Fi­nal day will prob­a­bly fall flat — but that’s no rea­son to seek change

Don’t be swayed by any calls to in­ject some Su­per Bowl-style drama into the Pre­mier League

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - MIGUEL DE­LANEY

IT is one of those fi­nal days, you would fear, when some of the more ad­ven­tur­ous types at the top lev­els of English foot­ball start won­der­ing why ex­actly is it that the Pre­mier League does not have a Su­per Bowl-style grand finale.

That is, of course, the beauty of a league. It is all the more ex­cit­ing and pre- cious be­cause it takes so many el­e­ments to align for proper last-day drama, for the type of cir­cum­stances that pro­duces Ser­gio Aguero’s ti­tle-win­ning goal in 2012 or Ever­ton’s sur­vival heroics in 1994.

This is not one of those days — or, at the very least, it is un­likely to be.

It would take some re­ally sen­sa­tional twists for the key po­si­tions up for grabs to change . . . but then if they were to ac­tu­ally hap­pen, it would be a fi­nal day for the ages.

It also isn’t com­pletely against the odds.

Southamp­ton would have to get ut­terly thrashed by a free-scor­ing Manch­ester City still chas­ing 100 points, and who have al­ready bro­ken the goals record, while Swansea City would then have to beat a Stoke City who are al­ready rel­e­gated and seem­ingly in dis­ar­ray. A jaded-look­ing Liver­pool would, mean­while, have to lose to a res­o­lute Brighton and Hove Al­bion while Chelsea win at a sub­dued New­cas­tle United.

It isn’t com­pletely against the odds, no, but any­thing even ap­proach­ing such out­comes would be more in keep­ing with this Cham­pi­ons League sea­son than the Pre­mier League.

In that, it is a fit­ting fi­nal day and re­flec­tive of this Pre­mier League sea­son as a whole: in­ter­est­ing and en­ter­tain­ing, but not re­ally in­tense, be­cause so much feels set­tled be­fore­hand.

And for all that cer­tain sen­sa­tional cir­cum­stances feel pos­si­ble, the rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle will still come down to two things: whether a newly dogged and re­vi­talised Southamp­ton cave, and whether a Swansea City who have scored zero goals in their last four games, not scored more than one in a match since Jan­uary 30, and only hit 27 all sea­son, can sud­denly start rack­ing up the goals.

At the other end, it will re­quire Liver­pool to be as tired as they have looked, although it is al­ready prob­lem­atic for Chelsea that Jur­gen Klopp has been wax­ing about how much bet­ter his play­ers have looked on the back of fi­nally hav­ing a week’s rest.

It’s got to that point of the sea­son, although the odd­ity of that is that such cir­cum­stances can pro­duce some very en­ter­tain­ing and mem­o­rable games. A clas­sic was Manch­ester United’s 5-5 at West Brom in 2012-13, in what was Alex Ferguson’s ac­tual last game . . . although af­ter all the good­byes had al­ready been said.

Arsene Wenger finds him­self in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion against a Hud­der­s­field side who are math­e­mat­i­cally safe and have right­fully cel­e­brated it, as the long good­bye reaches its fi­nal farewell.

It would be nice for Wenger to get that first away win of 2018 in his last Ar­se­nal match.

The French great isn’t the only per­son say­ing good­bye, and some of the oth­ers in­volve sto­ry­lines with a bit more in­trigue.

Wayne Rooney may be play­ing his last game for Ever­ton, af­ter just a year back, but then both of the man­agers in­volved may be also fac­ing their last games too. There is no cer­tainty about the fu­tures of Sam Al­lardyce or David Moyes at Good­i­son Park or West Ham United, re­spec­tively.

Michael Car­rick will, mean­while, line out for Manch­ester United for the fi­nal time, as Jose Mour­inho craves more play­ers of his per­son­al­ity as much as his tal­ent. The XI the Por­tuguese puts out could be very rel­e­vant to the FA Cup fi­nal, the sum­mer and the fu­ture as there are a few play­ers — es­pe­cially An­thony Mar­tial and Mar­cus Rash­ford — who are not in favour right now. Whether Mour­inho puts out a side sim­i­lar to the dis­mal 0-0 against West Ham United will be in­dica­tive.

There is then the only side above United in the league, who can yet have such im­pact at the bot­tom.

If Manch­ester City sign off with vic­tory at St Mary’s, it might well be a ner­vous af­ter­noon at Southamp­ton, whose sup­port­ers will be reg­u­larly look­ing for up­dates from Swansea City. The Welsh side need to win and swing a goal dif­fer­ence of nine. Re­sults of 4-0 and 5-0 would do it, and it isn’t im­pos­si­ble. It would also give City those 100 points.

You could ar­gue that such an em­boss­ment re­ally be­longs in a more ex­cit­ing sea­son, but then an achieve­ment like that is why this feels like it will be such a flat last day.

It would take some­thing sen­sa­tional for that to change, but we’ve only re­ally seen that this sea­son from the cham­pi­ons. It is also why deny­ing such sides a ti­tle due to a one-off Su­per Bowl-style finale would be so wrong. That is the beauty of a league, even if it won’t feel like it to­day.

It would be nice for Wenger to get that first away win of 2018 in his last Ar­se­nal match

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