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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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

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1Arsenal have to focus on playing their partOnly the most grim-faced of churls would refuse to recognise the progress Mikel Arteta’s outstanding Arsenal side have made this season. The very fact a title win is on the table this weekend says more than enough and now they must make sure that, just in case West Ham cause an almighty stir at the Etihad, they do not taint it with unnecessary regrets. When Everton pitched up in London on the final day two years ago the home side cruised to a 5-1 win; nostalgia buffs among the support might prefer the 4-3 rip-roarer in 2002 that rubber-stamped the double winners’ season and ended with a Premier League trophy presentation. Even if the latter scenario is an outside bet this time, Arteta will expect his players to block out any noise – including dispatches from Manchester – and put an opponent to the sword one last time, making sure they at least do their bit. An opportunity to make dreams come true may yet present itself. Nick Ames Arsenal v Everton (all games Sunday 4pm BST) Premier League title race2Could Hall sneak into Southgate’s plans?England have a problem at left-back. While not currently fit, Luke Shaw is still hoping to make Gareth Southgate’s squad, with the manager admitting in March that he regards the 28-year-old as “one of the best left-backs in world football”. So who else is in contention to step up or be the backup? Ben Chilwell is injured, Kieran Trippier is ageing but has moonlighted on the left, Tyrick Mitchell is making a case at Crystal Palace, and Joe Gomez is a steady if slightly uninspired choice. Could Newcastle’s Lewis Hall make a late surge? The uncapped teenager has impressed of late in Eddie Howe’s starting XI and scored a brilliant goal at Old Trafford in midweek. Newcastle’s trip to Brentford is Hall’s last opportunity to make his mark before Southgate names his preliminary squad. Michael Butler Brentford v Newcastle 3Whisper it, but Casemiro had a brilliant game at centre-back for Manchester United against Newcastle. The Brazilian was probably the second best player on the pitch behind Bruno Fernandes, who took to Instagram afterwards to congratulate Casemiro, who kept Alexander Isak extremely quiet. The 32-year-old has been pelted with criticism lately, most of it justified, but responded here with some crucial tackles, interceptions, a goalline clearance and the calmness and intelligence that have defined his career. Casemiro’s future is not at centre-back, and probably not even at United, but he showed that – contrary to Jamie Carragher’s claim – the football has not left him. Saudi Pro League clubs are reportedly keen on him, and while that deal could suit all parties, do not be surprised to see European clubs also express an interest. MB Brighton v Manchester United 4Theoretical maths is only threat for ForestIt would take a Luton win, a Forest defeat and a 13-goal swing in Luton’s favour to inject a touch of jeopardy into the relegation battle on the final day. It has been a trying season for Nuno Espírito Santo and a club that has won few friends along the way, but that would be stretching it too far. A third consecutive Premier League campaign offers Forest the opportunity to build the stable base that has been lacking since returning to the top flight. For Burnley, by contrast, an immediate return to the Championship will test Vincent Kompany’s appetite for another promotion push. His team dominated the division two seasons ago, amassing 101 points as champions, but their improvement this term arrived far too late. Kompany has undoubtedly made mistakes in his debut season as a Premier League manager but the Burnley board were steadfast in their support and will hope it is repaid. Andy Hunter Burnley v Nottingham Forest Nuno Espiríto Santo has endured a trying season at Nottingham Forest but his team are all but safe. Photograph: Craig Brough/Action Images/Reuters5Rare Nkunku start can aid Europa chaseAt the start of the season it was common to hear people around Chelsea describe Christopher Nkunku as the most talented player at the club. That view has probably shifted since the signing of Cole Palmer, but the wider point is that things may well have turned out differently if Nkunku had not spent so long in the treatment room. The striker, who joined from RB Leipzig last summer, was ruled out for four months after suffering a knee injury during pre-season and he had another long layoff after the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool in February. When he has been fit, though, there have been glimpses of the Frenchman’s ability. Nkunku is a sharp finisher and he will be desperate to push on after scoring in Chelsea’s win over Brighton. With Mykhailo Mudryk unavailable, Nkunku could make only his third start of the season when Chelsea look to secure a Europa League spot against Bournemouth. Jacob Steinberg Chelsea v Bournemouth Christopher Nkunku can breathe more life into Chelsea’s final push for a Europa League place. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images6How well rested are Aston Villa?How much high-intensity training has gone on this week at Bodymoor Heath, Aston Villa’s training ground? They secured Champions League qualification on Tuesday after fifth-placed Tottenham failed to beat Manchester City, with the game screened at the club’s end-of-season awards ceremony. It will surprise nobody that Emi Martínez was in the thick of the action, spraying champagne left and right, particularly soaking Unai Emery. There will have been sore heads on Wednesday and possibly even Thursday with fourth place assured. It would not be a shock to see a lethargic performance against Crystal Palace, who at least have the carrot of a top-half finish to play for and have a few players – Marc Guéhi, Eberechi Eze, Adam Wharton and Dean Henderson – vying for a place at Euro 2024 with England. MBskip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion Crystal Palace v Aston Villa 7Emotional end coming for KloppIt is the end of an era at Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp leads a club he has revitalised over the past eight and a half years for one last time. The Liverpool manager has kept the emotions in check so far but, having spent time this week standing alone on the Kop and soaking up the view from the centre circle, they are likely to come pouring out against Gary O’Neil’s side. He will not be alone in that regard, with Liverpool supporters paying thousands to attend the Anfield farewell. Perhaps, privately, fans of other clubs will regret his departure too. The Premier League will be a much duller place without Klopp, whose teams have done more than most to break the monotony of the title race in recent years. He deserves all the adulation that is coming his way on Sunday. Andy Hunter Liverpool v Wolves A mural depicting Jürgen Klopp in Anfield, near the football ground. Fans are preparing to say goodbye to the departing manager. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images8One more time for Kenilworth RoadWhat a stadium Kenilworth Road is. In a league full of steel and glass, it has been brilliant to have a ground with some old-school charm in the top flight this season. Luton received planning permission for a new stadium way back in 2019, but “judicial reviews, council restructures, Covid, a financial crisis, massive hikes in steel and concrete prices, gluts in the labour market” have held up any progress since, according to the Luton chief executive Gary Sweet. The new site used to have two cooling chimneys and still has a river running through the middle of it that needs uncovering, so the club are still waiting on groundworks and do not expect to have a brick in the ground in 2024. If that’s frustrating news for Sweet and co, at least it means we might still see Kenilworth Road back in the big time in 2025-26 if Luton can bounce straight back from the Championship. MB Luton v Fulham 9Ruthless City aim to stretch run with titleHere we are again as the ruthless Rolls-Royce that is Manchester City has reeled off eight consecutive victories in a run of 22 unbeaten in the Premier League. City eye up West Ham as win No 9 and a historic fourth English title on the bounce. This is David Moyes’s swansong as the visitors’ manager and the Scot will inform his men to go out and try to ruin the day for Pep Guardiola’s side. Surely, though, City will not capitulate and allow Arsenal the chance to take their crown. Jamie Jackson Manchester City v West Ham Pep Guardiola is in no mood to relinquish the Premier League title. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian10Melbourne madness beckons for SpursOnce the final whistle blows at Bramall Lane, Tottenham will race to board a coach taking them to an airport from where they will take off for Australia. On Wednesday Spurs face Newcastle in an exhibition match in Melbourne. It is being hyped as a “welcome home” fixture for Ange Postecoglou, the London side’s Australian manager, but when players are both physically and mentally exhausted it is also madness. Postecoglou is worried about Tottenham’s “fragile foundation” but this is hardly helping reinforce the robustness of his squad. Footballers may be paid stratospheric salaries but they are also human and their bodies can only withstand so much. Flying first class will undoubtedly help but there are still going to be two very jet-lagged teams on the pitch on Wednesday. Louise Taylor Sheffield United v Tottenham Pos Team P GD Pts 1 Man City 37 60 88 2 Arsenal 37 61 86 3 Liverpool 37 43 79 4 Aston Villa 37 20 68 5 Tottenham Hotspur 37 10 63 6 Chelsea 37 13 60 7 Newcastle 37 21 57 8 Man Utd 37 -3 57 9 West Ham 37 -12 52 10 Brighton 37 -5 48 11 AFC Bournemouth 37 -12 48 12 Crystal Palace 37 -6 46 13 Wolverhampton 37 -13 46 14 Fulham 37 -8 44 15 Everton 37 -10 40 16 Brentford 37 -7 39 17 Nottm Forest 37 -19 29 18 Luton 37 -31 26 19 Burnley 37 -36 24 20 Sheff Utd 37 -66 16

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