The Premier League had its penultimate weekend of matches for the 2015/16 season over the last couple of days and although Leicester City had already been confirmed as champions when Spurs failed to beat Chelsea last Monday, there was still so much to talk about. The race for the top four is still not decided, and one side in particular have taken a giant step to securing safety in the lower echelons of the table. Read on to recount the weekend’s events, and be sure to go to the next pages to discover which 11 individuals made it into The Boot Room’s Premier League Team of the Week.
At the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening, the whole country was excited to see Leicester City hold the trophy aloft at the end of the game, and it seemed as though most of Britain had travelled to the city to be involved in the celebrations. Of course, there was still a ninety-minute football match to be negotiated first, and it was only five minutes in before Jamie Vardy had scored the opening goal on his return to action. Andy King was granted far too much time and space and with Vardy around, Oviedo’s lack of awareness was punished instantly.
The day of celebration in Leicester was fully embraced by the players in blue, playing ‘champagne football’, seemingly without a care in the world, and Andy King’s evening became even better when he grabbed a goal himself just after the half hour mark. Rapidly becoming Leicester City royalty, Jamie Vardy scored his second from the penalty spot when the England wan was brought down by Everton’s young defender Pennington. Only a few minutes later, Vardy had the chance to draw level with Harry Kane in the Golden Boot race, but he could only sky his effort far over the cross-bar. A late consolation goal by Kevin Mirallas did little to dampen the spirits of Leicester players and fans alike, as they sailed to victory on a wave of emotion. A perfectly orchestrated presentation ceremony followed the final whistle and finally, after all the weeks of doubts and uncertainty, Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri were able to hold the trophy aloft together. With this success comes the start of their next challenge – retaining their star players and doing their utmost to try and be competitive next season.
Once Spurs had lost at home to Southampton in the early kick-off on Sunday, the possibility of Arsenal still being able to finish above their bitter rivals meant that they had terrific motivation going into their clash with Manchester City. However, the hosts also needed three points given the fact that The Red Devils were breathing down their necks in the battle for fourth place. Right from the off, City started by far the better and The Gunners were unable to settle into the game at The Etihad. This lightning fast start was rewarded when Sergio Aguero produced a terrific left-footed finish after eight minutes, hitting the back of the net in his sixth consecutive Premier League match. Incredibly though, Arsenal struck back immediately. A dodgy piece of defending by Gael Clichy resulted in a corner for The Gunners and Olivier Giroud powered home a header to finally break his long-standing goal drought.
A fractious game broke out for the rest of the first half, but the second period was a little over five minutes old when Kevin De Bruyne produced a fine finish to restore Manchester City’s advantage, driving through the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Again though, the Citizens could not hold onto the lead, this time Alexis Sanchez popping up to level the score-line. Some fine combination work between City’s two goal-scorers opened Arsenal up but Aguero’s shot slid inches wide of the far post. A frenetic final 20 minutes followed, including Wilfried Bony striking the cross-bar with a volley, but in the end Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game in charge ended with two dropped points, meaning that Van Gaal’s side are well in the hunt for the final Champions League qualification place.
Having seen Norwich lose 1-0 at home to Manchester United earlier in the day, Sunderland welcomed Chelsea, knowing that they had the opportunity to pull clear of their relegation rivals. However, it was Diego Costa who opened the scoring, as the Spanish international finally broke his drought in the Premier League. As the end of the first half loomed, Wahbi Khazri equalised with a contender for goal of the season. Putting an end to a period of head tennis on the edge of Chelsea’s box, the Tunisian smashed in a volley from at least 20 yards out. Seemingly intent on making it difficult for themselves however, The Black Cats conceded again just before the interval courtesy of a calm finish by Nemanja Matic, with Sunderland’s defenders all at sea.
The visitors looked the more likely team to score next in the early portion of the second half with Vito Mannone required to pull off a series of good saves but while a Chelsea player was down injured, a former Blue stepped up to equalise for Allardyce’s side. Fabio Borini hit a firmly struck shot low to Thibaut Courtois’ right hand side, but the big Belgian will be disappointed that he let the effort slip through after a subtle deflection from John Terry. This would be only the beginning of a bad day at the office for the skipper. Only a matter of minutes later, Jermain Defoe popped up to do what he does best. As the ball dropped to him in the penalty area, he took a perfect first touch before lashing home the finish. Should Sunderland survive, his contributions will have been the most significant, and those survival hopes were handed another boost when news filtered through that Newcastle had been unable to beat Aston Villa, leaving The Black Cats one point clear with a game in hand.
With the referee close to blowing the final whistle, a second rash challenge in the closing stages earned John Terry his marching orders. This looks to be his last action as a Chelsea player with his contract currently not being renewed and due to his disciplinary infractions earlier in the season, earning a two-game suspension for the pair of bookings at the Stadium of Light. As he left the pitch, his captain’s armband was tossed aside in a mixture of distress and disgust, keenly aware that he would not have a farewell at Stamford Bridge to look forward to.