Manchester United have a Louis van Gaal dilemma, Arsenal defeat by Swansea damning for Wenger, Chelsea back in it

Seven things we learnt: Expect Spurs to bounce back, Leicester lead by default, Villa's rivals show them how it's done and Manchester City players must take the blame

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The Independent Football

If United finish in the top four, do they still sack Van Gaal?

A few weeks ago it was a given that Manchester United were going to miss out on the top four, Louis van Gaal would be sacked and Jose Mourinho would become the new manager at Old Trafford. But what a difference a few matches can make.

United have reeled off four straight wins – two in the Premier League against Arsenal and Watford as well as cup wins over Shrewsbury Town and Midtjylland – and are now level on points with fourth-placed Manchester City, albeit having played a game more.

It’s not out of the question that United could yet win both the FA Cup and Europa League as well as finish inside the top four, and given the way they’ve stood by Van Gaal this season already, would Ed Woodward have the nerve to sack the Dutchman off such success?

Swansea defeat far more damning for Wenger than United loss

A 3-2 defeat by Manchester United may be hard to digest, especially given the manner of the performance from the Arsenal players, but a second consecutive home loss to Swansea should be far more concerning for manager Arsene Wenger.

The fixture against a side who were sitting precariously above the relegation zone should have provided the perfect opportunity to bounce back, and it looked like it was all going to plan when Joel Campbell put the Gunners ahead. However, as is the Arsenal way at this time of the year, they fell apart defensively and allowed Wayne Routledge to break straight through the middle of the centre-backs, before Ashley Williams completed their misery. Just as much as one win can mean so much, one defeat can prove pivotal for Wenger’s future.

Tottenham loss is merely a setback after a busy week

Tottenham can once again be accused of choking after seeing the chance to top the Premier League go begging, but this isn’t the case. Spurs were visibly tired against a much more lively West Ham side – who it must be said have found their form – and despite Mauricio Pochettino freshening up his side by resting Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele, the effects of recent matches against Fiorentina and Swansea evidently took their toll.

Expect a Spurs side filled  with youth, enthusiasm and energy to rebound in the perfect manner at the weekend by defeating north London rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane in a result that could eliminate the gunners from the title picture.

Leicester lead the way almost by default

Leicester's rise from bottom to the top of the Premier League has been nothing short of fascinating to watch, but at times it feels like they are only leading the way because no one else can take advantage when they slip up. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with West Brom left them vulnerable to Spurs, only for West Ham to defeat the north London side and halt their run of good form.

Both Arsenal and Manchester City have also slipped up when offered the chance to leapfrog the Foxes, and while this should take nothing away from their success should Claudio Ranieri’s side seal the most incredible title victory seen in the Premier League era, big questions must be asked of the also-rans.

Rivals are giving Chelsea a chance

Jose Mourinho sacked, fans turning on the players and Chelsea sitting one place above the relegation zone. Who’d have thought that little over two months later, Chelsea would sit just three points off a possible European qualification place and eight points off the top four.

Guus Hiddink should be praised for turning the heads of the Chelsea players and getting them back to what they do best, even if the performances are nowhere near what they produced during last season’s title-winning run. If Hiddink can somehow lead Chelsea into the top four, the man should be held in just as high regard at Stamford Bridge as his predecessor Mourinho.

Relegation candidates show Villa how it’s done

Bournemouth, Swansea and Sunderland all picked up results that could go a long way to securing their top flight status this week, but what has happened at Aston Villa? Not one player at Villa Park appears willing to throw down everything they have to try and retain the club’s Premier League status, yet a glimpse at their rivals provides a glimpse of what the players should be doing.

The Cherries ran their socks off in their 2-0 victory over rivals Southampton on Tuesday, while Sunderland rallied to pick up a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace to edge out of the relegation zone and make Villa’s task that little bit harder. Swansea’s victory over Arsenal now gives them a nice six-point buffer over the chasing pack, but for Villa, you only need to see any of their matches in 2016 to see the writing is on the wall.

How it feels to be a Villa fan

Pellegrini wouldn’t deliberately lose – but the players must take blame

There have been suggestions that Manchester City’s alarming drop in form has been due to the announcement that manager Manuel Pellegrini will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season. Some have even gone as far as to raise the possibility that Pellegrini would hand over a team that would be plying their trade in the Europa League next season deliberately, but this would be deeply insulting to the Chilean known as “This Charming Man” at the Etihad stadium.

The same cannot be said of the players though. Despite winning the Capital One Cup at the weekend, they were taken to penalties by an inferior Liverpool side, and on Wednesday night they were roundly thumped by the same team. Many expected the return of Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany to lift the side, but they continue to struggle and now look very unlikely to regain the Premier league they lost to Chelsea last season. That summer squad revamp can’t come soon enough.