With just a single week remaining in the English Premier League season, the championship and relegation races still have a bit of drama left. It appears the Week 37 results will ensure that Championship Sunday has significant implications for both the top and bottom of the EPL table:
|Premier League Table|
|12||West Ham United||37||11||7||19||-9||40|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||36||7||15||14||-13||36|
There are a few certainties—we know that Cardiff City and Fulham will be sent down to the League Championship and that Arsenal have fended off a feisty Everton side to secure the fourth and final Champions League berth.
However, there remains plenty else to play for in the final week of the Premier League season. Keeping a forward-looking lens in mind, here are the results that had the most impact on the table ahead of the final Sunday.
Chelsea 0, Norwich 0
The Chelsea-Norwich match was by far the most impactful on the standings, with implications for both the top and bottom. In many ways, the scoreless draw was a perfect microcosm of the Blues' season: a stifling defensive performance but an inability to take care of business against inferior teams.
Chelsea's attacking has been painfully stagnant all season, an extremely difficult task when one is equipped with a world-class offensive midfielder like Eden Hazard. Though the raw goal production is still relatively impressive—only Man City and Liverpool have scored more goals—there have been far too many inopportune droughts. An illustration of Norwich's clearances epitomizes Chelsea's frustrating inability to finish:
Meanwhile, the Canaries picked up an important, albeit insufficient, point in the relegation race. Norwich now must win against Arsenal on the final weekend, then hope that Sunderland do not pick up more than one point.
Norwich stretched the referee with some of their challenges, particularly in the box. With an attack that was almost entirely nonexistent, it appeared they were content to accept a stay of execution. Such a strategy will not be enough next week, though, so Robert Snodgrass and Co. must be more active at Carrow Road next weekend.
Manchester City 3, Everton 2
With Chelsea's draw, the championship crown now looks like a two-team race between Manchester City and Liverpool. After the latter opened the door with a loss to the Blues last weekend, City took advantage and won the most difficult remaining game on their slate with a 3-2 victory at Goodison Park.
The Citizens received a bit of a scare when Sergio Aguero limped off after notching the equalising goal in the contest. Aguero, who has missed extensive time this season with numerous muscle injuries, took to Twitter to allay concerns, noting that his removal was a precautionary move:
City has had a troubling habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory throughout their explosive yet inconsistent campaign. Thus, while they appear heavy favorites with a pair of games at the Etihad against Aston Villa and West Ham, it is folly to count the race as over.
Queens Park Rangers nearly derailed City's championship hopes in 2012 on the final weekend. West Ham do not seem particularly likely to replicate the feat, but knowing City's propensity for the path of greatest resistance, there figures to be another plot twist before season's end.
Sunderland 1, Manchester United 0
After languishing in the EPL basement for much of the season, Sunderland are now just a single point away from renewing their Premier League membership. In a related note, their Wednesday opponent, West Brom, also need one point to mathematically ensure their stay:
Technically, West Ham's massive goal differential edge over Norwich virtually ensures their survival. However, Sunderland do not really need any favors considering their recent form. The Black Cats have accrued 10 out of 12 possible points in their past four league matches, a furious run that has elevated them into an enviable position in the relegation race.
Sunderland's final two matches are at the Stadium of Light. Due to goal differential, they will only need a draw to stay in the Premier League. Even if they fail to earn that point against West Brom, they have another opportunity against Swansea City.
Man United's miserable season is nearing its long-awaited end. Old Trafford showered the disappointing side with relentless boos in United's final home match. It's astounding to see United relegated to a footnote on the final weekend, but such has been their season.