With the finish line now in sight, teams continue to grapple away for precious points in what has been another remarkable Premier League season.
It was a potentially massive weekend at the bottom of the table and indeed in the race for European places. Here’s a look at five things we learned from the best of the action.
Norwich City down after Antonio masterclass at Carrow Road
It had been on the cards for some time, but Norwich City’s miserable run of form finally culminated in their relegation after Saturday’s dismal drubbing at home to West Ham. Their 24th defeat of the season saw the Canaries become the first team to be relegated from the Premier League on five separate occasions.
However, it was another wonderful individual display by West Ham attacker Michail Antonio that condemned Norwich to their fate. The 30-year-old has been the Hammer’s best player since the restart and duly smashed home four goals to help steer his side further away from the relegation places.
He was at the heart of virtually every West Ham move on Saturday and looked near unplayable at times, albeit against a side that looked abject and dejected for much of the proceedings at Carrow Road.
The first West Ham United player to bag 4️⃣ goals in a single Premier League match!
— West Ham United (@WestHam) July 11, 2020
Nick Pope strengthens his claim to be England’s number one with Anfield heroics
Burnley keeper Nick Pope was in inspired form on Saturday as he thwarted wave after wave of Liverpool attack to keep his side in the contest at Anfield.
Eight times he made smart stops to keep the champions at bay. A point-blank reflex save to keep out a driven Mo Salah effort before a fully stretched acrobatic dive to deny Sadio Mane’s shot as it flew toward the top corner were the picks of the bunch during a 1-1 draw for the Lancashire outfit on Saturday.
His handling and decision making were also very solid in an assured display from the 28-year-old. Yes, Liverpool were terribly wasteful, but full credit must go to the England international for a convincing display that highlights his present suitability to usurp Everton’s Jordan Pickford as the national team’s number one.
Determined McGoldrick powers impressive Sheffield United to big win over Chelsea
After his side’s 3-0 pasting in Sheffield on Saturday a dejected Frank Lampard hinted at a lack of fight and courage from his players during yet another morale draining result. The Chelsea boss said he could not even hear his own players out on the pitch as they were drowned out by the fierce battle cries of their Sheffield United counterparts.
The contrast between the two sides was stark, to say the least, and perhaps no player epitomised the Blades collective determination more than David McGoldrick. The veteran striker has been industrious this season for Chris Wilder’s side but was yet to score in the top-flight despite 42 attempts on goal going into this game.
His poacher’s brace on Saturday evening flew in the face of his previously shoddy Premier League record and showed just how much spirit has been cultivated in Chris Wilder’s side. The 32-year-old was in the right place on two occasions to prod home a couple of close-range efforts which kept his side’s European hopes alive whilst also badly denting Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions.
Hard work. Elegance. Ability.
David McGoldrick was at his exceptional best yesterday ? pic.twitter.com/rdzPRJ9J22
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) July 12, 2020
Spurs show signs of adaption to Mourinho’s methods during North London derby victory
It was very much a war of attrition during the second half of Spurs North London derby victory on Sunday afternoon. For the most part, Arsenal tried to play most of the football, pinging passes around and trying to stretch their opponents. On the other hand, Spurs looked decidedly comfortable operating with a tight defensive shape that gave the visitors little joy.
Jose Mourinho has been open in stating his desire to transform Spurs into a much tighter defensive unit under his stewardship and that was clearly evident in their smash and grab 2-1 victory. Spurs looked disciplined and patient, prepared to yield possession to their more silky opponents. In the end, it was in many ways a classic performance straight out of the Mourinho playbook.
It may not be easy on the eye but Toby Alderweireld’s late header had a sense of inevitability as Jose extended his unbeaten home record against Arsenal to ten games. This result also means that Gunners have now surrendered a startling 21 points from winning positions this season.
“We are happy because we made the fans happy” ?
Jose Mourinho is pleased to deliver the Tottenham fans all three points in his first north London derby ✅ pic.twitter.com/Mqgz8AXtxp
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 12, 2020
Kasper Schmeichel errors see Leicester collapse at Bournemouth
Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel is often hailed as one of the best in the league, a reliable stopper who will win you more than his fair share of points over 38 matches. However, it was an evening to forget for the Foxes number one as his two big errors opened up the floodgates and allowed Bournemouth to inflict a bruising defeat on the Champions League chasers.
The Denmark international was first guilty of hacking a straight forward clearance straight against the back of Wilfred Ndidi before Callum Wilson was then tripped in the box as he bore down to punish the hapless keeper; a clear penalty even for VAR. Just 41 seconds later Schmeichel was unable to keep out Dominic Solanke’s effort which while cleanly struck, was pretty much straight at the big Dane.
Within two minutes the game had been turned completely on its head and after Çaglar Soyuncu saw red for a petulant kick on Wilson in the aftermatch of Solanke’s goal, the match was dead in the water for Brendan Rodger’s men who collapsed to a sobering 4-1 defeat. Suddenly that top-four spot which looked nailed on for them at the turn of the year is hanging in the balance.