Garth Crooks has extraordinarily suggested that Premier League newcomers Luton will be relegated by Christmas.
The Hatters came into this season as massive favourites for the drop and have lost all three games so far, most recently going down 2-1 at home to West Ham on Friday night as Kenilworth Road hosted its first top-flight in 30 years.
After losing 4-1 to Brighton and 3-0 to Chelsea, Rob Edwards’ team showed promise against the Hammers – attempting 16 shots to the visitors’ nine – but Crooks has already dismissed the Bedfordshire side’s chances of survival.
“Zouma was the outstanding defender for the Hammers in their 2-1 win against a Luton Town side that is, so far, just making up the Premier League numbers. It’s good to see the tangerine colours of Luton back in the big league once more, but I can’t take them seriously and see them down by Christmas.
“They might take a few scalps along the way, but don’t let the scoreline fool you: this victory was as comfortable for West Ham as it gets.”
Why Luton had to revamp their ground for the Premier League
Luton find themselves second-bottom of the Premier League heading into the international break, ahead of Burnley only on goal difference.
They return to action with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Saturday 16 September.
A belting strike from Abdoulaye Doucoure saved Everton from disaster on the final day of the Premier League season, as the Toffees avoided relegation with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth at Goodison Park.
The hosts had been in the top flight since 1954 – and hadn’t been relegated from any division since 1951 – but their enduring stay at the highest level of English football was in real danger of ending after 69 years at one stage.
With almost an hour on the clock on Merseyside, Everton were still being held by Bournemouth as Leicester led 1-0 at home to West Ham.
As things stood, the Sean Dyche’s side – who started the day outside the relegation zone in 17th and knew victory would guarantee survival – were heading through the trapdoor and down to the Championship.
Bournemouth had already been mathematically safe for the best part of two weeks, but Gary O’Neil’s team looked determined to end the campaign on a high note and had the better of the first-half chances.
Marcos Senesi and Dominic Solanke both went close for the Cherries, but the hosts were able to weather the storm until half-time through a combination of good fortune and some crucial last-ditch defending.
The crucial moment for Everton came 12 minutes into the second half: the ball dropped for Doucoure just outside the box, and the Malian midfielder lashed his effort past a powerless Mark Travers in the visitors’ goal with the help of a slight deflection. Cue bedlam inside the Toffees’ famous old home.
A long injury delay for Jordan Pickford to receive treatment ensured a nervy ending the game went into 10 minutes of stoppage time – during which the Everton goalkeeper made a vital save from Matias Vina’s powerful volley – but Dyche’s men held their nerve to survive, rendering Leicester’s 2-1 victory over West Ham meaningless and condemning the 2015/16 Premier League champions to Championship football next term – along with Leeds, who were thrashed 4-1 at home by Tottenham.
The final stages of the Premier League 2022/23 season are upon us, with each point more important than ever for sides battling for something, whether it be the title, Europe or simply to stay in the division.
For others, they’re allowed the luxury to take their foot off the gas and indulge in the old-age cliché of “being on the beach”. By FourFourTwo’s reckoning, there are at least six sides, possibly a contentious seven, who currently find themselves in this situation – a bonus for some; a disaster for others.
However, it’s the clubs who still have something to play for which we are focussing on here, starting with the Premier League title and working through who will make it to Europe, and who we might be waving goodbye to come the conclusion of the campaign.
The Premier League title race
After Manchester City‘s 4-1 demolition of Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, you’d be forgiven for thinking Pep Guardiola’s men wrapped up their fifth league title in six seasons with it.
However, Arsenal are still at the top of the table, albeit with City just two points behind and with two games in hand, and Mikel Arteta certainly won’t let his side relinquish the title that seemed destined for the Emirates without a fight.
The Gunners still have the potential to accumulate a staggering 90 points this campaign, which certainly highlights how the young team has come on leaps and bounds in just 12 months. Manchester City are imperious, though, and with Kevin De Bruyne teeing up Erling Haaland, it’s inevitable they’ll score a load of goals between now and the final day on May 28.
Having said that, the Premier League title is still all to play for, and football games aren’t won on paper. City still face trips to relegation-threatened Everton, Brentford and Brighton between now and the end of the season, and all three could cause them to slip up.
Should West Ham United win the Europa Conference League, though, then only the top six sides in the Premier League table will earn European football, with sixth place becoming a spot in Europe’s third competition.
Barring any major disasters, Manchester United and Newcastle should have the final two Champions League spots sown up, considering their points gap to the chasing pack. The former is six points ahead of Spurs in fifth with two games in hand, while Newcastle have an eight-point buffer and an extra match to play as well.
Therefore, the tussle for the (current) two Europa League spots and the single Europa Conference League place looks intriguing.
Both Liverpool and Aston Villa have hit encouraging form in recent weeks, while Spurs and Brighton have stuttered with some inconsistent form. Spurs currently occupy fifth place and a guaranteed Europa League spot for next season, but Aston Villa are level points and only behind on goal difference.
Liverpool sit a point further back but have a game in hand, putting them in the driving seat, while Brighton still have eight matches to play in their season, compared to Tottenham’s and Aston Villa’s five. Roberto De Zerbi’s side are five points off the Europa League as it stands.
Those desperate to avoid relegation to the Championship
While West Ham, Bournemouth, Wolves, Crystal Palace and Chelsea are all yet to reach the coveted 40-point mark this season, they all seem relatively safe from relegation. West Ham could, arguably, still be dragged back in considering they only have 34 points, though that seems unlikely when taking into account the buffer they have to the bottom sides.
Southampton seem doomed for the Championship next season following their home loss to Bournemouth, the Saints six points from safety with just five games remaining. A crucial away game to Nottingham Forest on May 8 could determine their fate one way or another.
Thereafter seems anyone’s guess, with any two of the other four mentioned sides all in precarious positions.
Everton are 19th, but just two points from Leeds and Forest in 16th and 17th, while Leicester occupy the final relegation place. Every team has just five games to play in the run-in, too, with Leicester and Everton facing off at the King Power Stadium the pick of the games.
An average of 2.44 goals was scored per match in the NPFL, with Enugu Rangers and Plateau United leading the losers’ corners.
The Nigeria Premier Football League, NPFL, delivered another round of entertainment with nine matches played across the country.
A total of 22 goals were scored in nine matches, an average of over 2.44 goals per game, with the game between Shooting Stars and Plateau United delivering another classic in the league.
Group B rivals Rivers United, who are the defending champions, and Lobi Stars were the only teams absent on the day due to the former’s responsibility in the CAFCC.
Here is a quick review of the top games in the football league on Wednesday evening across the country.
Abia Warriors 2-1 Enugu Rangers
2016 NPFL champions Enugu Rangers will remain in the relegation battle after dropping further points on the road in the football league.
The winner of the League will be decided at the end of the Super Six.
The Flying Antelopes lost 2-1 at neighbours Abia Warriors to return to what has become a familiar terrain for the Coal City boys this season.
Two goals in either half from Jimoh Gbadamosi, who opened the scoring via a penalty in Umuahia, and Uche Odeh proved to be enough for the Warriors to seal victory at home.
John Uche gave Rangers hope when he initially cancelled Gbadamosi’s opener, but his 26th-minute equaliser proved to be nothing but a consolation for the Enugu side.
Remo stars defeated El-kanemi Warriors to record an away win
Shooting Stars 3-2 Plateau United
The Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan produced another classic in the Football League with a five-goal thriller between Shooting Stars and Plateau United.
After both teams played an entertaining six-goal thriller in the reverse fixture in Jos in the first half of the season, both teams did not disappoint in the second.
The visitors, United took the lead courtesy of Yakubu Adam in the 21st minute but failed to hold on as Samuel Ayorinde, the star of the day, scored a brace to put Shooting ahead.
Ismail Ghail Falke netted the decisive third that proved to be the winner before United pulled one back at the death to complete a memorable encounter.
An average of two goals was scored per game in the NPFL with champions Rivers United dropping points at home.
Bendel Insurance 1-1 Akwa United
In what was the game of the round in the league, the spoils were shared in Benin as Akwa United left with a valuable draw after the game ended 1-1.
That man, Imade Osarenkhoe was on target again for the Group A leaders after he fired them in front just under two minutes into the game.
However, this time, Insurance could not hold on as a free kick from Cyril Olisemah just after the half-hour mark saw both sides share the spoils.
In what appears to be a controversial point earned on the road, Nasarawa United forced Enyimba to a 1-1 draw.
The NPFL match of the day between Enyimba and Bendel Insurance lived up to its pre-match hype, with Imade Osarenkhoe the difference maker again.
Top scorer, Chukwuemeka Obioma fired them in from the spot but United equalised 15 minutes from time.
The People’s Elephant thought they had a chance to double the lead and possibly seal all three points when they got what looked like a clear penalty but the centre referee bizarrely ignored their appeal.
That particular decision came back to haunt the Elephant as Nasarawa scored 15 minutes from time to ensure a share of the spoils in Aba.