It was a weekend when the champions of two of Europe’s top five leagues were confirmed, which means three out of those leagues now have their champions. It was also a weekend that leaves us with much to ponder, as always.
Dortmund’s season now petering out
Overwhelming start, low-key middle, dreary end; surely now Dortmund fans can’t wait for the whistle of the season to go. After the 6-0 shellacking they received at Bayern Munich some two weeks ago, surely this weekend’s Revier derby was a way to save face, salvage what has been a disappointing campaign, especially considering how they blew it in the reverse fixture. But a hapless performance culminated in a 2-0 loss, summing up their entire campaign. Dortmund still has something to fight for with Champions League qualification still in doubt, but there’s no doubt their season has been one to forget. Next term can’t come soon enough.
When does Shelvey merit inclusion in the England discussions?
This weekend, there was talk of Ruben Loftus-Cheek having five games to contest for a place in England’s World Cup, and what might have been had he not gotten injured, yet it was another Englishman who put another stellar display this weekend. Jonjo Shelvey has been a key figure for Newcastle this season, not least in their recent good run, and he put in another impressive showing as the Toon beat Arsenal. His long balls to Dwight Gayle were as much a source of worry to the Gunners backline as they were a thing of beauty, one of them helping to create the Magpies’ equaliser. He also showed his defensive side as well, tracking back to hound and put players off, as well as retaining his discipline (something he could be lacking at times) and organisational skills. While the likes of Jack Wilshere and Loftus-Cheek dominate the ‘should they, shouldn’t they go’ England discussions, Shelvey has quietly gone about his business, and surely deserves some notice.
Betis: Entertainers now Efficient
‘Always watch Betis’ has been a mantra this season, mostly because of their open style of play that leads to outrageous results. They’ve had a 6-3, as well as handful of 5-3, 3-3, 2-2, score-line this season, but on Friday at Girona all they needed was Loren Moron’s goal. With that win at Montivili, Quique Setien’s men sit pretty in fifth, four points ahead of Villarreal, and five clear of rivals Sevilla. Perhaps it’s the switch to a back three that’s the key factor, but Betis are finding a balance now, and it’s reaping its rich rewards. Europe awaits.
Southampton can ill-afford any more ‘nearly’ games
When Southampton left the Emirates stadium at the start of the month with a 3-2 defeat, there was cause for optimism, despite their league position, as Mark Hughes noted. The Saints troubled Arsenal, showed promise up front and were unlucky to lose. But this weekend, after another 3-2 loss, this time at home to Chelsea, the case was different. It wasn’t so much unlucky Southampton as it was sloppy Southampton. They were 2-0 up with 20 minutes left, yet with 12 to go they were 3-2 down. In three league games under they’ve conceded three goals in each of them, with varying type of defeats, the hapless display at West Ham, the unlucky fight at Arsenal, and the clumsy giveaway against Chelsea. The Chelsea loss did have its positives, as did the Arsenal game, but the Saints are in no position to take plaudits without points. Time is running out, as is their margin for error.
Frankfurt might need to be wary of season end
It’s not uncommon that Frankfurt should lose at Leverkusen. What’s surprising is how they did it: lose heavily despite being level with less than 20 minutes left. Maybe it’s all a little overblown, perhaps it’s nothing more than defeat, a mishap in an otherwise impressive display, but at the end of the week the club hierarchy expressed their ire at the announcement that current boss Niko Kovac will join Bayern Munich next season, you can’t help but wonder how much focus is in the Frankfurt side. With the team still in a battle to secure a Champions League spot for next season, focus is a term they shouldn’t overlook.
West Brom loss sums up United’s inconsistency
It was a wonderful taste in the mouths of Manchester United fans and players, seeing their team deny Manchester City the chance to wrap up the title on derby day with a superb comeback. So, you would expect a similar level of disappointment when United then made City mathematically uncatchable by managing to lose at a West Brom, a side who had managed just two wins all season prior to the game. It’s been a feature of United’s season so far, follow up big wins with unfathomable collapses, with the week in which they played Sevilla and Liverpool standing as evidence. Jose Mourinho has questioned his side’s mentality and attitude at times this season, almost harshly, but he’s not so wrong.
Monaco dragged into Champions League contest
7-1. Astonishingly; 7-1. That was the score-line of defeat for Monaco as they left the Parc des Princes on Sunday, the principality club dethroned in Ligue 1 in some manner. That result not only makes Paris Saint-Germain champions, it also now puts Monaco in the Champions League qualification talk with Lyon and Marseille, with Les Monegasques now only four points ahead of both sides, and you wonder what this result might do to their confidence. Leonardo Jardim had previously said they would continue to fight for second place with a smile, he might have to remind his players to do so.
Can Depor survive?
Lucas Perez yelled into the crowd as Borja Valle was mobbed in celebration, after Deportivo scored their third goal in a 3-2 win at Athletic Bilbao. That victory means they have now won two in a row, and that alongside Levante’s loss at Atletico Madrid, has them five points from safety with six games left. There’s still a long way to go, but the Galician side are gathering belief, and having looked dead and buried a while ago, have a chance at an escape.