Here we go. Sir Alex Ferguson has retired and so has David Beckham – all in the last week, and the world, somehow, didn’t explode. While the media is still providing us with their great career-long slideshows and lists of achievements, we need to get our minds focused back on the Premier League – and our final gameweek – this Sunday afternoon. Let’s do it.
I. Arsenal @ Newcastle: With Wigan, Reading and QPR already all relegated to the second tier, there isn’t much left to play for at the bottom of the table or at the top of the table as Manchester United has secured pole position while manager-less Manchester City has secured second. But a Champions League place is still up for grabs, and Arsenal control their own destiny. A win at Newcastle, and it’s theirs.
If Arsenal win – it would be their 16th straight season playing Champions League football – a pretty impressive achievement, but they could be without influential captain Mikel Arteta for this one. Arteta has a calf injury, and the man who has transformed himself from a FPL stud at Everton in a central attacking role on free kicks to a defensive midfielder and sideways passer with toughness, heart and guts at Arsenal will surely be missed. In comes Jack Wilshere perhaps, England’s future. Beckham out, Wilshere in. Let’s see if Wilshere has the mental composure needed to deal with a St. James Park crowd that wouldn’t mind pulling off the shock upset.
Podolski, Cazorla and Walcott are the potential attackers to own on Arsenal’s side – all looked great in the 4-1 thrashing over Wigan midweek. Giroud could come into contention as well.
This game will have twists and turns, but Arsenal have the form and focus to pull off the tight away win and secure Champions League football. Trust in Cazorla. Trust in Wenger.
Prediction: 1-2 Arsenal away win
II. QPR @ Liverpool: Liverpool are in form and banging in the goals at the tail end of the season – even without suspended biter Luis Suarez. So, that means the cheap and in-form Daniel Sturridge continues as a super stud – supported by the likes of Coutinho and to a lesser extent Henderson, Downing and perhaps Shelvey. QPR have no pressure at Anfield of course, so a shock draw isn’t out of the question, but Liverpool will express themselves and should get the home win. A solid first season for Brendan Rodgers, despite all of the controversy surrounding his star player.
Prediction: 3-1 Liverpool
III. Studs & Duds: Lots to play for of course at White Hart Lane, and Gareth Bale will certainly want to end his greatest season as a professional on a high – with a win against Sunderland. Bale is a stud then, and if Tottenham can secure a Champions League spot, he could be rewarded with a 150,000 a week deal. Now that’s some incentive if you’ve ever needed some.
RVP of course is still a stud despite the potential for rotation and the away trip to West Brom. Sir Alex’s final game ever will surely see another strong United starting lineup, so RVP, and to a lesser extent Javier Hernandez and Welbeck, are studs. Former stud Rooney may miss out again – he’s a dud – as he has reportedly requested a transfer away from the club. Lindegaard may get the start in goal – and he’s a cheap potential stud option if he does. Evans & Jones should also start at the back – both are cheap enough stud selections for one week – despite the away fixture.
Manchester City have Norwich at home so Aguero and Silva are stud selections, surely, while Chelsea have Everton at home – on a high after winning the Europa League – so Lampard and Mata continue as studs.
Little has been written about Andy Carroll this season – as he has had a start-stop season at West Ham – but he’s a one-week stud at home for the final game of the year as West Ham host Reading.
Duds this week include your normally reliable and cheap Norwich defenders and your relegated Wigan lot – Kone, Maloney, etc. For Chelsea – Hazard, Terry and Bertrand are all ruled out – so they are all duds.
IV. Gameweek 38 Best Eleven:
D: Zabaleta – Enrique – P. Jones
M: Bale – Coutinho – Walcott – Cazorla
F: Sturridge – Aguero – Van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard – Demel – Lampard – L. Shaw