Forget about Brexit, the local elections. Forget about the sugar tax, global warming and impending doom. Here at FFC we like to ask the probing questions, the ones that really matter. Ahead of this weekend’s Premier League action there are questions we demand answers to, and we’ll pound with our fists on the table until we get a straight answer.
FFC has donned its snazziest novelty tie and had its make-up done before its trip in front of the cameras. Yes, we’re channelling our inner David Dimbleby today, so hello and welcome to Question Time!
Are Arsenal still in a title race?
As always, Arsenal went into February fighting on multiple fronts, and as always, mid-March saw the Gunners arrive with a timid whimper, white flag to the world. Out of the FA Cup, out of Europe and 11 points behind Leicester City, albeit with a game in hand. A tricky away trip to Everton awaits: will Arsenal still be in any sort of title race come Monday morning?
Can West Ham break into the top four?
This has the potential to be the most exciting West Ham season in living memory. Not only are they still alive in the FA Cup, but the Hammers are only two points off fourth place. In mid-March. Still, as the soothsayer told Julius Caesar, you should beware the ides of March: a trip to Stamford Bridge awaits this weekend, where the Hammers haven’t won since 2002/03, the year they were relegated. The year before they move to Stratford (close enough…), what would the Bard make of that…?
Do Norwich City have the quality to stay up?
A 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City last weekend was a very good point for the Canaries in their quest to stay up. But time is running out if they are to amass the points required to stay in the league. The January signings haven’t paid off and the only positive this weekend is that either Newcastle, Sunderland – or both – will drop points.
Are Swansea and Crystal Palace safe?
They’re level on points (33) going into this weekend and eight points off the bottom three, but both teams are on opposite trajectories. Swansea’s four wins in their last eight in the Premier League makes them look like they’re out of the woods, and although Palace are level on points with Swansea – and have a game in hand – the fact that they haven’t won since December 19th points to a very worrying slide. They should have enough to stay up, but another defeat could see them slide even further towards the bottom three.
Will Leicester crack?
But then, that has been the question on every smug journalist’s lips since October. They haven’t cracked so far, even when the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City have fallen away. Can they deal with teams who look to concede possession and stay solid at the back? Or will they be able to continue to break down stubborn defences and nick the goals that win games for them? In other words, do they have the fabled ‘mark of Champions’?
Is Rafael Benitez the right man to keep Newcastle up?
In perhaps the strangest managerial appointment for quite some time, Newcastle appointed Rafael Benitez on what must surely be – for the sake of comedy – a zero hours contract. They have proven themselves to be beyond any manager’s capability so far, but the talent in the squad, not to mention the money that was spent on it, should be enough to keep them up. This weekend’s mega-hyped Tyne-Wear derby will give us some idea.
Will Big Sam go down for the first time in his managerial career?
He’s the go-to man when you want a no-nonsense approach to a task like staying in the Premier League. This weekend sees a battle for next-year’s TV cash, a battle for North East supremacy, a battle between two managers who can’t stand each other, and a battle simply to avoid the ignominy or relegation. Forget the last six Tyne-Wear derby-day Sunderland wins, this one matters.
Will Manchester City fall out of the top four?
Manchester City have the strongest squad in the league. They have the most money in the league, and so should surely be winning the league. Yet these days, City are treading water waiting for the glorious arrival of Pep Guardiola to lead them to glory on all fronts. But City have won only two times in all competitions since 6th February. Could they fall out of the Champions League spots? Surely that can’t happen? Can it?
Can Manchester United still make this a good season?
As if a Manchester derby wasn’t enough of a prize to play for this weekend, it could see Manchester United move to within a point of their cross-town rivals in the race for fourth place. After a limp exit in the Europa League at the hands of the old enemy Liverpool, what better way to bring the fans back onside than by bringing City down a peg or two? And with the prize of Champions League on the line, this is surely the biggest derby since 2012/13.
Can Tottenham break Leicester hearts?
With Leicester playing a day before Tottenham, they have the chance to crank up the pressure on Spurs ahead of their clash with Bournemouth. But Spurs are prioritising the Premier League this season, their Europa League adventure’s abrupt end shows that, and Spurs will be on the fox hunting trail for the rest of the season. Sound the horn!