The Premier League might be won by Manchester City, but the relegation battle has reignited in the last few weeks with Southampton trying to claw Swansea and Huddersfield back into the mix.
Arsène Wenger gets his send off at Old Trafford with another, familiar loss, while Southampton begin a late surge for survival.
Here are five things from the weekend’s action:
Marouane Fellaini should be kept by Manchester United
As Fellaini leapt up to head the winning goal against Arsenal, José Mourinho pumped his fists and watched the Belgian celebrate by reaching for the Manchester United crest on his jersey.
“I think a player that grabs the crest after scoring is telling clearly that he wants to stay. I want him to stay, the club wants him to stay, I think he will stay, it is nearly there,” the Portuguese boss said after the game.
And he’s right. Fellaini, out of his own choice, would not want to leave the club, but if there are better offers on the table for the Belgian, he’s obviously going to consider his future in Manchester. Given he is 30-years-old, this is likely to be his last major contract and wants a guarantee on more than two years, which is what United have offered him.
The central midfielder might not be the most liked or adored by the Red Devils’s fans, but he does show his use to Mourinho, which is why he is so keen to keep ahold of him for next season. Fellaini has shown that he can the difference maker in certain matches, and he did exactly that when he came on against Arsenal. Two minutes before the final whistle, the big Belgian propped up at the back post and scored the winning goal thanks to an Ashley Young assist.
Fellaini’s not the most luxurious player, nor the most eye-pleasing, but he does show his value from time to time. For a few more years, under Mourinho, it might well be worth keeping the Belgian – who understands the club’s history – at Manchester United.
The relegation fight is hotting up again
It looked all but over for the bottom three of the Premier League, but with Swansea and Huddersfield losing this weekend, while Southampton, Stoke and even West Brom picked up points, there could be a few twists yet to play before the end of the season.
Stoke and West Brom still look destined for life in the Championship given they only have two games to play, but Southampton’s fate is not yet sealed. With Swansea and Huddersfield joining Mark Hughes’s team with having three games left, fortunes might well change for these teams involved.
David Wagner’s team’s run in is as gruesome as it comes: Man City (A), Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H). While there’s not much to play for those teams in the Premier League because the top four and title has been decided, it is still going to be incredibly difficult to pick up points against these elite clubs.
Swansea face an easier run in with two relegation six pointers against Southampton and Stoke, with Bournemouth coming in the week before away from home. The game against Hughes’s side could well be the defining moment in this dog fight and so Carlos Carvalhal will be hoping his men can get back to winning ways and go into that fixture with a lot of confidence.
For Southampton, they face Everton, Swansea and Manchester City. Not the easiest out of the three, but not the hardest either. Again, the one they will want to win more than any will be against the Swans, which takes place at the Liberty Stadium.
It will be interesting to see who survives the dreaded drop and whether there are any late surprises.
Southampton should never have been in this position
It seems ridiculous that Southampton are on the verge of being relegated down into the Championship. With the players in their team, and that they finished eighth last season, their fall from relative grace has been damning to say the least.
Sacking Claude Puel, after delivering an FA Cup final at Wembley, was a bizarre move, but you can’t fault the desire and ambition to continue to improve and build upon what they have. Bringing in Mauricio Pellegrino from Deportivo Alavés was a left field appointment, but that’s what the Saints have been remarkably good at.
However, that decision quite clearly didn’t work, and it has cost them big time with their position in the division under major pressure. Perhaps they should have sacked the Argentine earlier and given themselves a better chance of staying up.
What is going to be a dangerous situation is if Southampton do drop down a league, a lot of their players are not going to be wanting to stick it out in the Championship, that’s for sure. There are some international players, and also some who are on huge salaries, so the likelihood of accepting a wage cut is improbable.
The team from the south coast could be bled dry in terms of quality quickly disappearing from the team with players leaving as soon as it becomes official. It looks like Southampton are going to have to rip up their blueprint for success and start all over again.
Newcastle United must tie Rafa Benitez to a new contract
Not many would have predicted Newcastle United to be hovering around 10th place with three games left to play in the season.
With a Championship-rated squad and limited funds, the Magpies were in big trouble at the beginning of the season with the two other promoted teams – Huddersfield and Brighton – pouring money into the transfer window in order to ascertain the required quality.
Benitez has done a remarkable job this season with Newcastle and should be up for Manager of the Year come the end of the campaign. It remains to be seen whether Mike Ashley parts ways this summer with the club he bought back in 2007, but if he does stay on as owner, he must release the funds for the Spaniard to spend.
The worst mistake Newcastle can make is to push Benitez to the exit door because of a lack of a transfer kitty. In truth, the former Real Madrid and Inter boss isn’t asking for hundreds of millions, he’s just asking for an amount that is comparable to his rivals and allows him to bring in some of his targets.
If the Magpies can tie Benitez down to a long term contract, which is dependent on the transfer window activities this summer, then the North East club will surely go from strength to strength.
100 Goals for Manchester City this season
Manchester City are now just one goal behind Chelsea’s all-time Premier League record of 103 goals being scored in one singular season.
The difference being, though, is that Pep Guardiola’s men still have three games to find two more and take that record away from the Blues. With the way they are going, there’s no reason why they can’t achieve it.
It has been a mesmerising and wonderful season for the Citizens, who have impressed from start to finish and wholeheartedly deserve the title.
With the Citizens’s win against West Ham at the weekend, they equalled, again, Chelsea’s record of most wins in a Premier League campaign, which is 30. It is more than likely that City are going to win at least one of three games against Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton before the end of the season and become the new record holders.
Breaking records seems to be a familiar feeling for Guardiola.
Also published on Medium.