Premier League Review – 15/17th May

Olivier Giroud

Giroud needs to improve his consistency if he’s to be a regular starter for Arsenal.

1. Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa
Giroud hat-trick lifts Arsenal to second

The Gunners finished second for the first time since 2005 after defeating bottom side, Aston Villa

Olivier Giroud scored three, making it four goals and an assist in his last two games. It’s the return Arsenal fans dream of from their main forward as the majority still remain unconvinced that the French international is good enough to lead the line of a title-winning side.

The table below shows his form since a brace at Anfield in January, when Arsene Wenger’s side sat top of the league:

GIROUD’S FORM SINCE 14TH JANUARY 2016

APPEARANCES STARTS 90 MINUTES GOALS ASSISTS
16 10 9 4 4

A goal every 152 minutes puts Giroud fourth out of the top 25 league scorers this season, only behind Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy. But you feel that he must improve his consistency to ensure a place in the starting line-up and reassure the fans that he’s the top quality striker they desire.

John Terry 2

An emotional end of season speech may have played a part in the new contract extension.

2. Chelsea 1-1 Leicester
Drinkwater strike seals celebrations

It was more a game of celebration than a competitive fixture, but that didn’t stop Leicester ensuring they avoided a fourth defeat of the season.

Danny Drinkwater’s long-range and late strike cancelled out Cesc Fabregas’ penalty. The recently selected England international has had a brilliant season for the Foxes with three goals and eight assists only telling half the story.

Despite admitting he’s prepared to be omitted from Roy Hodgson’s 26-man squad, the former Man United player could have done no more during this campaign, which has seen him build strong partnerships with both N’Golo Kante and Vardy.

Chelsea meanwhile, welcomed former manager Claudio Ranieri with open arms and a guard of honour. John Terry highlighted their satisfaction that it was the Italian’s side that were crowned champions and not local rivals Spurs during what some were suggesting was a farewell speech. But in hindsight it appears to have been a PR stunt which put pressure on the club following his newly signed one-year contract extension.

Italian Antonio Conte will be arriving at Stamford Bridge after the Euros to replace interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Tim Howard

Howard returns to America following ten years at Everton.

3. Everton 3-0 Norwich
Managerless Everton reward home fans with win

It was Tim Howard’s last Everton game and the club’s first since Roberto Martiinez was sacked.

Taking on already relegated Norwich, the Toffees ran out comfortable winners for only the third time in the last 12 league fixtures at Goodison Park. Goals from James McCarthy, Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas ensured American goalkeeper, Howard, ends his decade at the club with a win and a 133rd clean sheet.

Whoever is next in the hot seat – rumours suggest Ronald Koeman or Frank De Boer – will be hoping to make the most of Everton’s youngsters while recreating a fear factor at home.

4. Newcastle 5-1 Tottenham
Tottenham’s end of season collapse 

Mauricio Pochettino apologised to the fans as his side finished below rivals Arsenal for the 21st year in a row following a capitulation at St. James’ Park.

Newcastle’s relegation was confirmed after Sunderland defeated Everton midweek so this game was nothing more than pride. Yet the Magpies were two-nil up by half-time and despite Erik Lamela reducing the deficit to one, Spurs failed to capitalise on Aleksandar Mitrovic’s horrible red card with 25 minutes remaining. Instead, the London side conceded three goals without reply, ending the campaign with just two-points from the last 12 on offer.

The emphatic home win and subsequent support might be enough to persuade Rafa Benitez that his future belongs on Tyneside, fighting for promotion next season.

Georginio Wijnaldum’s two goals made it 11 for the season, all of which have come at home. Over half his strikes came in this match and the 6-2 victory over Norwich last year when he grabbed four that day. However, question marks will remain over his consistency and desire to help the club bounce back from the Championship.

Ronald Koeman

Koeman has done a fantastic job at Southampton since his arrival in 2014.

5. Southampton 4-1 Crystal Palace
Europa League qualification for improved Saints

Southampton beat their Premier League points record with a win over FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace.

It caps a brilliant end to the season which has seen Koeman’s side win the last four matches and achieve the second highest points tally in 2016, with only champions Leicester claiming more.

Europa League football awaits and those at St. Mary’s will hope it lasts longer than the two qualifying games they hosted this season.

TEAM POSITION TOTAL POINTS POINTS IN 2016
LEICESTER 1st 81 42
SOUTHAMPTON 6th 63 39
TOTTENHAM 3rd 70 35
ARSENAL 2nd 71 32

Koeman will hope to have the opportunity to build on his team’s success this summer instead of losing some key players like Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane – who scored the opening goal to make it eight from his last eight games.

6. Stoke 2-1 West Ham
Hammers fall to Diouf’s late winner

Mame Biram Diouf’s late strike brought Stoke’s worst run of the season to an end, as West Ham’s Europa League hopes now depend on Man Utd winning the FA Cup.

It was Mark Hughes’ side’s first win since they defeated Watford at Vicarage Road seven matches ago. That was also Jack Butland’s last game before the England keeper was ruled out for the season through injury.

Slaven Bilic will be disappointed with the end to what has been a very good campaign as the Hammers only managed three wins from their last nine league games.

Sergio Aguero

Aguero needs more goals from his teammates next season.

7. Swansea 1-1 Man City
Sloppy City just do enough

Manuel Pellegrini ended his Man City reign with a draw, which sealed a top four spot for incoming Pep Guardiola.

Kelechi Iheanacho scored the opener as City looked threatening on the break. Aguero and Inheanacho had good opportunities to double their side’s advantage but were punished for their misses when Andre Ayew’s deflected freekick drew Swansea level just before half-time.

It was a disjointed second half performance but enough to guarantee Guardiola has Champions League football next season, providing they get through a qualifier which will be all the more difficult due to the Euros this summer and a pre-season tour to China.

Something the highly sought after Spaniard will need to address is the reliance on Aguero for goals. The Argentinian has his injury troubles but has still managed to score 24 league goals at 99 minutes per strike, better than any other player. Second to Aguero is Sunday’s scorer, Iheanacho, who made it five from his last four matches to bring his total to eight. David Silva for example, only scored one league goal this campaign.

The Citizens will need more firepower if they are serious about challenging for the title and Champions League.

Quique Sanchez Flores

Sanchez Flores can leave Watford with pride despite a difficult second half of the season.

8. Watford 2-2 Sunderland
Flores bows out with entertaining draw

Handsome, charming, salt and pepper bearded Quique Sanchez Flores saw his Watford side play out an entertaining draw with Sunderland in the Spaniard’s last game in charge.

The Hornets twice came from behind thanks to goals from Sebastian Prodl and Troy Deeney. The captain’s partnership with Odion Ighalo has been particularly productive and vital in helping Watford avoid relegation from the Premier League for the first time.

Ighalo and Deeney have scored 28 of Watford’s 40 league goals this season (70%). Should both players be retained over the summer, they’ll need more support from their teammates to ensure another season in England’s top division.

Flores meanwhile, can look back on his season at the helm as a successful one. But despite reaching the FA Cup semi-final, Watford have struggled during the second half of the season. The table below suggests the form in 2016 triggered the owners’ decision for a change with only Crystal Palace – the side who defeated Watford in the FA Cup semi-final – achieving a greater percentage of total losses this year.

TEAM TOTAL LOSSES LOSSES IN 2016 PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL LOSSES
ASTON VILLA 27 14 51.9%
NORWICH 22 13 59.1%
CRYSTAL PALACE 18 12 66.7%
WATFORD 17 11 64.7%
NEWCASTLE 19 9 47.4%
BOURNEMOUTH 18 9 50%
SUNDERLAND 17 4 23.5%

9. West Brom 1-1 Liverpool
Reds second team earn point at Hawthorns

West Brom’s winless streak was extended to nine after Liverpool bounced back from Salomon Rondon’s opener.

Jurgen Klopp made 11 changes ahead of his side’s Europa League final on Wednesday and it was one of the youngsters who provided the equaliser.

Jordan Ibe has struggled with recent form following high expectations last summer. But the young winger showed his potential when he left Jonny Evans for dust on the halfway line before carrying the ball 20-yards. He then cut in onto his left foot and shot past Ben Foster in the Baggies goal to claim his first league strike of the season.

At 20 years of age, Ibe still has plenty of time to develop and a loan move to a Premier League team next season may be beneficial, particularly as Seyi Ojo continues to be amongst the first team squad.

Louis van Gaal

Will Van Gaal be waving goodbye after the FA Cup final on Saturday?

10. Man Utd 3-1 Bournemouth
Belated victory for fifth placed United

Due to the abandonment on Sunday caused by a suspicious package left behind from security training, Man Utd were denied the opportunity to add further pressure on local rivals City in the race for fourth.

Undoubtedly, Louis van Gaal’s initial plan would have been to get an early lead and make sure word got back to the Liberty Stadium with City yet to score. But as Pellegrini’s side got the draw they needed, this game was as relevant as Memphis Depay’s latest Instagram post, as shown by the low turnout.

On reflection, Van Gaal will look at his side’s inability to score more goals as a reason behind their failure to qualify for the Champions League. Man Utd are 10th in terms of goals scored – just one more than 16th placed Sunderland – but at 35 goals conceded, they hold the joint best defensive record with Tottenham following the five goals they leaked in at St. James’ Park.

Whether or not Van Gaal will be there to rectify this season even if the Red Devils defeat Palace at Wembley is still up for debate.