Premier League: 10 things to look out for on the final day


A wake is in store in Swansea, Jrgen Klopp faced with a juggling act and a swansong for Antonio Conte and Rafa Bentez?

1) Sunday at the Liberty likely to be a wake

This feature, you will note, is called ‘10 Things to Look Out For’ rather than ‘10 Things to Look Forward To’. Thank goodness for that, because there might not be much to look forward to at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday. The match between Swansea and Stoke is likely to be a wake, with both clubs wondering how the hell they got into this mess. A number of players will be making their last appearance for both sides, seeing no contradiction in the belief that they are far too good to play in the Championship. Swansea could still stay up, but they need snookers, a miracle and, most unlikely of all, at least one goal. RS

2) Saints survive – but must learn from mistakes

Suddenly Southampton seem an attractive proposition again. Having all but avoided relegation, the club can begin looking up rather than down. There would have been an exodus of players had they dropped a division but Saints, with Mark Hughes likely to remain, will be in a strong position again this summer. Some of the younger players, especially those such as Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek, ought to come back hardened by the experience. There is no obvious candidate ready to jump ship, as in years gone by, with Ryan Bertrand the biggest-name exit imaginable, while it is difficult to see Sofiane Boufal or Guido Carrillo staying put in Hampshire much longer. It was always going to be a big summer either way, but with survival set to be confirmed at home against Manchester City on Sunday, the club must take stock and learn from their mistakes. BF

Mark Hughes celebrates with his players at full time of their win over Swansea City. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

3) Plenty for Klopp to juggle ahead of Champions League final

At 2pm on Sunday, somebody – maybe, just maybe, on Twitter – is going to be very angry at Jürgen Klopp. He can’t win with his selection for Liverpool’s last league match against Brighton. If he picks his best XI he will be jeopardising their fitness before the Champions League final against Real Madrid; if he picks a weakened team he will be jeopardising Liverpool’s place in next season’s Champions League. There are so many things for Klopp to juggle: momentum, mood, match sharpness, avoiding injury to key players. Liverpool only need a point, and Klopp’s history suggests he will start a very strong side with a view to taking players off after an hour. But if one of the Fab Three twangs a hamstring, he may never hear the end of it. RS

4) A swansong for Conte – and Benítez?

With Champions League qualification out of Chelsea’s hands, Sunday’s trip to St James’ Park is ever likelier to be Antonio Conte’s last in charge of the 2017 champions. Of greater impact might be the question of whether it is also a swansong for his counterpart in the home dug-out. Although results have fallen away in recent weeks, Rafa Benítez has much to feel satisfied with a year after guiding Newcastle back up from the Championship: his side have survived comfortably after a rocky start, he has coaxed decisive performances from a number of players such as Jonjo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelles and Mo Diamé; and he remains an enormously popular figure on Tyneside. Yet as ever with Newcastle, off-field uncertainty around budgets and ownership threaten to hobble their progress, and are likely to determine whether Benítez remains at a club for whom a place in at least the top eight should be a realistic goal next season. The chance to sign off 2017-18 with a victory over historic adversaries Chelsea should be one Benítez will jump at. TD

5) Will Huddersfield ruin Wenger’s party by extending their own?

On the face of it, the scene is set for one big royal knees-up in West Yorkshire, with Huddersfield set to toast safety and ArsèneWenger, after 22 years, bowing out of Arsenal. Wenger will be desperate to go out with a bang, particularly after a couple of raw reminders of their shortcomings under him recently, namely their Europa League exit to Atlético Madrid and defeat at Leicester on Wednesday evening. The biggest worry is that Huddersfield might wake up from their survival hangover with a bounce – after celebrating safety into the early hours of Thursday morning at a Fitzrovia nightclub. The best bit about their Premier League party was that, after opting to ditch the plane home – instead favouring the team coach so they could presumably continue festivities more easily – they were told that their coach driver was not permitted to clock up the mileage back from Stamford Bridge. David Wagner subsequently gave his players – who travelled back north on the train – two days off, but can they manage one final lasting surprise before the season’s out? BF

Play Video

Wenger: Arsenal will compete for the Premier League title next season – video

6) Moore deserves West Brom chance

The biggest risk West Bromwich Albion could take this summer is to wriggle out of giving Darren Moore the full-time job. It was cruel, to say the least, that the 44-year-old picked up the manager of the month award on the same day his team were relegated from the Premier League, given he dragged the club up off the floor to the verge of whatwould have ranked one of the most extraordinary miracles of all time. He has galvanised a troubled group that had gone awry under Alan Pardew’s leadership and, if he was installed as caretaker manager sooner, it is not unfathomable to imagine a different outcome this season. The other names linked with the job – Dean Smith, Chris Wilder and even Lee Johnson – have all impressed in the Championship and, surely, Moore should at least be given a chance to do the same after bidding farewell to the Premier League at Crystal Palace. BF

7) United fans say goodbye to Carrick

For 12 years, Michael Carrick has been the best supporting actor of Old Trafford. He is the only survivor of the last great United team, which won three consecutive titles and a Champions League between 2006 and 2009. Carrick, who replaced Roy Keane by not replacing him at all, had a major impact with his defensive awareness, calmness and particularly the range and positivity of his passing. He had some lows after that – he was twice left to deal with Xavi and Andres Iniesta on his own in a Champions League final, and his mistakes against Bayern Munich in 2010 and Manchester City in 2011 were savagely punished – but recovered to become a senior player either side of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. The coaches who appreciated Carrick, like Ferguson and Martin Jol, really appreciated him. On Sunday, United fans will get to pay tribute before he disappears modestly onto the coaching staff. RS

Michael Carrick, who is set to play the final match of his career before retirement. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

8) Will this be the end of an era for Tottenham?

All right-thinking neutrals should hope this Spurs team have another crack at winning something next season, but there is a nagging sense that Sunday’s game against Leicester might be the end of an era. In a sense, that’s obvious: Spurs will play at the new White Hart Lane next season, and the whiff of a new era will extend way beyond the Michelin-starred cooking that will be a feature of Spurs’ new gastrofooty experience. But the Coquilles St. Jacques Grillées et Minestrone de Palourdes won’t taste half as good if Spurs fans are watching a different team to the one that has charmed everyone in the past three seasons. Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose look certain to leave for, erm, starters. Though they would be missed, their departure would not be heavy on symbolism. But if any of Mauricio Pochettino, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli go, the team could break up at speed. RS

9) Moyes can stake his claim against former club

A pre-match grumble-off between the respective fans here would be quite the spectacle, with Hammers bemoaning their loss of identity on and off the pitch since the London Stadium move and Everton fans simmering with discontent over their unappealing displays under Sam Allardyce. A common thread between them though might be a measure of respect for David Moyes. For all that the Scot’s reputation has tumbled in the past five years, Everton have struggled to regain the consistency and status they had under Moyes while he has at least provided West Ham with sufficient steel and organisation to survive, though fans remain ambivalent about his style and whether he’s the man for the job long-term. With Moyes confident enough to be challenging West Ham’s owners with statements about his future ambitions for the club, he can strengthen his hand with a convincing win over his former club, who also have some managerial issues to resolve, as Wayne Rooney’s wavering over his commitment to the club demonstrates. TD

10) A celebration of the English manager at Turf Moor

Burnley’s home games have been a struggle. We mean that, for the most part, in a positive sense, because they are arguably the best pound-for-pound team in the division. Their matches have been tough and uncompromising. In 18 league games at Turf Moor, Burnley have scored 15 and conceded 15. The end-of-season atmosphere may be conducive to the players of both sides having fun of the less masochistic kind. Burnley will stay seventh whatever happens, though Bournemouth could ensure back-to-back top-ten finishes if results go their way. With both sides overachieving spectacularly, this match should also be a celebration of that pariah species: the English manager. RS

Read more:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here