EPL By the Numbers: Match week 38 – Invincibles likely to have company soon

By: Richard Van Heertum

Man City were officially crowned champions Sunday at the Etihad, the second trophy in their hands in an impressive double for Guardiola in his second season. However, they will have to wait on the points and goals record after a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield, who can really use that point as it tightens at the bottom. It is also tightening in the race for the UCL, with Chelsea beating Liverpool 1-0 and typical Tottenham losing 1-0 Saturday, to close the gap to two points. Meanwhile, three days after a heart wrenching Europa League 2-1 aggregate exit, the players showed up for Wenger’s home finale, winning 5-0 in real style. 

At the bottom, West Brom scored late against the Spurs to win 1-0 and keep their slim hopes alive, though anything but a draw between Southampton and Swansea Tuesday and they will join Stoke in the Championship next season. Stoke guaranteed their return with a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace, another match where they just couldn’t defend their own goal like they used to. Southampton were seconds from securing their stay in the top division when a Davies shot was deflected into the net to leave it 1-1 and give the Baggies a marginal chance to stay up. Mark Hughes certainly had questions for the officials as it was over a minute past the minimum extra time when the equalizer spilled in.

West Ham in 15th and all those above are now safe, as the best that one of Southampton or Swansea will have after Tuesday’s match is 34 points with one to play. That means Huddersfield (36 points), Southampton (33), Swansea (33) and West Brom are the four fighting to stay up, with two set to fail. 

In Italy, Napoli essentially handed Juve the title by ceding a 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute and thus leaving the lead at 6 with only two to play (and Juve having a far superior goal difference). What a difference a couple of weeks make, after many had Napoli securing only their third title ever. In Spain, the most meaningless El Clásico in my memory was played Sunday, though the players clearly disagreed, as it was a techy affair with a red and 8 yellows, as the two sides shared the spoils 2-2.  Real is now only three points behind Atlético for second with a game in hand, after the latter lost 2-0 to Espanyol at home (take note, Arsenal). The three sides being relegated are decided as is the champion and UCL places, but there is still a battle for the last position in the Europa League, with European specialists Sevilla on the outside looking in at the moment.

Several teams in the Bundesliga still have a lot to play for, with Wolfsburg still with a shot at staying up (Cologne and Hamburg are already relegated) and several sides including Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Stuggart all jockeying for European positions. The same is true in France with two matches to play.

The NHL and NBA playoffs moved closer to the conference championships with both the Celtics and Cavs leading 3-0 in the East and Houston and Golden State 3-1 up in the West.  In the NHL, the Capitals are one game away from the unthinkable – a series victory over the Penguins and a trip beyond the second round for Ovechkin. Don’t count them in until the final buzzer. Meanwhile, Tamp Bay lost the opener 6-2 at home to the Bruins, but then won four straight, including a 3-1 victory Sunday to become the first into the Eastern Conference Final. Out West, the Winnipeg Jets lead 3-2 over Nashville and the Vegas Golden Knights finished off the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Sunday.

On to the numbers, with a few nibbles from around the sports world …



Match Week 38 By the Numbers

0-0-0 – Steven Gerard has taken the leap into the proverbially hot seat as manager of the Rangers, a nice first gig except that they are still recovering from the demotion in 2012 and might not have the transfer kitty necessary to challenge Celtic’s dominance in recent seasons. One tasty facet is him lining up against the manager who would have won the league but for one of the most inopportune slips in football history. Good luck, Steve!

Gerrard, with Rangers
Gerrard has been put in the hot seat rather quickly after his playing career ended.


1st – Time Liverpool have been held scoreless in two consecutive league games under Klopp, who had a chance to secure the Top 4 but lost 1-0 to Chelsea after a stale 0-0 draw with Stoke last weekend. Given their far superior goal difference, a win next weekend will still guarantee at least fourth place.

1-0 – Manchester United seems to fall down every time they are rising, the latest example a 1-0 loss to Brighton. They are all but guaranteed second place at this point and are already in the Champions League for next season, with a chance to finish the season off the FA Cup, but inconsistency and lack of goals continue to be an intermittent problem.

Brighton celebrate
Brighton celebrate the goal that took them to the magic 40 points.


4 – Albert Pujols became the 32nd player to reach 3,000 hits, but only the fourth to match that total with at least 600 homers. Odd for Pujols is how few of those 3,000 were singles (around 76 percent counting walks), which some argue is the reason his productivity has declined so precipitously in recent seasons.

Albert Pujols
Pujols might have slowed down, but he is a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer now.


5 – Jayson Tatum playoff games in a row with more than 20 points, breaking a tie with Larry Bird for the Celtic rookie record. The Celtics have outplayed the Sixers at the end of all three games to take a 3-0 lead in the series and set up an almost inevitable rematch with the Cavs, given that no team in NBA history has overcome that deficit.

10 – Season stay for Stoke in the Premier League is over after their 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace Saturday. They are the first side to guarantee their return to the Championship as all the others at the bottom found at least a point, except Swansea (1-0 losers to Bournemouth).

Patrick van Aanholt of Crystal Palace scored the winner against Stoke to relegate them from the Premier League on Saturday

11 – Consecutive playoff games in which LeBron has led the team in both points and assists – an NBA record. The 11th included a buzzer-beating game winner that put the Cavs up 3-0 over the Raptors, likely setting up a rematch with the Celtics.

12 – Most league losses in the Wenger era, suffered this season. No road points since January. Didn’t play his best goalkeeper in either leg of Europa League where Arsenal could easily have won 1-0 on aggregate. Just a few reasons Wenger was asked to leave … or maybe 6th and 14 sum it up? Position in the table and years since a title, for the uninitiated. His Gunners did win 5-0 in his final match at the Emirates.

Wenger
Wenger got the sendoff he deserved, even after a decade of struggles.


18 – Cristiano Ronaldo equalized against an early Suarez goal to reach 18 goals in El Clásico, tying him with the great Alfredo Di Stéfano for most by a Real player, However, he is eight behind Messi for all-time in the most famous non-derby matchup in world football, as Messi gave Barça the lead 2-1 down a man early in the second half before the Bale equalizer.

21 years, 144 days – Gleyber Torres became the youngest Yankee to hit a walk off homer in their storied history, as he surpassed Mickey Mantle by 41 days. The homer led New York to a 7-4 win over Cleveland, making it 15 of their last 16 and leaving them only a game behind the Red Sox.

30 – Arsenal were the top scorers in the Europa League this season, with 30 goals. However, they needed at least one more to secure passage to the Final and it failed to materialize during a relatively flat day for the Gunners. Does that sound familiar? One does wonder what might have happened over two legs if Aubameyang wasn’t cup tied, given his recent scoring record.

$30 million – Matt Ryan became the first $30 million man in the NFL with a five-year contract that has around $100 million guaranteed. Not bad for a guy involved in the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history – on the wrong side …

36 – Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby had 36 points in their first 9 playoff games, but could find themselves out in the second round after two straight Stanley Cups if Washington wins either of the next two games.

42 – Move over Invincibles, Barça look likely to join you, after a 2-2 draw in El Clásico Sunday, with Real playing a man up for the entirety of the second half. Barca actually took the lead a man down after some magic from Messi (as previously mentioned), that shouldn’t have counted after a clear foul in the buildup. Bale equalized, but Real also should have had a penalty on Marcelo. Barça have now gone 42 without a loss, dating back to last April 9. Given that Real could have won it 3-1, if the calls went their way, one must concede that Barça has had some help along the way, with only one penalty against in several seasons, but it is still some accomplishment if they finish it off.

El clásico
Tempers were up in El Clásico Sunday, with the only surprise that there was only one red card.


145 – of his last 149 goals have been scored inside the box for Aubameyang, who scored the opener in Arsenal Wenger’s final game as the manager at the Emirates. He could be an augur of improvement for the side next season, with one of his most impressive contributions, beside the brace, him tracking all the way back after an errant pass in the first half of a largely meaningless game for the Gunners.  

1882 – Justify became the first three-year-old that didn’t race as a two-year-old to win the Kentucky Derby in 136 years.

Kentucky Derby
Justify joined some vaunted company with his victory Saturday, with Apollo the last three-year-old to win after not racing as a two-year-old.


3,000 – Congratulations to our president, who has surpassed the seemingly impossible threshold of 3,000 lies spoken since he took office, less than a year and a half ago. That’s some whopper we got …


Check back in at the same bat time, same bat channel next week for the subsequent round of fixtures …

About The Author

Richard has published over 25 academic essays, hundreds of articles in the popular press on movies, music, sports and politics, and three books, Hollywood's Exploited (Palgrave, 2010), Educating the Global Citizen (Bentham, 2011) and The Selling of Bohemia (RJV Books, 2015). He earned a PhD in cultural studies and education from UCLA and a masters in economics from SDSU. He is a rabid sports fan who roots for Arsenal, the NY Jets and Dallas Cowboys (he knows, he knows), the Yankees and the Celtics.

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