Two weeks after Manchester City clinched the Premier League title, things have seemed to die down at the top of the table, most teams in the top six awaiting the formality of European qualification at this point, but the bottom of the table is still as tightly contested as ever as we go in to the final two weeks of the Premier League season.
Fixture congestion around the Christmas period did nothing to alleviate a game week 37 that will include two games for several teams across the board, including Southampton, Swansea City, Huddersfield and West Ham to name just a few at the bottom of the table.
What is sure to be a thrilling week 37 though, was preceded by a week 36 that included one of the biggest shock results of the season when Crystal Palace battered Leicester 5-0 at home.
The win basically ensures Palace’s spot in the Premier League for next season barring a complete meltdown in their last two games and wins for everybody below them, and the score line even made Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy apologize to the fans for their poor performance.
Goals from Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur in the first half gave Palace a comfortable lead going in to half time, but it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes when Leicester truly capitulated, conceding three goals in quick succession that allowed Palace to climb to the magic number of 38 points, improving on their goal difference in the process.
The loss puts Leicester in quite a tricky spot. With two games in week 37, the highest they can finish is in 8th, but if they carry their form over from the Palace loss to their final three games, they could find themselves outside the top 10 on the last day of the season, a far cry from the Champions they were just a short while ago.
Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle are breathing down their necks, going from strength to strength this season after an early scare, so Vardy and company will want to erase any bad energy and form as they face West Ham and Arsenal (both at home) in week 37.
Palace, on the other hand, face Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in their final two games of the season and will be breathing a sigh of relief that those aren’t much harder games. Both teams they face look destined for the Championship next season, and with Palace losing only one of their last six in the Premier League, they’ll be on a high going in to those.
Zaha may well have been considered by Gareth Southgate for the England World Cup Preliminary Squad had he not declared for the Ivory Coast, but with the Ivory Coast failing to qualify for the tournament, he’ll have to watch from home.
Nearly all of the teams threatened with relegation picked up points at the weekend, and the aforementioned West Brom were able to keep their safety hopes alive after a 1-0 win over Newcastle United.
Matt Phillips scored the only goal of a game that was statistically dominated by Newcastle, but West Brom pulled off an astounding victory which currently leaves them five points from safety with two games to go.
Although extremely unlikely for them to survive, they have beaten Manchester United along with Newcastle in recent weeks, and left Liverpool frustrated in a 2-2 draw.
However the season plays out in these last two games for West Brom, we must now consider, or even expect caretaker manager Darren Moore to take over as permanent boss next season.
This doesn’t even look like the same West Brom team that got pissed up abroad and stole a taxi just a couple months ago, and credit has to go to Moore for the turnaround we’ve seen. It’s most likely too little too late, but that’s really only the fault of the board and Alan Pardew who shouldn’t be touched with a ten-foot pole (although he’ll undoubtedly get another Premier League job and ruin his reputation even more).
It’s a shame to see the decline of a team that could well have been a safe mid-table club had the board acted sooner on getting rid of Alan Pardew, but when it comes down to it, timing is of the essence in soccer, on and off the field, and West Brom have failed miserably at both too many times this season.
Of course, if they keep Moore, invest in young talent and get rid of some deadwood, you wouldn’t want to bet against them coming right back up to the Premier League next season, but failing to do so could see them go the way of Sunderland, who recently were relegated for the second season in a row, now finding themselves managerless and in League 1 starting next season.
If the board can prove themselves worthy of their jobs by keeping Moore, some of their more senior players like Ben Foster and Jonny Evans could stick around to help the team next season in a league where players of their quality are few and far between. Failing to do so would make things ten times harder for West Brom.
In week 37 we’ve got a mouth-watering matchup between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, as well as a relegation battle between Swansea City and Southampton. We also get one week closer to seeing how wrong I truly was in my Premier League Prediction Table (which I haven’t set eyes on since it went live in 2017).
See you next week!
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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