Manchester United and Arsenal gift Liverpool a top four place, Leicester were right to sack Claudio Ranieri

Five things we learned: West Brom's run of form hits a shuddering halt, Turf Moor keeps Burnley afloat and why Sunderland's backing of David Moyes is nothing but a stay of execution

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The Independent Football

United and Arsenal have handed Liverpool a top four place on a plate

A month ago, Liverpool may have resided in the top four but they looked incredibly vulnerable as both Manchester United and Arsenal held two games in hand on them and were well within touching distance. Yet both clubs have faltered massively, with United winning just one of their four Premier League games while Arsenal have not won in the league since 11 February.

Now, both United and Arsenal can move to 57 points if they win their games in hand, a tally that will still be two short of Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp appeared in a confident mood on Tuesday as he talked up his side’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League, as he made the very good point in that their rivals still need to play each other and will drop points as a result.

If either go on to miss out on the top four, they only have themselves to blame for cracking when the pressure was on.

Leicester owners can still be criticised – but they were right to sack Ranieri

The outpouring of anger that followed Leicester’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri, the man who brought the club’s greatest success to the King Power Stadium last season, was justified as a sad indictment of the cut-throat nature of modern football.

But six weeks and six games down the line, you cannot argue against Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s decision to axe the Italian. His replacement, Craig Shakespeare, has lifted the outgoing Premier League champions from the relegation zone to 10th and has almost guaranteed safety with eight games remaining – his exact mission briefing when taking the job until the end of the season.

The football romantics may argue that Ranieri deserved to see out the season even if it meant relegation, but with the millions on offer – and at risk – in the Premier League, this is why big decisions need to be taken, no matter how sentimental the impact may be.

West Brom grounded with a bump

After beating Arsenal 3-1 and securing a hard-fought draw at Manchester United, Tony Pulis must have been confident at getting a result against Watford on Tuesday night. The opposite happened though, as M’Baye Niang and Troy Deeney ensured that not even Miguel Britos’s red card could halt them Hornets from virtually guaranteeing their place in next season’s Premier League.

While Watford are yet to cross the 40-point mark, they should pick up the three points needed to get over the supposed safety point in their next eight games, but for West Brom the problems may just be starting.

The Baggies are safe with 44 points, but now have little to play for given the seven-point gap to seventh-placed Everton. With a tricky run of fixtures coming up against Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester, it’s hard to see what will motivate the players against what on paper is better opposition.

Turf Moor fortress will see Burnley home

At the turn of the year, it appeared that Burnley would stay afloat this season solely due to their home form at Turf Moor. After their 1-0 victory over Stoke City on Tuesday, that’s certainly been proven correct.

Burnley have taken just three points from their 15 away league games this season, the worst record across the top four English leagues bar already-relegated Rotherham and their solitary point in the Championship this season. While the impact of Turf Moor and the Burnley fans is clearly a positive, Sean Dyche will be concerned over how he gets the best out of his side when they hit the road, but that’s a question for next season.

This season, Burnley are edging towards safety with 35 points to their name, and if they can take five-to-seven points from their remaining three matches at home, Dyche should be preparing for another well-deserved campaign in the top tier.

Sunderland down and out after week to forget for Moyes

As weeks go, they don’t come much worse than what David Moyes has experienced these last few days. Sunderland saw their winless league run stretch to six games in defeats by Watford and Leicester, his side now sit eight points from safety and, to top it all off, he’s just about clung on to his job after telling a reporter she "might get a slap even though you're a woman".

While the first two are results of having an inadequate team to cope with Premier League demands and years of surviving by the skin of their teeth, the last one is a sad indictment of what Moyes believes is acceptable to tell anyone in a professional environment.

Though he will keep his job after Sunderland confirmed they are not looking to dismiss him over his comments, it feels a stay of execution. The former Everton and Manchester United manager will almost certainly be sacked at the end of the season if and when the Black Cats are relegated, as they now require the most unlikeliest of fightbacks to stay afloat this season. That may even be beyond Sunderland’s remarkable ability to survive when the odds are against them.

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