Momentum is a huge factor at this time of the season at the top and bottom of the table. Looking back to last Saturday’s game between West Brom and Cardiff, with a minute to go I was thinking Cardiff were in huge trouble. West Brom looked like they’d go six points clear of them and it would be backs against the wall for Cardiff. All of a sudden though, Cardiff got to the other end of the field and scored. In that one moment you almost felt that even though West Brom stayed above Cardiff in the table, they’d lost the momentum and Cardiff had gained something even if they hadn’t in terms of the actual points margin.
Cardiff are probably the most likely to get out of trouble. I felt earlier in the season that they’d stay up, even before Ole Gunnar Solskjær got the job. I have to say I’ve doubted that a couple of times in the last few weeks but I thought last weekend was a big one for them in getting that point and not letting West Brom get away from them.
Fulham are in big trouble. Even though they played well in the first half last weekend, Everton didn’t need to be at their best to beat them 3-1. Sunderland’s game on Monday night was one that they will have been looking at as one they must win. I look at the fixtures that they have left and although they’ve got a couple of games in hand, I worry that they’re nowhere near playing well enough and have a horrendous run of games coming up, away to Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. I just don’t see any momentum with them whatsoever. To stay up, Sunderland need to find their best form of the season now.
I don’t think any of the teams at the top of the league, or those fighting for fourth place, will win all their remaining games, I really don’t. I can’t see Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal or Everton winning all their matches. Chelsea have lost momentum recently as they don’t have a centre forward of prominence. Jose Mourinho seems completely at odds that he doesn’t have a world class striker to call upon at this time of the season. Think about Chelsea teams of the past, they always had Didier Drogba or they could call on Nicolas Anelka or Hernan Crespo. You look at them now and they’re toothless. The mystery for me with Chelsea is what has happened to Demba Ba? Does Mourinho not want to use him or give him a chance? I genuinely believe he can be a real handful from what I’ve seen of him in the Premier League. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been used as a striker at Chelsea when Fernando Torres is struggling and Samuel Eto’o is injured!
I thought Everton would struggle to maintain their good form but I thought last weekend was a sign that they’re not going away and that they are going to chip away at Arsenal. I thought that despite winning at Fulham, they didn’t play particularly well. I thought they lacked a little bit of energy after their midweek exertions at Newcastle and that’s understandable. They showed a level of toughness though, both physically and mentally, against Fulham which makes Sunday’s game at Goodison Park so intriguing.
My honest view on fourth place is that Arsenal will hang on to it, even if Everton beat them on Sunday. If Everton do win, it’ll give them an incredible chance. If Arsenal can win on Sunday though, from their point of view they’ll be unstoppable in terms of securing that fourth spot because their run in is a lot more friendly than Everton’s which is why I think they’ll hang on. I do think they’ve got to try and get Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey back and get Olivier Giroud firing again.
I thought Ross Barkley was fantastic against Newcastle recently. Even when Barkley came off at half time against Fulham, his replacement Steven Naismith came on and produced a Man of the Match performance. Playing in the Number 10 role for Everton, Gerard Deulofeu is causing big problems while Kevin Mirallas looked bright against Fulham. They’ve got really good options in attacking areas. At the back Phil Jagielka has missed the last few weeks but John Stones, the young English centre back, has played really well there and shown his level of talent. Whatever happens from now, Everton have still had an incredible season.
People are saying that Newcastle have switched off as we get to the end of the season but I think that’s because they lost real confidence when Yohan Cabaye left. He looked like he was a leader of the French players at the club. I think his move to Paris Saint-Germain has really hampered them. You could say that Southampton are in the same safe position too but they’re playing particularly well and you could argue that the English players there are wanting to impress ahead of the World Cup.
One of those players is Adam Lallana and what I’ve seen in him is real intelligence. His intelligence and awareness is aligned with hard work and a good attitude. I have to say watching him last season he showed glimpses of quality, but now watching him he shows those glimpses of quality in most games. I have to say, he’s been really impressive this year, a real attraction. His goal last weekend was outstanding. He’s got two good feet. He holds on to the ball well. He keeps his head up, aware of his teammates. He’s got huge energy. He’s got an appetite for defending and dispossessing people. He’s had a really, really top season, he’s been a joy to watch.