Premier League: Aston Villa jump out of relegation zone after beating Arsenal; Manchester City thrash Watford
Aston Villa might be the most confident of the trio after beating Arsenal 1-0 on Tuesday to climb out of the bottom three, where the team from central England has been since 29 February.
Aston Villa are out of the Premier League’s relegation zone for the first time in five months.
Watford are back in it, despite their latest change of manager.
The fight to avoid dropping out of the world’s richest domestic league is heading to the final day of the season, with two relegation places still to be filled and three clubs in realistic danger.
Villa might be the most confident of the trio after beating Arsenal 1-0 on Tuesday to climb out of the bottom three, where the team from central England has been since 29 February.
That wouldn’t have been the case had Watford not been thrashed 4-0 at home by Manchester City, their goal-difference advantage taking a massive hit in the process.
Villa are tied for points with Watford but has a superior goal difference of +1. They are both three points ahead of next-to-last Bournemouth, who has the same goal difference as Watford.
Crucially, Watford has the toughest game in Sunday’s finale — on paper, at least — as it must travel to Arsenal.
Villa are away to West Ham, who is not mathematically safe but would need to lose by a margin of seven goals or more and for Watford to win by eight or more at Arsenal.
Bournemouth are away, too, at Everton and must win while also hoping both Watford and Villa lose.
Last-place Norwich has already been relegated.
Villa had to rely on a huge dose of fortune to preserve their most significant win of the season.
With 13 minutes remaining and Villa leading through Trezeguet’s powerfully struck goal in the first half, Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah rose to meet a curling corner and headed the ball against the far post. The ball rebounded out, struck Villa goalkeeper Pepe Reina, and almost bounced back over the line before Reina pounced on it.
Ultimately, Trezeguet was Villa’s match-winner, like he was on 12 July in scoring twice in a home victory over Crystal Palace. Villa’s last win before that came in January.
Arsenal lost to a relegation contender two days after beating Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals, highlighting the inconsistency that still bedevils Mikel Arteta’s team.
The highest Arsenal can now finish is eighth place, meaning it will need to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final on 1 August to play in European competition next season.
If Watford do go down, at least they won’t have to play Manchester City next season.
Make that 18-0 to City in the last three meetings between the teams, after a 6-0 win in the FA Cup last season and an 8-0 win for City at their Etihad Stadium home in September.
Raheem Sterling moved onto 19 league goals for the season — his most in a single campaign — with a first-half double, the second coming off a rebound after having a penalty saved.
Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte were the other scorers.
Kevin De Bruyne provided the cross for Laporte’s goal for his 19th assist of the season, one off Thierry Henry’s record for one season.
As for Watford, there was no reaction to the surprising weekend firing of Nigel Pearson, who became the third manager to lose his job at Vicarage Road this season — a divisional record.
The upcoming Nations League matches offer the last chance for European sides to finetune their squads for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It was the first time since February 1955 that Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Roma have lost on the same day in Serie A.
Mark Noble, who spent 18 years at West Ham as a player and retired earlier this year, will begin as the sporting director at the club from coming January.