Ahead of every weekend this season, I will give you my three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather my personal observations as the games approach each Saturday.
Au revoir, Monsieur Wenger
And so finally, after 22 years of autocracy, Arsene Wenger will say farewell to fans when Arsenal plays its final home match with the Frenchman at the helm on Sunday. We haven’t seen anything like this since Alex Ferguson bid adieu to Manchester United in 2013. On that occasion, it was a powerful and emotional day as Old Trafford deified arguably the greatest manager English football had ever seen, and his team even rewarded him with a 2-1 win over Swansea City.
Of course, the Red Devils had also just captured another Premier League title, so there was an air of celebration in the air. Sadly, it will not be quite the same for Wenger. Having canvassed many Arsenal fans this week, it seems to me that Sunday will indeed be a special day for the club, and there will certainly be tears shed. However, expect a polite and respectful farewell to a man whose time had come, and who was forced to leave.
Here’s hoping his players put in a performance for him, because sadly on too many occasions his team has let him down, adding to a toxic environment at Arsenal matches. A new era is upon us, and now it’s time for the new man in charge to get rid of the dead wood at Arsenal, of which there is too much.
Stevie G at Rangers
Steven Gerrard enjoyed an outpouring of love and emotion in his final match at Liverpool in 2015. Following an ill-advised stint in MLS, Gerrard returned to Anfield last year to take charge of the under-18 team. By all accounts he did a good job, and learned from the more experienced coaches and managers on staff. Still, if ever you doubted the power of a name when it comes to hiring a new manager, the fact that Gerrard is now manager of Glasgow Rangers should put you right.
In defence of the move, Gerrard does have all his coaching badges, and therefore has every right to apply for whatever job he wants. However, you can understand the frustration from those lesser known coaches who have put their time in the lower leagues, only to see Stevie G jump the queue.
My first reaction to the news was, “What are you thinking?” After all, no team not named Celtic is going to win the Scottish League anytime soon, and the sheer greatness of the Rangers legacy in Scottish football means Gerrard will be under immense pressure straight away. However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
Rangers are currently third, they were third-last season in their return to the League, following their enforced relegation. This is a sleeping giant, that should be on the rise with the right amount of investment. Sadly, the Scottish league is weak, and it is difficult to see Gerrard doing any worse than his predecessor. A couple of years at the helm, perhaps a second-place finish thrown in, and with all the experience he will gain, Gerrard might be ready to return south. As for his new club, everyone is talking about Rangers once again, so maybe this is a masterstroke.
Showdown at Stamford Bridge
Liverpool and Chelsea hook up on Sunday in what is always a tasty affair. Both clubs are preoccupied at the moment: Chelsea have the FA Cup final coming up, and Liverpool have the Champions League final. It is easy to look ahead to those matches, but this game has significance.
Chelsea is five points back of Tottenham in fifth, six back of Liverpool in third, but have a game in hand on the Reds. Fortunately, Liverpool has a massive edge in goal difference, but if Chelsea wins on Sunday, it might well go down to the final weekend to see who qualifies for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Of course, a Champions League win is also a pathway to next year’s tournament for Liverpool, and I understand this may be a bit of a stretch, but what if Jurgen Klopp’s side throws it all away in the final weeks of the season? It is unlikely, and this might be the ramblings of a paranoid fan, but I see Sunday as an enormous match for Liverpool. Clinch the top four this week, and next week means nothing, you can rest up until May 26.