5 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend


Leicester and Tottenham traded blows in an increasingly enthralling Barclays Premier League title race, while the gloom continued to pile up for Aston Villa and North East pair Newcastle and Sunderand at the wrong end of the table.

As one of the craziest of top-flight seasons skates towards its conclusion, we examine the five key talking points from another weekend of exciting – and unpredictable – action.

1. It ain’t over ’til it’s over

(Scott Heppell/AP/PA)

Jamie Vardy’s double strike at the Stadium of Light briefly seemed to lift Leicester into the realm of title certainties. But a nerveless response from Spurs to brush aside Manchester United at White Hart Lane has left the Premier League race well and truly alive.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that Tottenham and the Foxes have been a cut above the rest in this campaign, and either one of them will end up as worthy champions.

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri deserves particular credit for the way he has transformed his side’s approach to get them close to the line – surely one of the great tactical master strokes of our time.

2. The billion pound play-off

(John Walton/PA)

Results this weekend have lent next Saturday’s Carrow Road showdown between Norwich and Sunderland the air of a relegation play-off – with the proceeds of the imminent billion pound Premier League television deal at stake.

While the Canaries could count themselves somewhat unfortunate not to claim at least a point at Crystal Palace, the Black Cats were abject against league leaders Leicester.

But it has been clear over the course of the season that both sides have their deficiencies, and which ever copes best with the mighty pressure and claims the three points will surely grasp the momentum to stride to safety – and consign their rivals to the drop.

3. Bleak times ahead for Villa

(Clint Hughes/PA)

Given the abject nature of Aston Villa’s season, it was no surprise to see another home capitulation against Bournemouth on Saturday – and the fact their fate is not quite mathematically sealed is merely semantic.

Fans’ fears over relegation have long since been supplanted with concerns over how far the club could fall.

Villa will bid good riddance to most of their big-money earners in the summer – but unless they manage to establish some real leadership from the directors’ box down to the dugout, the increasing signs are that Villa could find themselves struggling to make any kind of impact in the Championship next term.

4. Newcastle’s transfer window blues

(Clive Gee/PA)

After another dismal defeat which effectively consigns them to relegation, Newcastle fans are left scratching their heads once more over the club’s recruitment policy.

Saturday’s opponents Southampton are a shining example of how intelligent acquisitions can make light of even the most severe exodus. The Magpies, however, have struggled to find the right players for years and no longer can Mike Ashley be held entirely to blame.

Their new year signings remain bafflingly ineffective, and even the arrival of Rafael Benitez has done nothing to lift the torpor infecting the St James’ Park dressing room. Heads will surely roll in the summer – both on the field and off it.

5. Sweet Carroll line

(Tim Ireland/AP/PA)

It would be ridiculously over-reactive to start hailing Andy Carroll as a contender for Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 World Cup squad on the basis of his heroics in West Ham’s pulsating 3-3 draw with Arsenal.

But Carroll’s stunning nine minute hat-trick, in his first start for the Hammers since December, did offer a timely reminder of the striker’s prodigious talent and a sense of what might have been in a career ravaged initially by rash decisions and more recently by a series of serious injuries.

Carroll’s performance against the Gunners was straight out of the top drawer – and a consistent run in the side could yet see him elbow his way back into international contention.