Liverpool continue with late heroics but that may not be good enough
Nick Miller recaps the penultimate weekend in the Premier League, as Liverpool continued to keep the pressure on Man City and the top four race fizzled out to a disappointing end.
Inevitability of the weekend
After Liverpool's late win at Newcastle, which took them to a barely credible 94 points, already more than all but two teams since three points for a win was introduced in 1981 (even more remarkable when you consider 11 of those seasons were 40 or 42 game campaigns), Jurgen Klopp was asked if he feared the worst in the game's closing stages.
"No, I was completely calm," he said, initially putting that serenity down to "destiny," but it's also because he has seen this film before. Divock Origi's winner was the 24th goal Liverpool have scored past the 75 minute mark of games this season: no other Premier League team has more than 19. Those goals have been worth 14 points.
Which is a neat encapsulation of their season as a whole really. Liverpool will keep on going until the end, whether that turns out to be good enough or not.
Mixed blessing of the weekend
In weird way the injuries to Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino might turn out to be a positive for Liverpool, on a couple of conditions. Neither are fit for Tuesday's lost cause/second leg against Barcelona, but should be back for the final league game of the season against Wolves and they might be better with some rest for a game that could be meaningful anyway.
Miracles can happen, but realistically even with their top men Liverpool probably won't overturn Barcelona's 3-0 lead, so in pragmatic terms it might be advantageous if two-thirds of their dazzling forward line are saved for the game that could still win them the title.
Worrying sign of the weekend
It's not a good sign when a team finishes a game with nine players and can consider themselves lucky it was that many. The concerning thing for Tottenham about Son Heung-min and Juan Foyth's sendings off is that they were both entirely avoidable, as was the lunging tackle from behind that Eric Dier got away with in the first half.
That sort of muddied thinking points to a collection of tired minds, which isn't a huge surprise given their recent schedule and of course their lack of transfer incomings over the past two windows.
Mauricio Pochettino could take it as a positive that they held out with nine men until the very last seconds, but of bigger concern is that they regain some sort of clear-headedness for Wednesday night against Ajax, and it's more to do with the inconsistencies of their peers that they look almost certain to grab a top four place. Spurs are stumbling rather than striding towards the summer.
Admission of the weekend
"The Europa League is probably the right place for us at the moment."
You might even say that, having not even been able to beat the worst team in the division, even that assessment of Manchester United by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a little generous.
Stat of the weekend
You'll probably be aware that the last time either of the top two dropped any points was on March 3, just over two months ago. Since then they have both been relentless winning machines, but it's been rather different for the three teams beneath them.
In that same time, 99 points have been available to Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United. They have taken 42 of them. Less than half. If that was one team, extrapolated over a 38-game season, this conglomerate of mediocrity would finish on around 48 points, which at the moment would be enough for 12th place.
If nothing else, it provides handy ammo to anyone arguing against the idea of the Premier League as unquestionably the greatest in the world.
Disappointment of the weekend
But of those four, Chelsea and Spurs have outlasted their challengers, the former by being just slightly less inconsistent over recent weeks and the latter thanks to their fine record in the first two thirds of the season.
So what of Arsenal? They need an eight-goal swing on the final day -- or "a miracle" as it's also known - to overhaul Tottenham, meaning they'll miss out on the top four for the third season in a row.
You could certainly make the case that, like United, the Europa League is about their level at the moment in terms of talent, but equally Unai Emery's side have dropped so many careless points in recent weeks that it's difficult to think they have not underachieved. Sunday's draw against Brighton was the latest, but losing to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester is what ultimately cost them.
Emery is two transfer windows into what will be at least a four-window job to make this Arsenal team ship-shape again, but it remains a colossal disappointment that they have dropped out of the elite quartet again. This is going to be a delicate summer.
Missed opportunities of the weekend?
The natural instinct would be to say that Cardiff came closer to survival than anyone expected, that the Emiliano Sala tragedy threw their season off in various ways, and that ultimately their squad was nowhere near good enough to stay in the Premier League.
All of which is true. But you still just wonder whether they might rue a few games, not least last weekend against already relegated Fulham, which could have tipped the balance. A pair of 0-0 draws with Huddersfield will stick in the mind too, not least because the second was one of just two of the Terriers' last 25 games they didn't lose.
All seasons come down to regrets like this, but for Neil Warnock, who maintains he previously didn't have a "fair crack at the whip" in the Premier League, this might turn out to be his last chance.
Relief of the weekend
Brighton are safe, but hopefully Chris Hughton and the other decision-makers at the club won't think this means everything is OK. They have been a lesson in how recruitment in the Premier League is incredibly far from an exact science, and generally speaking you're more likely to make mistakes than succeed.
While last season they struck gold by signing Pascal Gross for £3 million and was their player of the year, this term they spent £17m on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has contributed zero goals and zero assists. All teams will make good signings and bad signings, but a side like Brighton lives or dies by how successful their transfer moves are. If they are to avoid another season of struggle, their moves need to be more Gross than Jahanbakhsh this summer.