Premier League: Bold and lucky Chelsea seal top-four spot, Leicester have only themselves to blame and more from final gameweek

·7-min read

Being caught between two cyclones, a lockdown and the plague, gives a bare-essential look to life.

Basic amenities first, trivialities later. Yet, football with the Premier League had a world audience captivated down to the last game-night, as Champions League spots were up for grabs.

When it came down to it, Liverpool were the only Champions League hopefuls to notch a win on a dramatic night, with both Chelsea and Leicester losing. We take a look at some of the talking points.

Crabs in a barrel

You know what crabs do when they see another crab climb up a barrel? Yep, they full that crab down.

That was the look and feel of Leicester-Tottenham clash; the game that ended 2-4 in favour of the visiting Spurs.

Spurs pulled Leicester down every time the Champions League hopefuls scored.

Now, you must understand that crabs don't pull the climbing crab down out of some preconceived malice, but out of the sheer stress of finding themselves in an unnatural environment. It is reflexive due to an utter change of surroundings. That is where Tottenham find themselves in; an old but new uncharted territory.

It wasn't long that Spurs were title contenders last December; and it wasn't long that they were appearing in the Champions League final.

It has been a mudslide of fortunes for lot many clubs this season, but Leicester weren't looking prone to slide.

With the recent FA Cup win over Chelsea, the local press clubs and pubs around Leicester City square, were primed with anticipation.

But lo! seventh placed Spurs pulled them down.

Leicester have themselves to blame too. There was a stringent case of nerves inside the whole stadium. It gripped the air like a claw holding a silk curtain in the dark. And that claw became their very own paws. Miscommunication at the back set off a ripple of anxiety through the ranks, as well as Brendan Rodgers. It was like a repeat of a managerial trauma set against Crystal Palace with Liverpool, fumbling everything on the last day of the season.

They were said to be overachieving to the point everyone calling his achievement with Leicester 'gatecrashing'. As if Brendan Rodgers sides didn't deserve an invite?

When so many people are telling your team that they are over-performing, there will be a moment opening up in the corridor of uncertainty, in both the collective psyche and on the pitch with your team.

That is exactly what happened, with Leicester finally finishing fifth in a league campaign that promised so much; all of it ultimately punctuated by an own goal by their club captain, Kasper Schmeichel. Brendan Rodgers' face was carved by an expression that only déjà vu can.

Two Jamie Vardy penalties weren't enough to offset their shakiness, as on the night the the usually decidedly world-weary Gareth Bale decided to remember that he was supposed to be world class and scored two goals to add on to Harry Kane's first half effort.

One positive for Tottenham would be the fact they snatched second tier European qualification spot away from bitter rivals Arsenal. But you wonder as an Arsenal fan if that's really a bad thing.

Naive, but bold and lucky

There is this beautiful naivety in the way Chelsea play. It costs them dearly, but not dearly enough. They wouldn't be featuring in a Champions League final a little while from last night if they did.

Chelsea managed fourth spot despite losing 2-1 to Anton Villa. Their total of 67 points have been enough to place them above Leicester (on 66 points).

There were images of Gareth Bale in a Chelsea shirt circulating our Reddit and Twitter. Some versions apotheosised him to sainthood. Often this season, they have needed divine interventions.

Their manager Thomas Tuchel never failed to acknowledge that this has been the case. He will also admit to the fact that luck has allowed this young Chelsea team to stumble and learn, but not ultimately fall in the most crucial of narrative shifts.

That painful lesson may be waiting in the not-too-distant horizon. The three-man at the back system, as flexible it also provides an elaborate weakness€" it is prone to opposition overloading their wings and cross early bells.

The loss at Aston Villa shows that this Chelsea team have to still find the gear where errors are close to none.

Composure in the attacking third was at a premium against Aston Villa. Attention spans are erratic. The pettiness of youth sinks into senior player too. Cesar Azpilicueta's affront on Jack Grealish was impetuous, as the often club captain, got sent off.

Former Chelsea stockpile and current Aston Villa favourite, Bertrand Traore was set to prove a point against a team whose weaknesses he knew too well. And he did, by scoring and then winning a penalty for Villa's second goal.

Chelsea's soft underbelly and hot head can be got at through stern application of certain disrupting tactics that are readily employed by wizened teams across the league; especially lower ones.

While an all buccaneering Chelsea may arrive to face Manchester City in the Champions League final, it is against the teams that sit back and counter, and frustrate that they need to do better next season.

This loss was a parting lesson to Tuchel and Chelsea from Villa.

Heart as wide as Wijnaldum's

Less stagger, more swagger. Liverpool stomped and puffed, and scored two Sadio Mane goals versus Crystal Palace. This on a night that a retiring Roy Hodgson will be thankful that it wasn't twice that amount or more.

All that nerve and rhythm stemmed from the metronome hips of Gini Wijnaldum€" then by transference of that self-assured property Thiago Alcantara started playing console football on the Anfield pitch. Suddenly, back flicks and dummies, and first time balls were abounding across Anfield once more like prancing rabbits.

The sound of real-life fans at Anfield was a lightning rod for the entire Liverpool team. They fed off the energy life mead from Norse heavens.

But if slick Sadio Mane was the tip of that lightning rod, the Liverpool number five, Gini Wijnaldum (who looks poised to be leaving this summer after contract talks stalled), was its grounding base. Not just last night, but for the last half a decade.

Jurgen Klopp wrote in the Liverpool matchday programme: "Gini Wijnaldum, a Liverpool legend now and forever. He is an architect of our success. We have built this Liverpool on his legs, lungs, brain and his huge, beautiful heart."

It was his constant availability that allowed an injury bent Liverpool to put together a remarkable 10-game run-starting 8th on 93 points to 3rd on 69 points.

The Liverpool manager was quick to address the collective feat. This at a time when almost everyone else in the league were. it was the Liverpool leadership who rallied their team.

"This is big. If someone had told me five or six weeks ago that we would finish the season in third, I would have said it was impossible. It was absolutely out of reach. To fight through all this and finish third is the best lesson you could learn for life. From nowhere to the Champions League in five weeks is a massive achievement."

None more so massive on a personal level than the levelling up of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips into starting Liverpool centre-back.

On a collective context, this Liverpool team looked dangerous and hungry last night. And if they play like they did last night and take it into next season, with the fans finally present in the stands to back them, it will assuredly be Manchester City's toughest title defence.

But for that, Liverpool will need some one with a heart as big as Gini Wijnaldum's.

Also See: Premier League: Jurgen Klopp delighted by Liverpool's 'incredible' third-place finish

Premier League: Chelsea were 'lucky' to make Champions League cut, says Thomas Tuchel

Premier League 2020-21 final day live stream: When and where to watch gameweek 38 matches

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