Emotions run high as Liverpool's giant win caps off historic weekend
APR 13, 2014 6:09p ET
Between FA Cup action and dramatic Premier League matches, this weekend didn't disappoint.
To start, Arsenal's FA Cup semifinal win against Wigan Athletic was the biggest result for Arsene Wenger's managerial career in my book. Per Mertesacker's goal has kept him in his job. The Gunners were just minutes away from being eliminated and showed character in finishing the job even though it took penalties to do it. Arsenal will surely look back at this result and use it as motivation.
In Sunday's other semifinal, I'm very happy to see Hull City go through to their first FA Cup final in club history. I must admit, I've got a soft spot for Hull because that's where my mother is from. I thought they had a good second half performance. Heading into the final against Arsenal, the Tigers are definitely the underdogs, but they also understand that the pressure is on solely Arsenal. There's an opportunity there for Steve Bruce's men to surprise everyone and he must use it to his advantage next month.
Sunday's gigantic Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was one for the ages. It is a massive three points for Brendan Rodgers and the Reds, and was a real statement in support of their title credentials. People were looking at that game to see how they can handle the pressure, and they held it together masterfully against the Manchester giants.
We do have to talk about the Martin Skrtel's handball in the second half, a serious point of contention in this one. It was clearly a hand ball, and Liverpool got away with it. Sometimes in sport, you need a bit of help from lady luck. Fortunately for Liverpool, they took the opportunity and never looked back.
The Reds have another huge game coming up before the end of the season against Chelsea, but even with that looming, Liverpool have one on the trophy. Steven Gerrard's leadership has been helping to drive that team. The raw emotion he showed after the match shows just how important that game was -- not only because of the title race, but also to honor the memory of the 96 lives lost in the Hillsborough tragedy. It highlighted the whole romance of Liverpool Football Club. It's a historic club, and has always been about the people. I'm very pleased for the club and this phenomenal season they're having. The fans deserve to smile.
We still can't count Chelsea out of the title race, as they keep chipping away. As I said last week, the Blues won't give up until the very end. Of any team in the Premier League at the moment, they will relish the trip to Anfield against the league leaders. Jose Mourinho, despite his comments a couple of weeks ago, clearly knows his side is still in it. If they win out, they have a very good shot at winning the league. One slip from Manchester City, and it's theirs.
The surprise top four club this season has been Everton, and honestly the Toffees deserve to be up there. They have been very consistent this season, led by Roberto Martinez. They've had great results in recent weeks, and just might be able to hold off Arsenal for that fourth spot and play in Europe next year.
Not only is the chase for the title thrilling, but the race at the bottom to avoid relegation is really heating up now. There are several teams fighting to stay above the drop zone, but there is one that have already booked their spot to go down in my book: Sunderland. I just don't see the Black Cats reviving their season -- the gap is just too big now. Though credit is due for Gus Poyet and his staff, the squad doesn't seem to have anyone that can spark a come back. Their big signing, Jozy Altidore, isn't even making the 18 anymore -- a huge disappointment for both him and the club.
As for the other clubs in the relegation battle, I was sad to see Chris Hughton lose his job at Norwich City last week. He's a good man and terrific coach, and I thought he deserved more time. It seemed an odd decision as well, because most teams that sack their managers this late in the season often get dragged down into the drop zone. This might be the case for Norwich over the next few weeks.
As always, I love chatting with you guys, so do take a moment to follow me on Twitter at @WarrenBarton2. It's a lot of fun to be able to banter with you guys each week. And don't forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer. Thanks as always for reading.