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The Premier League Top Four Race Is Wide Open Thanks To Jorginho’s Boner

Jorginho of Chelsea battles for possession with Kieran Tierney of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on May 12, 2021 in London, England.
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

With one colossal mistake, Jorginho became a lot of Liverpool fans’ favorite opposing player. Chelsea’s Brazilian-Italian midfielder gifted Arsenal as easy of a goal as a team can hope for in a top-flight contest, and in the process blew the doors wide open on the race for the Premier League’s coveted Champions League spots.

There’s really nothing to forgive here when it comes to Jorginho. Even if he obviously misplayed the pass back to goalie Kepa Arrizabalaga, he violated the main rule of passing back to your goalie: never, ever pass across the goal from where your netminder is. Even a perfect pass from Jorginho wouldn’t have done much to save Kepa, who couldn’t handle the ball due to the back-pass rule. He tried to anyway, and it’s possible the refs would have blown the whistle and awarded an indirect free kick to the Gunners inside the six-yard box; can’t really fault the goalie for that one, though, given that it was a sure goal otherwise.

The only bright side for Chelsea was that Jorginho’s colossal fuck-up happened early on, and against a team who doesn’t strike fear in anyone’s hearts right now. The Blues controlled the majority of the possession the rest of the way, and had some real chances to equalize in the 74 minutes after they went down 1-0. Similar to Chelsea’s Champions League match last week against Real, though, those chances were resoundingly missed. This time around, though, there weren’t goals to be found, and now Chelsea has only one finger on the steering wheel in the race for the fourth spot in England.

In this wild season, there’s no such thing as a sure thing—well, there are two: Manchester City won the league and Manchester United clinched Champions League for next year—and so Leicester City’s crucial 2-1 win over United on Tuesday only puts them in a great position, not a safe one.

The Foxes have tough games remaining, away to Chelsea and home to Tottenham, but if they win out, they’re in. Even a draw doesn’t eliminate them or put them in too precarious a position, thanks to Chelsea dropping all three points on Wednesday. Unless it chokes, Leicester is going back to the Champions League next year.

The real winner, though, is Liverpool. Somehow, some way, the Pool Boys are still in the hunt during this nightmare of a season in the Merseyside. Currently, they sit seven points back of Chelsea, the same amount they were before Wednesday’s Blues game. Crucially, though, Liverpool has two extra games to play. The next one isn’t a sure three points, though it’s winnable: it plays away at Manchester United on Thursday, though its forever rival has nothing to play for domestically and might trot out some youngsters. Given how vital it is for any team to finish top four, Liverpool should still come out strong to try to close the gap.

Things get really interesting if the Reds do win on Thursday. That would put them four points back of Chelsea, with the additional game to play. If the Blues drop any more points, Liverpool could leapfrog them into fourth. The thing to remember is that Chelsea isn’t doomed if it drops out of the top four: given that it made the Champions League final, it could punch its ticket for next year’s competition by winning that final against Manchester City. Does that mean that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel decides to rest his players in the run-up? Probably not now that it lost to Arsenal. Instead, Chelsea will likely go all out to beat Leicester next Tuesday. A win there flips the script, and probably secures Chelsea its spot.

Nothing will really be settled until the last day of the season, though the different permutations will become clearer after Thursday’s United-Liverpool match. A Liverpool loss or draw probably sinks it to the bottom of the pool, and maybe opens up the door for West Ham, who currently sit one point ahead in fifth, albeit with an extra match played. The only thing that is clear after Wednesday’s game though, is that one boneheaded play by a Chelsea regular has made this all the more difficult for his team, and all the more exciting for anyone with a vested interest in the race for the top four.