Only one team, the increasingly relegation-threatened Everton, confirmed their continued presence in Europe this week. The others – Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham – either crashed out or found themselves in deep holes. The suggestion has been mooted that the Premier League now shows style over substance, and that most of the teams lack the true quality to succeed on the Continent. It’s hard to disagree with that notion when a Monaco side missing five starters embarrasses a full-strength Arsenal side playing at home. Do English clubs play too many games? Of course, and they get no help from their leagues, either. But still, players of this expense should show a bit more, yes? They didn’t.
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesDavid Price
West Ham and the elevator down
The Hammers were one of the fun stories of the season, a scrappy bunch that actually started to play good football and were rewarded with a clamber up the table for their troubles. But this week’s defeat at home by Palace signals the gloss is gone. Big Sam’s team has won only one league game since the New Year. They were humiliated by West Brom in the FA Cup, and haven’t beaten a team above them since October. They’re not going down, but given the promise they showed, this is a nasty crash back to earth.
AFP/Getty ImagesIAN KINGTON
Red cards and referees
Of course. On a week where the nabobs of football decided to delay for another year mere proposals for expanded video assistance to refs, another referee howler hit English football. This week, Roger East, apparently confusing John O’Shea with Wes Brown, sent off the wrong man in a tight game against Manchester United. Compounding the problem, PGMO, the referee’s organizing body in England, claimed no error was made at all. This is nonsense. Sunderland plan to appeal Brown’s card, and they have a case. And each week, the calls for video assistance to the refs get louder to boot.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Manchester City hit the skids
City’s many woes, oh where to start? The game against Barcelona, which was like watching an A-ball team play the San Francisco Giants? Or this weekend at Liverpool, where a team that went 120 minutes and to penalties in Turkey on Thursday looked fresher and better than a team that played just down the road on Tuesday? Or is it in the back, where captain Vincent Kompany has made bad errors in successive games? Or is it in their failure to play smart tactical football? Or to sign players with the caliber of a Yaya Toure or a Sergio Aguero as reinforcement? As it stands, City look a team loaded with questions, and out of answers. They’re also running out of hope.
Getty ImagesClive Brunskill
Philippe Coutinho's magic show
Take a bow, Mr. Coutinho, the Premier League’s player of the week. Creator of a world-class goal for Jordan Henderson, and then the man who struck a winner that excelled it, the Brazilian playmaker has to be credited with Liverpool’s late surge in form. Right now, Liverpool sit menacingly off both Arsenal and United’s bows in the Premier League table. They have an excellent chance of winning the FA Cup as well, with an easy quarterfinal tie against Blackburn, while Manchester United and Arsenal get to beat each other up. If they realize their promise, it will likely be down to Coutinho, who has brought a spark to Anfield not seen since late last season.