Watford captain Troy Deeney and AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on Sunday accepted responsibility for the pain of relegation from the English Premier League, while Aston Villa manager Dean Smith was planning a party after avoiding the drop.
Deeney’s penalty was not enough to prevent Watford losing 3-2 at Arsenal as the Hornets’ decision to sack a record three managers in a Premier League season, including Nigel Pearson with just two matches remaining, backfired.
“This is a reflection of the whole year,” Deeney told Sky Sports. “I will take the stick on social media, but the harsh reality is people will lose their jobs because we haven’t been good enough.”
Deeney has played through the pain barrier this month, but hinted that his 10 years at Vicarage Road could be coming to an end.
“I will be having a knee operation next week. Clubs can go in different directions and players can,” he said. “If that is my last game, I am happy I went out on my shield. I am a simple man. Did I go out and do everything I could? Yes. Was it good enough? No.”
Bournemouth won 3-1 at Everton, but the damage was already done as the Cherries’ five-year stay in the top flight came to an end.
Howe said that the responsibility for relegation lies with him rather than his underperforming players.
“It hurts. I’m trying to keep it together. I’m really sad for the fans of this club,” Howe said. “It’s small margins, there has been loads of moments during the season. As the manager I make hundreds of decisions and I haven’t been good enough this season. I’m not going to sit here and criticize the players in any way, I have to back them and support them. First I have to look at myself and that I will do.”
Villa did just enough to prevent an immediate return to the Championship as they secured a 1-1 draw at West Ham United in a dramatic finale.
Jack Grealish put Smith’s side ahead six minutes from time, but just a minute later Andriy Yarmolenko’s deflected effort ensured there was a nervy end for Villa.
A lifelong Villa fan, Smith lost his father, who used to be a steward at Villa Park, to COVID-19 during the Premier League’s three-month suspension due to the pandemic.
“I was brought up a Villa fan. It is a proud moment and feels better than going up last season,” Smith said. “It was a big change we had to make at the football club. We had to build a new team, a new squad. We used the pandemic to the best. I lost my father through that period and there was a lot of disappointment, but we knew we had to work hard. I have lost my voice. I expect Jack Grealish to get drunk with me tonight.”
At the other end of the table, Manchester United and Chelsea sealed UEFA Champions League places.
Manchester United finished third after a nervy 2-0 win in a Champions League shoot-out against Leicester City, while Chelsea finished fourth after beating Wolverhampton Wanderers by the same score.
Tottenham Hotspur drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace, the point enough for Jose Mourinho’s men to finish sixth.
Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-1 to finish the season on 99 points, while second-placed Manchester City thumped Norwich City 5-0 to reach 102 goals, with Kevin de Bruyne scoring twice and matching Thierry Henry’s record of 20 assists in a season.
Elsewhere, Brighton & Hove Albion beat Burnley 2-1 and Southampton beat Sheffield United 3-1.
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