Meanwhile, we’ve got a hearty battle at the bottom as four teams sit within six points of one another. Sunderland has occupied the basement position for much of 2016/17, but can the Black Cats pull off some magic as the season winds down?
Sunderland: With 50 goals conceded and nobody other than Jermain Jones bagging goals for the Black Cats, Sunderland can only wait for its plummet to the Championship.
Middlesbrough: 19 goals in 27 matches doesn’t spell success for the Boro, who sit 19 in the table.
Hull City: The Tigers have fought valiantly, and their recent victory over Swansea could be what the team needs to propel itself out of the bottom three.
Bournemouth: It’s been a rough second half for the Cherries but at least they should survive for another season.
Crystal Palace: Winners of back-to-back matches, Palace may have found its form again as the relegation battle heats up.
Swansea City: The Swans have risen under Paul Clement, and it might be just enough to keep them in England’s top flight come 2017/18.
Burnley: The Clarets haven’t won since the tail end of January, and although they sit 12th, only seven points separate Burnley from 18th place.
Leicester City:A UCL quarterfinal and a recent lift in form under Craig Shakespeare. It looks like the Cinderella story is back on!
West Ham United: The Hammers haven’t won since Feb. 4, but a top 10 finish could still be in the cards.
Watford: Only one win in five for the Hornets, and they must be wary of how tight the bottom of the table is.
Southampton: The Saints have benefitted from other teams struggling, and with two matches in hand a top 10 finish is very possible once again.
West Bromwich Albion: Two straight losses for the Baggies has put a damper on the team’s already bleak hopes of finishing top six.
Stoke City: If Stoke could start picking up wins as opposed to draws, Stoke would have a shot at finishing top eight. Goals have been hard to come by for this club though.
Manchester United: Three straight winless in all competitions pretty much sums up United’s season. The Red Devils have been good but not great under Jose Mourinho.
Everton: The Toffees have quietly gone unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 and moved within two points of six place. If Ronald Koeman can get them there, could he be considered for Manager of the Year?
Arsenal: The Gunners no longer have Champions League aspirations for this season after being pummeled by Bayern, and their PL title hopes are gone as well. All Arsene Wenger can hope for is to extend his team’s streak of top four finishes.
Manchester City: Take City’s Champions League collapse out of it. Pep Guardiola‘s side will likely finish top four and possibly top two.
Liverpool:Jurgen Klopp‘s backline continues to be this team’s Achilles’ heal and that showed recently with losses at Hull and Leicester. Top three is surely possible but the Reds attack has to continue to shine.
Tottenham: Any other season Spurs would go on to win the title, but Chelsea has had their say. Still a tremendous showing thus far from Tottenham.
Chelsea: Unbeaten in seven and closing in on the PL crown, the Blues can’t lose the top spot, right?
A knee injury kept him from England’s last two matches, and Rooney scored just twice in 2016 for England.
Rooney will likely need to leave Manchester United for any hope of rejuvenating his England career, but the absence doesn’t necessarily spell the end for him, as evidenced by Jermain Defoe‘s recent England revitalization.
Arsenal – They fooled us again, you know? Arsenal ran through the Premier League following an Opening Day loss to Liverpool, not seeing another ‘L’ until a Dec. 13 loss at Everton. That one could count as a moment, but we’ll choose the following match. Raheem Sterling finished a classy Kevin De Bruyne pass to give the Gunners’ two losses in a row, and Arsenal wouldn’t beat a PL contender until toppling injury-hit Manchester United on May 7.
Bournemouth – Eddie Howe‘s bunch were winless in seven and trending downward when it arrived at Old Trafford on March 5. Marcos Rojo put United ahead in the 22nd and ex-Red Devil forward Josh King leveled via penalty in the 40th. The Cherries seemed doomed when Andrew Surman was sent off in the 45th, but somehow held on to grab a point (A missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty didn’t help things). Bournemouth won its next two, then drew Liverpool and Southampton en route to a top half finish.
Burnley – The Clarets can thank Mike Dean for their signature moment, a 1-0 win via a handled Sam Vokes effort that moved Burnley into ninth place in the league. Ninth place for little old Burnley. Sean Dyche‘s club would stay up. Now where will it go?
Chelsea – The Blues led the Premier League after August, but had dropped to eighth by the end of September. By the start of November, Chelsea sat fourth in the table. Everton arrived at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues absolutely throttled the Merseyside club. Eden Hazard scored twice, the first moments before Marcos Alonso made it 3-0, and both Diego Costa and Pedro had also scored before the match was through. 5-0 spelled the fifth-straight win, and the Blues went on to win a historic 13-straight PL games.
Everton – It was a season, or at least half-season, of “so close” for Ronald Koeman‘s men. It didn’t get much clearer than the match that followed the Toffees’ second loss in the Merseyside Derby. Everton looked set for a rebound and a win at Old Trafford when Ashley Williams’ handled Luke Shaw’s stoppage time shot to allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic a penalty kick that stole a point for the Red Devils.
Hull City – Unsure if this counts as “the season”, but Steve Bruce quitting the club three weeks before the season because of a lack of transfer ambition (amongst other things) spelled doom for the club far before Marco Silva nearly saved their season.
Leicester City – Firing Claudio Ranieri was a massive risk. The Foxes had posted the most remarkable season in world soccer less than a year before cutting ties with the Italian. While some — like me — would argue that transfer pick-up Wilfred Ndidi was the real reason for the turnaround, it also coincided with the managerial change.
Liverpool – The Reds had a knack for playing like results were expected against lesser lights, and late conceded goals are easy to find when reviewing their season (See Swansea below). It happened against powerful Manchester United, but it also happened against Sunderland. Jermain Defoe scored the second goal of his brace in the 84th minute to cost the Black Cats two points… again.
Manchester City – Pep Guardiola led City to six-straight PL wins at the start of the season, but could only watch as Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs bettered him 2-0 at White Hart Lane to drop City to 6-1. It was one of just six losses on the season, five of which came away from the Etihad Stadium. That away form didn’t impress Guardiola, and it didn’t help City chase the title.
Manchester United – While their moment may still be coming in the form of Wednesday’s Europa League Final against Ajax, we’ll go with Jose Mourinho’s first tournament win with United: the EFL Cup Final. NBC analyst Robbie Earle often talks about good teams needing to find a way to win when they aren’t at their best, and United did it at Wembley. It could be a harbinger of what’s to come.
Middlesbrough – Boro went to West Brom on Aug. 28, unbeaten in a pair of PL matches. It remained unbeaten following the 0-0 draw, but the zero on its side of the scoreboard was extra significant for one reason: It was the first of a whopping 19 times that the Smoggies were kept off the scoreboard, including seven scoreless draws.
Southampton – Most of these moments are related to Premier League play, but the perfect summation of Saints’ up-and-down season may be the EFL Cup Final. Many believe Saints were the better side that day, only to fall short. The same can be said for their Europa League campaign. But results matter, and Saints didn’t make it back to Europe via either route.
Sunderland – The Black Cats managed to take multiple steps back for every step forward, so it’s fitting that we mark the 4-0 loss at home to Southampton on Feb. 11. It followed a 4-0 win against old manager Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace and a scoreless draw against Spurs. Sunderland was battered by a pair Manolo Gabbiadini goals, and the loss started a run that saw the Black Cats manage points in a whopping three of its 14 remaining matches.
Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs lost just four Premier League matches this season, and responded to each with a PL win. Three of those were blowouts, and the fourth was a 2-1 May win over Manchester United. One of those bounce backs happened to be two weeks after a road loss to Liverpool and three days after Spurs were bounced from the Champions League by Genk, as Harry Kane scored one of his four season hat trick and Dele Alli also scored in a 4-0 demolition of Stoke City.
West Bromwich Albion – There’s a moment in every season which sees Tony Pulis‘ Baggies tease us with what they could do if they just allowed a little bit of open play to hamper their “Just Survive” mentality. This year it was a 3-1 win over Arsenal which begged West Brom supporters to imagine life in the Top Seven, only to let them down with another post-safety collapse. Woof.