5 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend
Published 13/03/2016 | 18:41
1 THE FAVOURITES HAVE FAILED
Flash back to September and it seemed like a straight shoot-out between Manchester City and Chelsea for this season's Barclays Premier League title - but this weekend served to show why they have fallen short. Left in limbo by the impending departure of Manuel Pellegrini, City surely saw any remaining title aspirations snuffed out by a frustrating goalless draw at Norwich - and now find themselves facing an unthinkable battle to preserve their place in the top four. At Chelsea, too, there is a feeling that the end of the season cannot come soon enough. Guus Hiddink's mini-revival has gradually faded and his side's FA Cup defeat at Everton showcased the Stamford Bridge side as a shadow of the side they once were in the long-gone days of Jose Mourinho's pomp.
2 NEWCASTLE ARE STILL A BIG CLUB
Barring the phenomenal support of their long-suffering fan-base, Newcastle have done everything possible in recent years to shake off the suggestion that they are still one of the English game's sleeping giants. An abject slide into the Premier League relegation zone, and the departures of Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren, seemed to slowly consign the Toon Army to almost certain relegation. Then, out of nowhere, the Magpies managed to convince former Champions League winner Rafael Benitez to take up the reins for the frantic run-in - and hopefully beyond. In one swoop, the image of Newcastle as a significant player has been somehow restored.
3 BOURNEMOUTH HAVE A BRIGHT FUTURE
Few gave Bournemouth much hope of extending their top-flight stay beyond a single season, especially when their encouraging start looked set to end in a gritty relegation struggle. But back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Swansea have all but ended fears that Eddie Howe's men might face the drop. They have survived - seemingly - having defiantly refused to compromise their attacking ideals, and brought a wonderfully bright attitude to this most unpredictable of seasons. Saturday's hard-fought win over Swansea showed the Cherries have fight as well as flair - and next season's Premier League will be all the better for it.
4 ARSENAL AREN'T READY
They might have been in FA Cup action, but in their defeat to Watford Arsenal once again underlined why they are simply incapable of taking this most glorious of chances to reclaim the Premier League title. Defensive frailty, alarming inconsistency up front and increasing unrest surrounding the tactics and transfer policy of Arsene Wenger have combined to cut the Gunners adrift. If they could not raise their game to defend their proud FA Cup record at home to Watford, what chance of sparking a stirring run-in which can somehow seemingly hail back the eight-point margin between themselves and Leicester? Answer: slim and none.
5 TOTTENHAM ARE THE REAL DEAL
Defeat at West Ham and a frustrating draw against 10-man Arsenal raised grave doubts over Tottenham's ability to go the distance in the Premier League title race. In that context, Sunday's trip to rock-bottom Aston Villa represented the mother of all banana skins. But a dominant performance - admittedly against such feeble opposition - has enhanced Spurs' claims to being probably the only club still capable of preventing a Leicester miracle. Mauricio Pochettino's men will approach the run-in with renewed confidence, and have piled the pressure on the Foxes ahead of a banana skin of their own - against Benitez's Newcastle - on Monday.