SOCCER

The English Premier League 2019-20 Curtain Call

Jul 23, 2020, 2:10 PM

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Troy Deeney of Watford and Nigel Pearson, Manager of Watford interact as...

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Troy Deeney of Watford and Nigel Pearson, Manager of Watford interact as Troy Deeney is substituted off during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford FC at London Stadium on July 17, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – What a strange weekend in the English Premier League, not so much the results…In fact, there was only one really strange decision, Watford sacked their third manager of the season.

In December, Nigel Pearson came in with Watford rooted to the bottom of the EPL, nine points adrift of safety. He’s now been sacked whilst 17th, and three points ahead of 18th, with two games to go. What an utterly ridiculous decision and gamble.

Bournemouth is on the brink of relegation as they lost 2-0 at home to local rivals, Southampton who had their man Danny Ings on the scoresheet again.

With the midweek fixtures only adding to the drama of Sunday’s 38th and final round. The chase for Champions League soccer next season, and relegation survival this season, only ensures that the EPL is in for a full Sunday of thrills and spills, heartache and joy.

There should be a ton of flicking through channels as Aston Villa hold on to the final spot outside of the relegation zone on goal difference, with Watford on the same points and AFC Bournemouth hot on their heels just three points behind. For the Champions League places, it will be two from three to get the final qualification places, Chelsea, Leicester and Man Utd.

With the relegation fight so close, we could potentially see three teams on 34 points come the final whistle on Sunday. So, here are the tiebreaker rules and the order and format in which league position will be sorted by if teams finish level on points:

  • Goal difference
  • Goals scored
  • Points won in head-to-head meetings
  • Away goals in head-to-head meetings

If the teams still can’t be separated after the above tiebreakers, a playoff will be arranged at a neutral ground with the format, timing and venue determined by the Premier League Board.

Arsenal v. Watford

Your 9:00 a.m. on the Golf Channel is a good one for the season finale. Arsenal is doing well of late, a win over Man City in the FA Cup semi-final, to set up an all London final with Chelsea.

Confidence is high, and they’re heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta. On Tuesday, Arsenal lost at Aston Villa which ensures the final game is an exciting prospect. This loss also reminded us that Arsenal, although headed is the right direction, has only taken small steps forward.

Arsenal seems to be a little more defensively sound when they go the three-center back route, but the balance can sometimes be off and the spacing isn’t always as good as they want. Again this is a work in progress with some really promising youngsters that look like they are making the grade, and with a manager also trying to figure out the best way to use his team before the season is out.

Without pulling up any trees, and no European football on the horizon this has been a good experience for Mikel Arteta, tweaking here and there. They have a massive FA Cup final to prepare for against Chelsea, which could give them some much-wanted silverware. For this game though, with little to play for and Watford fighting for their EPL lives, the glory hornet boys will be trying to get any type of grip in the game if Arsenal are in any way lacking focus.

As I pointed out already, Watford made a massive mistake in sacking Nigel Pearson on Sunday. Playing City was always going to be tough but Arsenal is a little hit and miss and I feel the owners have taken the wind out of the Watford sails. Captain Troy Deeney has been leading the line without a lot of luck, but he is an influential member and captain. He will need more from the supporting attacking members to get this stuttering attack moving again. Ismaïla Sarr is one player that does have the ability to get in behind and cause problems. His goal return hasn’t set pulses racing (five goals three assists) but Liverpool are rumored to be keeping an eye on him. He is a potential match-winner, no doubt.

When my head kicks in, I expect Arsenal will likely start Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, two match-winners in their own right and because of this, I think it will create a result too difficult for Watford to overcome…It might still be enough, though.

Prediction: 2-2

Leicester City v. Manchester United

Now, this is a glorious match up. A truly one-off, winner takes all affair, with a Champions League place as the reward at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday, 9:00 a.m. kick off on KSL 5. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this one.

Leicester has been poor pretty much since the turn of the year. With major injuries forcing a change in formation, which hasn’t worked at all, there are some major question marks over the depth of the Foxes, including the manager, who hasn’t found a solution for the last third of the season.

What they do have is Jamie Vardy who sits on 23 goals and one hand on the EPL golden boot. Two goals ahead of nearest rival, Danny Ings. On their day, a fully fit Leicester would be a match for United every day of the week, but they’re not fully fit. They will need to soak up immense pressure from United, and when it’s time, get Vardy off the shoulder of Maguire. Maguire is a solid defender but isolated he can become cumbersome, he is fast, but it takes him time to accelerate. Vardy is explosive and I fancy his chances against Maguire.

As I mentioned, the pressure that United will build is no surprise. Bruno Fernandes is pulling the strings in the midfield, with Pogba and Matić giving him the freedom to express himself. Mason Greenwood was on the score sheet again. You throw in Rashford and Martial and Leicester is going to need their entire backline and midfield to step up massively, much more than they have over recent weeks and months.

This isn’t a no-hoper for the Foxes, as we’ll see them coming up against a team that will put them under crippling pressure to qualify for the Champions League. United are favorites for multiple reasons, but it won’t be as one-sided as everyone will have you believe. I do think the Red Devils will secure the victory.

Prediction: 2-1, Manchester United

Here is the full list of matches for round 38 and television channels (subject to change). All kicking off at 9:00 a.m.

  • Arsenal v Watford, Golf Channel
  • Burnley v Brighton, NBC Sports Gold
  • Chelsea v Wolves, USA
  • Crystal Palace v Tottenham, NBC Sports Gold
  • Everton v Bournemouth, Syfy
  • Leicester v Man United, KSL 5
  • Man City v Norwich, NBC Sports Gold
  • Newcastle v Liverpool, NBC Sports Gold
  • Southampton v Sheffield United, NBC Sports Gold
  • West Ham v Aston Villa, NBCSN

Kick back, channel hop, and enjoy the fight for top four and Premier League survival.

Thanks for reading this season, and I’ll see you in September when the fun starts again.

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The English Premier League 2019-20 Curtain Call