 2020, and is yet to face the fifth and eight youngest this calendar year.
F**king hell, Mikel.
Imagine ever dropping points at home. How embarrassing.
Those who back BTTS in Wolves games
Wolves have played 11 Premier League games since February and both teams have scored just once: in the 3-2 win over Tottenham in March. Nuno will either keep a clean sheet or tuck his opponent in. Or, as against Everton, tuck into his opponent.
What’s shorter: his arms or his chances of starting for England at next summer’s Euros? Nick Pope shits in the woods and on the competition.