In my weekly column on SWOL, I take a look back at the weekend’s English Premier League and domestic cup action and the talking points that it throws up, as well as any significant news related to English football at large.
Follow me @theredarmchair for regular updates throughout the week.
EPL Round 28 Recap: Tottenham Take Over, Liverpool Run Riot, QPR Start Again?
At this point, “United march on” seems like an overused phrase in this column, so let’s ignore the fast-ending title race in Manchester and head over to the power shift taking place in London.
Yes, we’re kind of talking about Chelsea and how they are still in for a top four finish after the side’s narrow 1-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion. But we’re talking much more about Tottenham Hotspur’s impressive win over Arsenal on Sunday, which gave Spurs a seven-point lead over the Gunners with eight games to go in the season.
Insurmountable? Perhaps. But this result also confirms Spurs as the Premier League’s form team from London, and no one can begrudge them a third-place finish following a fine first season with Andre Villas-Boas in charge.
Creeping behind Arsenal, suddenly, are Liverpool, whose emphatic 4-0 away win at Wigan Athletic brought them up to 42 points and five away from the Gunners. Everton’s 3-1 win against Reading ensured that they remain three points ahead of their Merseyside rivals at the moment, but with the Reds enjoying a relatively smooth ride until the end of the season (on paper at least) and with Brendan Rodgers’ side coming into fine goal-scoring form, maybe a late charge for a Europa League place cannot be ruled out. A special mention is also in order for Philippe Coutinho, who took quite a few breaths away with his two ingenious assists against the Latics.
Another team who secured a good result this weekend was QPR, whose 2-1 away win at Southampton got them up to 20 points, three behind second-bottom Reading. Loic Remy might not have been happy with leaving Marseille, but as long as he is scoring goals for Rangers, Harry Redknapp won’t mind one bit. Mauricio Pochettino has been winning plaudits for instilling a relentless pressing game at St. Mary’s since replacing Nigel Adkins, but he has got a relegation fight on his hands; the Saints are just three points from the relegation zone.
But back to Harry: is another Great Escape on the cards?
Goal-line technology arrives in the EPL! (Soon!)
After last week’s announcement that goal-line technology was approved by the International Football Association Board, the Premier League released a statement saying that it wanted the technology in England’s top flight “as soon as practically possible.”
For all of the controversy that has surrounded English football (needlessly, in my opinion), this is a major step and could pave the way for further advancements down the line.
Naturally, there has been talk from football purists that the decision will ruin the game and strip away the human element from it. Far from it. A bit of technology will not hurt the game, and with goals legitimately chalked off or awarded from a replay that referees otherwise wouldn’t be able to access, fans will only benefit from this decision.
Football Finance: Debts at Liverpool and an Arsenal Takeover?
This past week was pivotal for Premier League finances, with Liverpool announcing their yearly accounts for the period between August 2011 and May 2012, and rumors of a big-money Middle Eastern takeover at Arsenal.
First, the Liverpool figures. The period covered in the statement included big-money transfers like Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson; other players on considerable wages including Jose Enrique, Craig Bellamy and Sebastian Coates; and contract extensions for Steven Gerrard.
Setting aside all the talk about failed transfer policies and the dismissals of Director of Football Damien Comolli and manager Kenny Dalglish, the accounts themselves already provide sobering reading for Liverpool fans.
But there is reason for hope.
Since May 2012, Liverpool have embarked on a remarkable cost-cutting period, letting go of fringe players on big wages and sealing a number of commercial deals to boost club income. With Brendan Rodgers championing a youth and local-first policy and Liverpool buying value for money in Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho, we can almost be certain that their accounts this time next year will be much rosier.
And, the outlook for Arsenal might be rosier still if the unnamed Middle East consortium firmup their interest in the Gunners with an actual bid. The prospect is mouthwatering enough: wiping out debts, reducing ticket prices and boosting the transfer budget.
With Arsenal’s future in the Champions League in real jeopardy now, this would be the ideal timing for a takeover to ensure that money is still in the coffers to bankroll substantial signings to take them back into Europe’s top club competition. Plus, for those cynics among us, isn’t it about time to give Arsene Wenger some real financial power and see what he can really do? The manager has emphasized Arsenal’s lack of funds since the Emirates Stadium move time and time again. With a new set of owners, he would have to deliver. And that would suit all parties just fine.