The last match day of the English Premier League was brimming with all the drama, suspense and intrigue conventional of a season finale. Not for identifying the winner or those battling to survive relegation – their fate had been decided long ago – It was the race for “top four” finish that made it so.
Chelsea had been runaway winners for weeks now, and confirmed the title when Michy Batshuayi scored the only goal in the game against West Brom to hand Chelsea the trophy. And the trifecta of Sunderland, Middlesborough and Hull City knew before the finale that they would not be partaking in English top-flight football next season.
So it was the battle for the final two spots for Champions League football next season that brought out all the emotions. Chelsea and Tottenham had already sealed the first and second spots, leaving Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool to battle for the third and fourth positions.
Irrespective of the other’s results, City needed at least a draw to pull through while Liverpool needed a win. But Arsenal most definitely needed a win, and lots of hopes and prayers that either City or Liverpool would drop points to enable them climb to fourth position.
The Gunners defeated Everton convincingly 3-1 despite being reduced to 10 men after captain Laurent Koschielny was sent off, but it wasn’t adequate to see them in Europe’s elite competition next season as Liverpool and Manchester City also won their games convincingly.
And so ends Arsenal’s 21year record of always finishing in the top four, but the question on everybody’s lips is “would it also end Arsene Wenger’s reign at the Emirates?”
It was a close-knit season for mid-table teams as usual that saw Manchester United finishing 6th with 69 points, 24 points behind winners Chelsea. With only 6 points separating Southampton at 8th position and Watford at 17th position, just one step above the relegation zone.
Is this a new beginning for Chelsea with Antonio Conte at the hem of affairs? Will they re-establish their place in the Champions League? Or will Arsene Wenger finally depart the Emirates after a 21year spell in charge?
Only time, character and great footballing conquest will tell…