Barton is a liability
Some people scoff at the idea that footballers are role models but Joey Barton's red card against Manchester City was eerily reminiscent of one shown to the captain of another west London club.
Just as when Chelsea's captain, John Terry, kneed Alexis Sánchez in the back during the win over Barcelona, QPR's Barton, likewise captain, was dismissed against City for landing an apparently retaliatory elbow on Carlos Tevez and then compounded that mindless act by kneeing Sergio Agüero, attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany and threatening to start a row with Mario Balotelli on the touchline. All this with QPR, having just equalised through Djibril Cissé, needing to avoid a defeat to be certain of staying up. In that context it was not merely a moment of self-sabotage, it was a display of petulance that could have cost his side everything.
Barton is meant to be their leader yet, when QPR required him most, once the red mist descended he acted only in self-interest, demonstrating a blatant disregard for the needs of his team-mates and the club's supporters. For all that he has tried to reinvent his image this season and make himself the poster boy for fascinated intellectuals with little interest in football – mainly by showcasing an in-depth knowledge of where the CTRL C and V keys are on a keyboard – this was Barton at his worst: vicious, thoughtless and selfish.
If QPR could, they would probably get rid of him, especially as his average performances for them hardly justify the baggage in the way, say, Balotelli's potential for genius can. But who would want him now? He is not worth the hassle even if, as with Terry's team, Barton's ultimately got away with it, despite losing. JS
This has been a good season for Tottenham
In 2006 it was the lasagne; in 2012 it could be Chelsea. Tottenham Hotspur have, after beating Fulham 2-0, taken the final Champions League spot but, if Chelsea go and win the thing in Munich next week, fourth place will not be enough to gain entry to next season's tournament. However, it would be harsh to criticise Tottenham for that, tempting as it is to joke about their capacity to find weird and wonderful ways to mess up a good thing.
At the start of the season fourth place was the goal and now, having achieved that, they are at the mercy of a result which is completely out of their control. They cannot be blamed for that. Last season they finished fifth so they can justifiably point to improvement and, despite the manner in which talk of a title challenge ended almost as quickly as it began, Spurs should view this campaign with some satisfaction. It could have been more and they should have finished third. But, if they can hang on to Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in the summer, there should be no doom and gloom around White Hart Lane. JS
Bolton are the luckiest unlucky team in recent history
So Bolton Wanderers are down, relegated after Stoke City were allowed to score one goal against them by means of a physical assault on their goalkeeper and another from an extremely dubious penalty. If it were not for that, if just one of those two decisions had gone in their favour on Sunday afternoon, it would have been QPR, and not the Trotters, weeping into their cornflakes this morning. And then cast your minds back a week to the manic moments when Djibril Cissé scored for QPR against Stoke at Loftus Road and then James Morrison equalised for West Bromwich Albion at the Reebok, a decisive single-minute, four-point swing. How terribly unlucky, how incredibly unfortunate.
But let's look at the goals they scored in those same two games: a penalty, a bizarre freak own-goal, a clearance that ricocheted off a midfielder's shin and into goal from 15 yards and a cross that sailed straight into the top corner – in other words a compendium of the serendipitous and the providential, a joyful sequence of lucky breaks. They talk about swings and roundabouts but that is a dizzying amount of swinging and, um, roundabouting to happen over 180 minutes of football. And when the swings stopped swinging and the roundabouts stopped, er, roundabouting, what were they left with? The slide. SB
Rich pickings from the relegated clubs
Championship sides should probably be happy that QPR, rather than Bolton, have stayed up given the strength of their respective squads and finances. The same applies to Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic. Still, there are a few players at the three relegated clubs who will look very attractive to potential suitors. At Blackburn, Junior Hoilett and Yakubu Ayegbeni, who scored again at Chelsea, will surely leave and they could be followed by Steven N'Zonzi, Mauro Formica, Paul Robinson and Martin Olsson.
For Bolton the key will be to hold on to Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-yong, whose lengthy injuries were a major factor in the side's relegation. Martin Petrov would be a useful addition if he has another year in the top division in him, as would Ivan Klasnic. The creative Mark Davies may interest clubs in the bottom half as well, while at Wolves the excellent Steven Fletcher, who scored his 12th goal of the season against Wigan, will undoubtedly find a new home. And there is already talk of Alex McLeish being interested in taking Karl Henry to Aston Villa. Which is possibly where this argument falls down. JS
What we learned about learning
This is the 180th thing that regular readers of this weekly blog will have learned from it this season. Some of them have proved to be red herrings – "Wolves look fit to take on all comers" in week one is probably not our most triumphant moment – while others have stood the test of time somewhat better. Here are some key What We've Learned statistics:
• We have learned the same number of things or fewer about fully 50% of Premier League clubs as we have about Mario Balotelli alone. After Balotelli, with six things, the next most learned-about players were Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll with four.
• We have learned least about Fulham and West Brom – three things each (or a mention in 8% of our blogs). Two of West Brom's three were actually about Roy Hodgson and the other about Shane Long, in August. We learned four things about each of Norwich, Stoke and Wigan and five things about Bolton.
• We have learned most about Chelsea (14, meaning that 39% of our blogs have featured them), followed by Liverpool (12), Aston Villa (11), Arsenal and Tottenham (10) and Manchester City and Newcastle (nine).
• We learned one thing about Scotland, one thing about Spain, one thing about non-league football and seven things about the Nationwide League.
Arsenal, Tottenham 10
Newcastle, Man City 9
Man United 8
Swansea, Everton 7
Blackburn, Bolton, QPR, Wolves 6
Norwich, Stoke, Sunderland, Wigan 4
Fulham, West Brom 3
Andy Carroll, Fernando Torres 4
Mario Balotelli 6
Scotland, Spain 1
Clubs in the Nationwide League 7