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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 25 March, 2019

An extraordinary achievement and more Premier League talking points

Huddersfield guaranteed their Premier League survival on Wednesday night.

Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is thrown into the air by the players as they celebrate Premier League safefy.
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is thrown into the air by the players as they celebrate Premier League safefy.
Image: EMPICS Sport

1. An extraordinary achievement for Huddersfield

FEW PEOPLE GAVE Huddersfield much hope of survival after they reached the Premier League via the play-offs last season.

Even in recent weeks, staying in the top fight was looking difficult owing to a challenging run-in that included games against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Terriers’ resources are vastly inferior to most other Premier League teams — they have the lowest wage bill in the top flight. And indeed, as recently as last May, the club reportedly had capped players’ wages at £10,000 per week.

While they recruited extensively in the summer, David Wagner’s side were still many people’s favourites to go down.

Wednesday night’s result, coupled with a surprise 0-0 draw at Man City last weekend, emphasised that what they lack in talent, they more than make up for in terms of spirit and defensive organisation.

Their next big battle will surely be holding onto German coach Wagner. The club were 18th in the Championship when he took over and the 46-year-old former Borussia Dortmund II coach has consequently been a key figure in this unlikely success story.

2. Spurs stumble over the line

Tottenham sealed a top-four spot with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle at Wembley this evening.

After beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge recently, Spurs looked on course for a comfortable passage into next season’s Champions League, however four points from their last four games left that outcome in doubt.

As has been the case quite often of late, Mauricio Pochettino’s side produced an unconvincing performance on Wednesday evening.

There were a couple of nervy moments at the back for the North Londoners, as the Magpies threatened a surprise result.

The problem partially seemed to be due to the tempo of Tottenham’s attacks — Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko were taking too many touches and not getting balls up the pitch quickly enough for the forward players to do damage, as the hosts made life all too easy for Newcatsle’s backline with their laboured build-up play.

However, Harry Kane’s 39th goal of the season — a brilliant strike from the edge of the area — ensured much of Wembley breathed a sigh of relief as Spurs stumbled over the line.

Pochettino, despite his much-discussed continuing inability to win trophies, deserves plenty of credit. He is turning Spurs into Champions League regulars, despite the superior resources of sides such as Chelsea and Arsenal.

3. Chelsea made to pay for resting players

Huddersfield will have received a boost when they saw the Chelsea team-sheet tonight.

Star player Eden Hazard was strangely held in reserve, while in-form Olivier Giroud was also kept on the bench.

It was a hugely important match for the Blues, and the 1-1 draw leaves their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.

Barring a shock loss for Liverpool against Brighton on the final day, last year’s champions will almost certainly have to settle for a fifth-place finish.

It could also be the final nail in under-fire coach Antonio Conte’s stint as Chelsea boss, regardless of the outcome of the FA Cup final against Man United later this month.

The Italian refused to confirm to Sky Sports that he would be in the Londoners’ dugout next season, and it appears increasingly likely that Roman Abramovich will be on the lookout for a new manager in the summer.

Wednesday night’s outcome also means that, for only the third time in Premier League history, all three promoted sides have avoided relegation (2001-02 and 2011-12 were the other seasons in question).

4. Man City deserve to be considered among the Premier League greats

Man City beat Brighton 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium this evening and broke a couple of Premier League records in the process.

They surpassed the 95-point tally set by Chelsea in 2005, broke the goal record of the Chelsea 2010 team, while their 31 victories sees them overtake the 30 wins registered by the Blues last season.

It would be premature to call them the greatest Premier League team ever — Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and Man United’s treble winners, for example, arguably had more impressive seasons.

Yet this City side at least deserve to enter into the conversation owing to their phenomenal campaign, while next season will also go a long way towards defining their legacy.

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Paul Fennessy

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