Seven things we learnt from the Premier League: Arsenal must take their chances at Wembley and Chelsea need a striker
Even Mackay wouldn’t have kept Cardiff up and watch out if your team play Stoke at the end of next season
1. Arsenal will need to take their chances in the FA Cup final
Arsenal may have completely dominated the game against West Brom but could only win 1-0 thanks to Olivier Giroud's header. The visitors never particularly looked like scoring but at Wembley the Gunners will come up against a team with much more ambition. Wembley shows little mercy for teams who fail to take their chances, as Manchester City learnt last year and Arsenal themselves found in the 2011 League Cup final defeat to Birmingham.
2. Chelsea need a striker
If it wasn't obvious before, Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Norwich showed their lack of killer instinct in front of goal. Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba just aren't in the prolific category that wins titles. "In these kind of matches you just need to open the gate," said Jose Mourinho after the match. Perhaps Diego Costa will have the keys.
3. Even Mackay wouldn’t have kept Cardiff up
When Cardiff City gather for the wake that will be their final game of the season, the one question is would Malky Mackay have kept them up? Before his sacking Mackay averaged 0.94 points per Premier League game, which equates to 35 in a season. That would probably not be enough now and it would not have been in five of the past seven seasons. It also ignores the trend for promoted clubs to start a season well and then fall away. Before he was sacked, Mackay had won one of his last eight games and was averaging 0.62 points per game, although the instability created by the owner, Vincent Tan, played its part. Tan’s choice of replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, averaged 0.71 points per game which would have given Cardiff 27 points per season. Since his retirement, Sir Alex Ferguson has recommended two managers – Solskjaer and David Moyes. His career as a headhunter looks over.
4. Stoke hold the key to opponents’ misery
When the fixture list is released next month, do look to see if your team are Stoke’s final opponents at the Britannia Stadium. If they are, your club might be in trouble. In three of the last four seasons, a team has gone to the Britannia needing to win to survive. Wigan, thanks to Hugo Rodallega’s goal a dozen minutes from time, survived. A year later, in 2012, Bolton failed to conjure the win they needed to stay up and send Queen’s Park Rangers down. Fulham became the latest club to bite the dust at the Britannia and their 4-1 thrashing was so abject that, even had Rodallega been fit, it is hard to imagine his presence would have made any difference.
5. Villa win part of happy ending in West Midlands
It has not been much of a season in the West Midlands but it ended well enough with Birmingham escaping relegation in stoppage time, Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrating the League One championship at Molineux and Aston Villa producing one of their most committed performances of a dreadful season. Before the 3-1 win over Hull, Paul Lambert compared the Holte End to the Kop and Borussia Dortmund’s Sudtribune and said it would have a huge role to play. The great stands of Liverpool and Dortmund have had rather more to cheer in recent years and all Villa’s goals were scored at the other end.
6. Intense battle brewing to avoid Europa League
The battle to fill the final Europa League position was a frantic one. Tottenham began their bid by losing 2-0 at West Ham while Manchester United, suddenly presented with the prospect of lengthy sojourns in eastern Europe, lost at home to Sunderland for the first time since 1968. Given that in 2011-12 Spurs flogged themselves from Dublin to the Ural Mountains in the Europa League, finished fourth but failed to qualify for the Champions League because Chelsea had won the European Cup, you imagine they will be thrilled with their prize.
7. Swansea and Sunderland show sackings can work
It is a six-hour drive from Swansea to Sunderland, which does not make it an attractive final-day fixture. However the Stadium of Light will see the fruits of two of the more successful managerial sackings of the season come together. Gus Poyet should become the second manager, after Bryan Robson at West Bromwich Albion, to take a team bottom at Christmas to safety while Garry Monk will be confirmed as the long-term successor to Michael Laudrup, who left behind a training ground in apparent disarray. Given that he was captain for both Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, he has the pedigree to succeed.
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