EPL by the numbers: Match week 35: Wenger out!

By: Richard Van Heertum

Manchester City celebrated their first match after securing the title in style with a 5-0 cruise past Swansea, with fans charging the pitch at the final whistle. Arsenal, after a slow start, also cruised past a team in the lower half, breezing past West Ham late 4-1 in the first match since Wenger announced his departure. The fans were more muted than some anticipated, as the Gunners struggled through the first half and gave up an equalizer soon after scoring the opener. One assumes they feel as I do, bittersweet at Arsene leaving but glad to move on at this point.

Chelsea and Manchester United will meet in a tasty FA Cup Final that will be both sides only chance at silverware for the season and, most likely, Conte’s final match in charge. Tottenham had a 1-0 lead and the momentum early, but as has happened so often in recent seasons, fell apart and ultimately lost 2-1. Southampton were easier work for Chelsea, though it was early in the second half they finally secured the lead before sealing the deal in the final 10 minutes.

A week after seemingly wrapping up the Scudetto, Juve slipped with a draw midweek and then a 1-0 loss to Napoli Sunday, which cut their lead to one point. Juve still have away matches against Inter and Roma while Napoli has a much more manageable run-in, meaning they could nip the stranglehold of Juve, who have won the last six titles, to the crown this season, ending a drought that goes all the way back to 1990. All the other titles are either essentially or mathematically wrapped up with the biggest remaining questions the European spots and whether Barça will complete the first undefeated season in La Liga history.

In the NHL playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning eased past the Devils 4-2, the Caps bounces back from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2 over Columbus, the Penguins finished off the Flyers in an 8-5 thriller and Toronto forced a Game 7 after holding on for a 2-1 win over Boston Monday. The Caps will now face the Pens for the third year running and the Lightning the winner of the Boston-Toronto decider. Out West, the LA Kings got back to the playoffs only to be swept out in four by new boys Vegas, the Sharks swept the Ducks (the higher seed), the Jets beat the Wild in five and Nashville closed out a tough Colorado in 6.

The NBA playoffs have a few more early surprises, with the Cavs scrapping simply to even up their series with the Pacers at 2-2 Sunday, the injury-depleted Celtics losing two straight to find themselves even with the Bucks, the Rockets losing Game 2 at home 102-82 to Minnesota (though they won Game 3 Monday 119-100) and the sixth seed Pelicans sweeping the #3 Portland Trailblazers. The lower seeded Utah also leads OKC 3-1, after a 113-96 win Monday, while Golden State will need at least five games to complete their first round win over San Antonio, who fought off the sweep to win Game 4. The Sixers have a 3-1 lead over Miami, as expected, and are well ahead of schedule with a rebuilding process that saw them tanking one season back.

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

Match Week 34-5 By the Numbers

No-no – It took 24 days for the first no hitter of the MLB season, as lefty Sean Manaea of the Oakland As outdueled Chris Sales and the red hot Red Sox 2-0. It was the first no hitter for the Athletics since Dallas Braden’s perfect game in 2010.

Sean Manaea
Manaea struck out 10, walked two and threw 108 pitches, benefitting from an overturned call to preserve the no hitter in the sixth.

0-10 – In one of the more bizarre stories of the season, Everton’s new ownership sent out a Q&A survey to select fans with one of the questions asking them to rate Sam Allardyce on a scale of 0-10. We don’t know the results, but judging from fan reactions at recent games, he is a lot closer to the no-no than Nadia Comaneci. Big Sam did lead his side to a 1-0 victory over Newcastle Monday, with Walcott providing the winner early in the second half, but it did little to change the mood of most fans, upset that Newcastle was in the ascendancy toward the end of the game. The win did move the Toffees above Leicester and into eighth place in the table.

1-1 – Stoke have ceded too many leads this season and Sunday was no different, as they blew a 1-0 lead and settled for 1-1 draw with Burnley. With only three to play, and four for many above them, their time appears up in the Premiership yet again.

1-2-0 – West Bromwich is probably heading back to the championship for the fourth time in the Premier League era. But interim manager, Darren Moore, has won one (over United to hand the title to City) and drawn with both Swansea and Liverpool, coming back Saturday from a 2-0 deficit. Ironically, West Bromwich were unbeaten in three matches with Liverpool this season in all comps, with two draws and a victory.

Darren Moore
Darren Moore is the first Reggae Boy to manage in England, having earned two caps with Jamaica.

4 – Wins in last 17 for Leicester as they settled for a home 0-0 draw with Southampton, that does little to help the Saints hopes of survival. Leicester looks unlikely to have European football next season unless they win out.

4 – Watford hold a premier league record they most likely wouldn’t want, having lost four games to goals concede in the 90th minute or later. They are winless in their last 6 (0-1-4) – though they did earn a stale 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace Saturday.

8 – Straight semifinal defeats for Tottenham in the FA Cup after they lost their early 1-0 lead and fell 2-1 to United. It will be United’s 20th FA Cup Final as the wait goes on for a Spurs trophy.

Spurs took the early lead through a fine Alli finish, but failed to build on their early momentum and fell to United for their eighth straight FA Cup semifinal loss.

8 – of Raheem Sterling’s 17 league goals have come inside the six-yard box this season, making him the ultimate poacher. His game has improved dramatically under Pep this season, but he still misses more sitters than any other player in the league. The thing is, City serves up more of them than any other side.

10 – Famed Gooner and novelist Nick Hornsby might have found the perfect stat to condense all of the collective grief and indignation that ultimately led to Wenger being forced out after 22 seasons in charge. Arsenal, in the League Cup Final, became only the 10th side in the past 50 years (covering 100 matches) to lose by three or more goals. That 3-0 loss to Man City was so devoid of ideas and inspiration, on the back of a couple months of terrible results in the league, it became both emblematic of the problem and a sort of rubicon that seemed to signal that his time was finally, mercifully up. Wenger will be remembered as the greatest Arsenal manager but also its most infuriating and it is his stubbornness that explains why the sendoff might not be quite as passionate as many pundits assume, at least from the fans. We are Wengerer out!

Wenger out
Wenger has cut a largely forlorn figure since his announced departure last Friday.

13 – Goals in the league for Lacazette this season, after a brace in their 4-1 win over West Ham. That makes it six in six for the Frenchman, who has appeared to improve dramatically since his return from injury, supporting Wenger’s claim it was hampering him earlier in the season.

21 – Branden Belt of the San Francisco Giants set the MLB record with a 21-pitch at bat Sunday against LA Angels rookie Jaime Barria. After getting two strikes, Belt fouled off 16 pitches, then lined out to right. What a waste!

26-12-0 – Enough said!

Of course, he was also behind the greatest achievement in the history of English football …

28 – Seconds after the restart that Olivier Giroud slalomed past three Southampton defenders to open the scoring for Chelsea, giving them a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup semifinal. It was his third goal against the Saints this week! Chelsea went on to win 2-0 as Morata added the second in the 81st minute. Giroud continues to impress with his prowess in this event, he has won three times with the Gunners.

31 – Mo Salah has tied the record for most goals in a 38-game Premier League record with the second goal in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at West Bromwich. With 3 games to play, he looks likely to break it.

31 – Masters titles for Rafael Nadal, a record, after he beat Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the Finals of Monte Carlo Sunday. The title broke a tie with Djokovic and ensured he retained the #1 ranking from Federer. He also became the first man to win the same title 11 times, accomplishing it in his 13th trip to the tournament.

Nadal’s continued renaissance means Federer’s record 20 Slams is far from safe

35 – Alex Ovechkin has played in that many OT games without ever scoring. It didn’t matter Saturday as Nicklas Backstrom tipped in a shot from the point to win it 4-3 and give the Caps a 3-2 lead in a series they trailed 2-0 (and would go on to win in 6). 9 of the last 11 first round games for Washington had gone to OT before they won the last one in regulation to set up a rematch with the Penguins.

88 – Anthony Davis (47) and Jrue Holiday (41) of the New Orleans Pelicans combined for 88 points to tie a playoff record for most points by a duo in history, as they completed the sweep of the third seeded Portland Trailblazers 131-123. It was only the second time in the past 18 years that two players both topped 40 points in a playoff game, the others being LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Davis is first among active players in points per game in the postseason (30.1).

89th – Minute winner by Kalidou Koulibalyi of Napoli tore the Scudetto race wide open as they reduced the gap to one point with four to play. It would be their first title for Napoli since the halcyon days of Maradona.

Koulibalyi v Juventus
Koulibalyi last gasp winner puts serious pressure on Juve as they head to Inter next weekend.

100 – Man City are on pace to break three EPL records currently held by Chelsea – 30 win (16-17), 103 goals (09-10) and 95 points (04-05). Talk about adding insult to the injury that is this poor defense by the appropriately named Blues! City cruises past Swansea 5-0 at the Etihad Sunday, to move ahead of the record for goal difference (+73) and are two points from matching the greatest pints margin (+16 – the record is +18).

123 – Miles covered by Crystal Palace and Watford in their strangely muted scoreless draw. The average for two sides in a Premier League game? Around 140.

824 – Premier League matches for Arsene Wenger, who only has four left, plus at least two matches in the Europa League. His players showed up in the second half to win his first of the last 4-1 over West Ham, after the Hammers had drawn even at 1-1.

Lacazette joins the celebration for Ramsey’s go-ahead goal, though he later added two of his own.

940 – Days between goals for Danny Ings, who scored the opener in Liverpool’s disappointing 2-2 draw. Injuries have derailed his career since the move to Anfield. For the Reds, it was not the best warmup for their semifinal first leg with Roma.

1987 – The last time the Winnipeg Jets advanced past the first round of the NHL playoffs, until they completed their sweep of the Minnesota Wild Friday night. A season after Canada was shutout of the playoffs, they have at least one side through to the second round.

Winnipeg Jets
The Jets celebrate their first playoff series win in 31 years, with Mark Scheifele brought to his knees in disbelief.

1998 – The last time any of the four sports franchises in Washington have even been to the conference championship (aka semifinals) of their respective sports. The Redskins, Nationals, Wizards and Capitals have all had hope over the years, but none can seem to get over the hump. The Caps came back to win their first round series 4-2 and the Wizards have knotted their series up with the heavily favored Raptors 2-2, but the Caps now face the same Penguin team that has ousted them three seasons running and the Wizards could well find themselves out within less than a week. Pile on top of that the Redskins in rebuilding mode, more or less, and a surprisingly poor start from the Nats and it could be another year of pain for the DC sports fan.

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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