Good day to you. Black & White is a new column which, I won’t lie, is primarily named as such because it mixes my surname with the colours of my football club and is a common phrase. Whether the content matches up to the title is very much up for debate, but we’ve got a graphic now so let the black & whiteness begin.
Relegation Battle Heats Up
I have to admit I was surprised by how tight the relegation battle became this weekend. I had written Stoke and Southampton off on the grounds that neither ever win but both are now within a win of safety. Granted Southampton’s position is a little happier, having a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference to the sides they are chasing but West Ham and Huddersfield are now nervously looking over their shoulders. There’s some huge clashes still to come, particularly Swansea hosting Southampton and Stoke. You couldn’t ask for a better fixture list as a neutral as we’re looking at two 6 pointers if nobody messes it up in the meantime.
Huddersfield will be lucky to get another point looking at their games which leaves them vulnerable but the situation at West Ham is interesting. They too are only 3 points up the road and face Leicester and Man Utd before finishing against… Sam Allardyce’s West Ham. You better believe Big Sam holds a grudge and if that means relegating his former employers on the last day of the season, there’ll be pints of wine all round.
Trial by Television
It seems every week now we have the pundits on Match of the Day (other highlights shows are available) picking up on every incident that happens that doesn’t result in a red card. But only when it suits them. They couldn’t get a replay of Islam Slimani’s little kick out on TV quick enough, but we weren’t treated to a replay of Mo Salah’s petulant lash out. Fair enough he didn’t connect with the Stoke player but why does one warrant air time (and a subsequent ban) and the other is brushed under the carpet? Surely they are both red card offences and with TV footage available, ban both or neither. I don’t know why our FA create such a pickle for themselves.
The Championship is always good value, unless you’re in it of course, but it’s a league that has just enough quality to be watchable whilst having the unpredictability factor thrown in for good measure. Seeing as the Wolves owner wondered what would happen if you put Porto in the Championship (spoiler: they won the league at a canter) we have to look elsewhere for the last day drama. Fulham, the people’s champions, look like they will have to settle for the playoffs unless Neil Warnock’s Cardiff mess up on the final day, but the real fun comes at the bottom of the table. 5 teams could be relegated and with 2 places still to be filled, none of them can rest easy. Handily for TV, 4 of the teams involved are playing four of the teams in the promotion/play off race, so at least you only have to keep an eye on a handful of games this Sunday.
Only a fool would predict the Championship, but I’m backing Burton and Barnsley to go down. I think Bolton will be able to beat Nottingham Forest which will ultimately seal their fate.
The Worst Season Ever?
I honestly think I will struggle to recall any memorable moments of this season in about 6 months time. That’s not on account of my slowly becoming more senile, but the fact that most of the major European leagues were decided long ago. Man City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG…Celtic. All won with games to spare. Serie A keeps threatening to be interesting but some good old Italian officiating soon settled that on Saturday night. Liverpool’s Champions League run has been a breath of fresh air, obviously helped by the emergence of Mo Salah as a global superstar, however, it’s been fairly serene progress for them so far. Whether the second legs will provide any drama remains to be seen but I’m hoping for a Real Madrid/Liverpool final.
Do it for Arsene
On that note, I want to end with a rallying cry to the players at Arsenal. Some players in that squad have more or less taken the piss for the past few years knowing that they can get away with it due to their manager’s shortcomings. Be that as it may, that stubborn old man has put 22 years of his life into that club and Thursday may well be his last competitive game as manager. I say that having watched them play Sunday’s testimonial with Man Utd at walking pace. Give him the send off he deserves and try not to lose 3-0. Nobody wants to see Diego Costa smile.
Still, I guess his last game in management could be relegating Huddersfield. What a way to go out.
I’ll be back soon with more words of wisdom. Bye for now.