Leicester City and Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League after a dramatic final day saw them knock out Everton.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second-half strike saw Sean Dyche’s side beat Bournemouth 1-0, while Leeds were beaten 4-1 by Tottenham Hotspur. Leicester beat West Ham United 2-1, but it wasn’t enough for Everton.
Athletic Analyzing the 90-minute nail-biting action at the bottom of the table…
Leeds trail by six in a must-win game… and concede after two minutes in either half
You need success to stay afloat, and even that won’t be enough. You can do with big swings in goal difference too. So what do you decide to do? If you’re Sam Allardyce, you’ll name a starting line-up with six defenders and very little in the way of recognized attackers, apart from Jack Harrison and Rodrigo.
Then, as you settle into your position in the dug-out, you see that defense-heavy team conceding after a full minute of play; No one is watching Harry Kane and he won’t miss the status you give him. So the distortions of a performance begin with the chaos of a creation.
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Leeds are painfully limited and have been for most of the season. But perhaps this four-game stint has put paid to the notion that Allardyce will stick with it for a long time. His time in charge has been nothing short of looking like a finger-licker.
It may be different if he is a permanent fixture with his own team, and it’s too big a risk to overestimate or trust him. Leeds Weston McKenney goes for a routine of long throws… and it was really bad.
Dyche’s appointment pays off
The big conundrum for Sean Dyche heading into Sunday’s game is how he will plug the gaps in his defense and attack. With the full-backs and Dominic Calvert-Lewin missing, much of the week was spent experimenting with different formations and trying to come up with a solution.
Dyche changed the formation to three at the back, which was rarely pretty but ultimately successful.
Summer signing James Corner was left out at right wing-back against the dangerous Dango Ouattara, a January target for Everton. After last weekend’s match against Wolves, the midfielder revealed that he had never played in his new position, although he was quiet again at Goodison.
Garner got into tackles, passed smartly and saved Bournemouth goalkeeper Mark Travers in an excellent first half. Dwight McNeil, on the other hand, was a talented, willing runner.
Calvert-Levine’s absence hit hard. In the first half, dangerous crosses into the box went begging. Often, they don’t have the players or the presence to make it count. But Doucoure’s wonder strike, reminiscent of Gareth Farrelly’s equalizer against Coventry in 1998 that lifted Everton, made all the difference. By hook or by crook, Dyche found a way.
His arrival at the end of January as a replacement for Frank Lampard was a turning point in Everton’s season.
Docoure is vital to Everton
Football has never been more dramatic than on the final day, and Dougour scored the goal that lifted Everton, leaving the midfielder frozen under former head coach Frank Lampard.
“He’s definitely someone who can help the club going forward,” said his manager Dyche in February.
“Different managers see different things; Different managers want different things,” he added. “He’s working in both boxes, driving with his flow, that’s for sure. The signs are good.”
Doucoure played a key role in big Everton wins: driving forward in the first minute against Brentford to assist Dwight McNeil’s match-winner, as well as scoring twice in the first 30 minutes to record a huge 5–1 win over Brighton. A goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw against Chelsea.
Leicester were relegated despite scoring 51 goals
Leicester became the third team to be relegated from the Premier League (in a 38-game season) after scoring more than 50 goals in a season.
Their 2-1 win over West Ham United at the King Power Stadium was not enough to keep them up after Everton’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth, but Harvey Barnes’ first-half goal took them to half a century for the season. And Vought Face’s second-half header equaled Middlesbrough’s tally of 51 in 1996-97. Blackpool (55) were the only other team to score more than 50 runs in 2010-11.
But Pablo Fornals’ consolation saw them concede 68 runs, the joint third-highest score in the division.
For many, it could be their last time representing the club when they slip up in the Championship. Youri Tielemans, Jonny Evans, Papi Mendy, Daniel Amartey, Ayoze Perez, Gagler Soyuncu and Ryan Bertrand are now out of contract, while James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are expected to be sold.
Kelechi Iheanacho, who replaced Jamie Vardy with a year left on his contract, appeared to be waving to the crowd. Leaving out Iheanacho, Leicester’s all-time record Premier League goalscorer, was a big call from interim manager Dean Smith, but it didn’t affect the result.
The damage has already been done by this side’s poor defensive record, with just one clean sheet in their last 23 league games being the main reason for their relegation.
Wasteful finishing by Leeds cost them
If you concede first in 20 of your 38 Premier League matches this season, you’ll be in the relegation zone. Leeds’ fading hopes of survival were sealed by a Harry Kane finish two minutes later, but what followed was more representative of their season.
Leeds had nine shots in the first half. They have only registered more attempts this season – in the opening 45 minutes – against Crystal Palace in April. However, only one of those nine shots tested Spurs goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
In fact, just three of Leeds’ 19 shots hit the target in 90 minutes.
Throughout the season, Rodrigo has excelled in front of goal – scoring 4.6 non-penalty goals over his xG – but, as a team, Leeds haven’t tested the goalkeeper very often all season.
At the end of the season their share of shots on target was 31.4 per cent, the third worst ratio of any Premier League team.
It goes without saying that making an opportunity work is one thing, but changing those opportunities means you’re out of trouble and out of the exit zone. If ever a game encapsulated a team’s entire season, it was at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon.
At the end of the day the schedule looked like this:
(Top photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)