Saturday Night Takeaways: Newcastle a new team under Rafa and Welbeck saves Wenger's blushes
The relegation race heats up and Arsenal move one step closer to another year of Champions League football20:55 Saturday 30 April 2016, 20:55 30 Apr 2016
There were six games in the Premier League today and with neither Tottenham or Leicester playing, all eyes were on the relegation places and Champions League qualification.
Here are three takeaways from today's action:
Newcastle are a new team under Rafa Benitez
For years now, neutrals have hoped and prayed that Newcastle, a team seemingly devoid of ambition, would be relegated. Managers came and went along with signings who either didn't fit the system, didn't care enough or wanted to play at a club who had higher ambitions than scraping to safety every year.
Enter Rafa Benitez: The former Real Madrid manager has turned Newcastle into the tactically astute and gutsy opponent that could thrive in the Premier League.
They helped themselves to a victory over fellow strugglers Crystal Palace today that entertained the St.James' Park faithful along with the neutrals who once wished they would be relegated and banished from top-flight football for all their wrong-doing down the years.
With Aston Villa already relegated, Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland will battle it out to see who joins them with all three fighting to the death to retain their Premier League status.
Sunderland clawed level to save a point against Stoke, which could help massively on the final day of the season, and Norwich were beaten thanks to a solitary Danny Welbeck finish. There are several outcomes in the next few weeks and you can expect fireworks from all three teams as they try to avoid the drop.
Slaven Bilic has transformed West Ham
West Ham finished 12th last season with 47 points. Following their 3-0 win over West Brom they have surpassed their Premier League point total with 59 and still have three game left to play.
CLUB RECORD: West Ham have won 59 points in the league this season, their most in a Premier League campaign. pic.twitter.com/IRKg5xk8Ex— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2016
Along the path to their best finish in the Premier League, they have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea and have played some scintillating football with Dmitri Payet at the center of everything creative they have done.
If it wasn't for the fairytale stuff going on at Leicester, Slaven Bilic and Mauricio Pochettino would be going head-to-head for the Manager of the Year award with Bilic.
With three games left to play and with Manchester City chasing a Champions League title, West Ham could pip their rivals at the post. All is left to play for as they play Manchester United, Swansea and Stoke to finish their season. Regardless of what happens in these games, West Ham have found their man in Bilic and there are exciting times ahead at the Olympic Stadium.
Wenger's blushes saved by Danny Welbeck
"These are the times that try men's souls."
They are trying times at Arsenal indeed, particularly for Arsene Wenger as a small percentage of fans protested against the Frenchman's management of the club during their 1-0 victory over Norwich this afternoon.
The club are currently embroiled in a battle for Champions League qualification having fallen out of the title race some time ago and, while Wenger will protest himself that Champions League qualification is not something to be sneered at, the fans think they could have won the league this year.
The home side did not have a shot on target in the first half and looked similarly bereft of creativity in the second half until Danny Welbeck came on to break the deadlock and hand Arsenal all three points.
During the build-up to the game, Wenger argued that the fans had created a difficult climate at the Emirates. There were further hints of that at half-time when jeers rang out around the stadium and it could have been worse if it weren't for Welbeck.
Arsenal play Manchester City and Aston Villa in their remaining games but another slip-up could result in Wenger not having the chance to experience any climate at the Emirates next season.
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