An intense battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League saw Manchester United held to a stalemate by the Blues at Old Trafford, with Chelsea the happier of the two teams with a point.
Juan Mata put United ahead but Marcos Alonso equalized after a mistake from David De Gea, as the top four battle remains intense with two games to go.
Here’s what we learned from a tense battle which summed up the tight race for UEFA Champions League qualification.
DE GEA’S THIRD HOWLER COSTS UNITED
By his own very high standards, David de Gea is having a horrible few weeks. High-profile mistakes against Barcelona, Man City and now Chelsea have seen the man who is so often United’s savior cost them dear.
De Gea, 28, is in the midst of plenty of speculation regarding his future as his contract situation rumbles on, and it would be a little too easy to point to that being the main reason for this poor run of form.
It is a reason, but this poor form has arrived sporadically dating back to the end of last season as it surfaced during the 2018 World Cup.
The Spanish goalkeeper has been named United’s Player of the Season in five of the last six seasons for a reason. He is their rock in defense and among all of their problems, his stunning form was the one constant United could rely on.
Not anymore. And that’s probably why United won’t finish in the top four this season, the main aim for Ole Gunnar Solskjaerafter he took over in December. At a crucial time of the season, United’s most reliable star has endured a nightmare spell and has probably cost them being among Europe’s elite next season.
NOBODY WANTS TO WIN THIS TOP FOUR RACE
Both Tottenham and Arsenal lost in disappointing fashion this weekend, and neither United or Chelsea could make the most of their slip-ups in the top four race. It’s almost like these teams don’t want to play in the UEFA Champions League next season…
The lackluster second half displays from United and Chelsea summed up this top four race. Teams are running out of steam and are inconsistent and whoever does finish in fourth will have limped over the line.
What their ineptitude does is set up the top four race for a thrilling finish to the campaign. With two games to go Tottenham in third are five points ahead of Man United in sixth, with just three points between Chelsea in fourth and United.
With Spurs in the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Ajax and both Arsenal and Chelsea in the semifinals of the Europa League, Man United could have the edge with their remaining games easier, on paper, than their top four rivals. But this draw for Chelsea puts them in a very good position.
Here are the games the four teams fighting for third and fourth have remaining:
- Tottenham – Bournemouth (A), Everton (H)
- Chelsea – Watford (H), Leicester (A)
- Arsenal – Brighton (H), Burnley (A)
- Man United – Huddersfield (H), Cardiff (A)
CHELSEA’S STUTTERING ATTACK
Gonzalo Higuain just couldn’t stay onside for most of the game on Sunday, let alone score a goal. We all know the Argentine striker loves to play on the shoulder of the last defender, but he yet again failed to offer that much in attack and Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard couldn’t get going underneath him.
It looks like Chelsea are now favorites ahead of Arsenal and United finish in the top four, and coupled with their run to the League Cup final and Europa League semifinal, Maurizio Sarri‘s men aren’t doing too badly at all. If he stays, which is looking more likely, Sarri can turn things around at Stamford Bridge after a rough few months.
But the Italian coach knows his attack may well look very different next season with Eden Hazard likely to leave, Christian Pulisic coming in and the futures of Higuain, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson-Odoi still up in the air.
Unless Hazard scores, Chelsea struggle to score and that is the main problem for Sarri to sort out this summer. For all of their intricate play in midfield and solid defensive outings (at least in recent weeks), Sarri must find a way to reignite Chelsea’s attack if they’re going to be genuine title contenders next season.
They are the lowest scorers in the top six and still have a Diego Costa size hole in their attack.