FOX Soccer Exclusive
Who will join QPR in relegation heap?
When I was at Derby, there was a moment when I knew we were going to be relegated. We’d lost a game late in the season, it was against Newcastle at home, and all of us were sitting in the dressing room with the same sick feeling in the pits of our stomachs. It was horrible, and I’ve never forgotten that.
That’s what the lads at QPR are feeling tonight. They had a must-win game Sunday against Wigan and they did not win it. I think that’s the final nail in the coffin for them. It’s a shame, because I thought for most of the game, they showed the fight that you need to survive in the Premier League.
Bobby Zamora got sent off for a boot to the face of Jordi Gomez – correctly, I don’t know what Zamora was thinking -- but the way QPR played, you would have thought they had a full team out there. Then, when Loic Remy scored – a beauty of a goal, very late – I think everyone at Loftus Road felt they’d done enough.
But QPR have been undone all season long by mistakes. Stephane M’Bia goes and makes a silly foul to concede the free kick in the final minute of stoppage, and then Shaun Maloney makes them pay with a goal right over the wall.
I will say if there’s a man that can pull off the impossible, it is Harry Redknapp. He’s saying all the right things, and he will not let his team give up. But it’s going to take more than magic – miracles, I think.
At the other end of the table, it was a good weekend again for Arsenal. They are enjoying their traditional late surge in form and got a solid win against a very tricky West Brom despite having Per Mertesacker sent off. I think you can see the confidence in this squad now. They’ve won six of their last seven league games, Gervinho is finally showing his value to the club, and Santi Cazorla continues to be one of the signings of the season.
But I think the catalyst was changing the man in the net. Keeper Lukas Fabianski didn’t have the best game Saturday, but overall, the defense looks far more composed and settled in front of him than it did under Wojciech Szczesny. Chelsea and Tottenham now have a real challenge from the Gunners for that Champions League slot.
And Spurs are worrying. They depend so much on Gareth Bale and with him out injured for at least two, if not three weeks, they are going to struggle. I think we saw some frailty against a good Everton side Sunday; Spurs go up very quickly thanks to Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebayor but they cannot hold on. Everton were also missing two of their best players with Steven Pienaar and Maroune Fellaini out suspended. Andre Villas-Boas is going to have to get in and sort that out – they cannot be a one-man team at this level.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have steadied a bit. They came off a solid win in the Europa League – a title they can win, mind you – with a good response to a very energetic Sunderland side under new manager Paolo Di Canio. I think Rafa Benitez will be very pleased with the week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves a few men home from Russia in order to prepare for a very difficult FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City – that’s live on the channel this Sunday at 11 ET.
I also want to talk about Aston Villa and Stoke. Paul Lambert got a desperately needed win over the Potters, and it’s massive for the Villans. Villa have now won three of their last four games in the league and look like they have the belief to keep them up. And what a goal by Matthew Lowton – that’s a goal of the year!
Stoke, on the other hand, look in deep trouble: Tony Pulis normally has this bunch playing very tough. They look lost, and I don’t see many answers. Form at this time of year is so important and with each week, the pressure will mount. Pulis knows it, he said his team needs to show character and he’s right. But they have some tough games ahead – they run right into Manchester United next.
Finally, I want to congratulate my old club. I think you saw what their win over Fulham meant by how Alan Pardew went right to the stands after Papiss Cisse scored. It’s been a difficult season, riddled with injury and disappointment, seeing Pardew go right to the fans speaks volumes. He knows what this club means to the city.
We have some very big games coming up this week, with Real Madrid and Galatasaray on Tuesday (2 PM ET) and Barcelona hosting PSG on the Wednesday (2 PM ET). We’ve got three big Europa League games on Thursday with Spurs and Newcastle trying to get through alongside Chelsea in Russia, and then we’re into the FA Cup this weekend. This truly is a feast of football, and I do hope you join us.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2. You can also ask me a question any time @FOXSoccer using the hash tag #heywarren. You’ve probably noticed a new look on that feed – we’re very excited about it. And I love bantering with you guys, so do send a message!
Thanks as always for reading and watching. I’ll see you Tuesday!
More Stories From Warren Barton