So we’re on the cusp of season’s end. And unlike some previous occasions, we’re in for a bit of a soft ending to the 2016/17 Premier League season. The bottom-dwellers have been given their pink slips. The title and second place are headed to London. The only bit of business to be decided on the final day this coming Sunday is who will finish in the two remaining Champions League positions. Who between Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City will be the first to blink!
While the Arsenal have made a pretty good fist of things since the beginning of April, collecting 19 of the 27 points on offer thereby putting some much needed daylight between themselves and the Red Devils. Unfortunately, two bad losses to fellow Londoners in Crystal Palace and the hated Spurs have prevented them from making up ground lost in the first couple of months of the year. But a stunning 4–1 victory at the Britannia Stadium put paid to a recent bogey Stoke has held over the Gunners. Hope floats.
At the foot of the table, an excellent 2–0 Swansea win at the Stadium of Light over the hapless David Moyes and the even more hapless Black Cats – barring the stand-out Jermaine Defoe – have saved the former from the dog-eat-dog world of the Championship, where former big names are shown no respect nor given any quarter. It has to be said that Paul Clement has done a fantastic job in getting the Swans to claw their way to safety, and good luck to them for next season. But my sympathies lie with Marco Silva, the manager of Hull City, if not the club itself.
Appointed manager at the beginning of the year, Silva must have wondered what he’d let himself in for, given the perilous state of things with the Tigers. While its true that both the Portuguese and Greek leagues are a way behind the Premier League in terms of strength and quality, Silva brought an excellent managerial record with him to Hull. And it almost paid off. Were it not for the abysmal points return under Mike Phelan, we could well have seen Hull in the top flight next season, and perhaps Swansea in the amongst the bottom dwellers. So I’m sticking my neck out again and predicting a swift return to the Premier League for Hull, as long as Silva remains the man in charge. Given the job he’s done, there’s no earthly reason why he should be given the old ‘heave-ho’, unless if he chooses to leave, as I’m positive some continental clubs will come sniffing at the Tigers’ lair.
The biggest disappointment of the season – at least amongst managers – is David Moyes. He came into the Stadium of Light with the ghosts of football past hanging over him. And it showed. He didn’t seem to inspire much confidence, given his own dour demeanour, and pretty much from the get-go he announced the season would be a struggle for Sunderland. A real lesson in geeing up the troops for the battle ahead, where you need to fight for your right to belong. Hence it’s no wonder that the Black Cats have been sucked into the abyss.
David Moyes has always been a bit of an enigma to me. Never in a million years was he good enough to manage Manchester United, and after this most recent managerial debacle, I’d be very surprised if he gets anywhere near a big club hot seat for the rest of his career. Those more learned in the ways of football than I, always refers to his management of cash-strapped Everton and the wonders he performed with them. That he certainly did – drawing on the backs-to-the-wall mentality to usher in a period of relative success for the Toffees. But a serious misjudgement on Sir Alex’s part in naming Moyes as his successor, the wheels have well and truly come off. And they’re gonna stay off, as far as I’m concerned.
So the North East of England will lose two clubs to the Championship. But Newcastle under Rafa Benitez (remember him?) makes it back to the top flight at his first time of asking. One for the price of two? A bad deal for the region, if ever there was one.