Pressure is on Liverpool from here on out.
Yesterday’s victory over Manchester City makes Liverpool the outright favourites for the title. They may still have to play Chelsea but their form is such that they should fear no one at Anfield.
In the run up to yesterday’s crucial clash with City, Brendan Rodgers did all he could to take the pressure off of his side. He pointed to the expectations of both sides at the beginning of the season and told the press that all the scrutiny was on Manuel Pellegrini’s expensively assembled outfit. Rodgers can’t expect anyone to buy the “no pressure line” from here on out.
It doesn’t matter if you start the season hoping to make the Champions League or to just avoid relegation; if you are top of the table with 4 games left the pressure is no longer on the teams below you. No matter how understanding your fans are, or how calm the players appear in interviews, expectations rise and nerves jangle.
Liverpool go to Norwich next weekend with the Canaries desperately battling against the drop. Jordan Henderson, a stand out performer all season, is suspended for three games after a rash tackle late on yesterday.
It goes without saying but every game Liverpool play from here on out will be tougher than the last. The weight of 24 years is upon them.
Arsenal celebrate close call against Wigan.
Arsenal players’ celebrations in the aftermath of Saturday’s FA cup semi-final were worthy of FA Cup champions. Perhaps it was the adrenalin coursing through the veins following a penalty shoot-out, or relief at still being in the hunt for silverware this season, but celebrating a win over a Championship side (even if they are current FA Cup holders) is not something to shout about.
It’s unlikely that former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, or indeed his nemesis Roy Keane, would find something worth celebrating in such a narrow win. For much of Saturday’s game it looked like Wigan would be on their way to a second consecutive FA Cup final. The Latics were aggressive and persistent in closing down Arsenal and in players like Callum McManaman they had the ability to worry the Gunners’ defenders.
Arsene Wenger may yet leave at the end of this season, and if he is to leave Arsenal the gift of a first trophy in almost a decade then his side will have to perform much better in May’s decider against Hull City.
Luck plays a part at both ends of the league.
Everton went to Sunderland at the weekend desperate to leapfrog Arsenal into the fourth and final Champion’s League spot. Their opponents needed a win to kickstart a climb from the bottom of the table.
The two sides huffed and puffed for the majority of the game, with few standout performers. Gerard Delofeu was perhaps the most likely to make a difference and in the 75th minute it was his cross that deflected off of Wes Brown and past a stricken Vito Mannone.
With such tight margins at the top and bottom of the table, that one goal could go a long way to seeing Sunderland relegated and Everton playing in the Champions League. Such is football.