Premier League final day can be saved by Middlesbrough at Liverpool
W2W4 previews the weekend's Premier League fixtures and highlights five key storylines.
Will Liverpool hold their nerve and secure a top-four finish?
This final day of the 2016-17 Premier League season needs an early Middlesbrough goal at Liverpool. If it's the other way around, we might as well start looking to next campaign. With the title Chelsea's and the three relegated clubs already confirmed, all that remains to realistically play for is fourth place. Try not to get too excited. Liverpool hold it firmly in their grasp and if they play like they did in their 4-0 humiliation of an awful West Ham United, then manager Jurgen Klopp will have achieved his aim of returning the club to Europe's premier competition. But there is at least a glimmer of hope that some final day drama could occur.
Liverpool's struggles have tended to come against teams sitting deep at Anfield, and fifth-place Arsenal must cross everything that already-demoted Middlesbrough do them a favour by doing just that. To combat this congested approach it is possible that Klopp will against deploy the wonderful Philippe Coutinho in a more reserved midfield role, which proved so effective last weekend. Imagine for a moment, though, that it doesn't go to plan and somehow Boro win 2-0. But Arsenal inevitably don't secure the win they need at home to Everton, instead drawing 1-1. Well, then we'd have a Champions League playoff on our hands, and with it the excitement lacking during this season's run-in.
Is this goodbye from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?
Could this be Arsene Wenger's final Premier League match in charge of Arsenal? Maybe that hinges on whether they do sneak a top-four finish and also how May 27's FA Cup final against Chelsea pans out. The half-glass-full take on Arsenal's four straight wins is that it's a demonstration of character and continued improvement in their 3-4-3 system which failed to function in the North London derby. The more cynical view, however, is that it is too little, too late, with Liverpool likely to condemn the Gunners to the Thursday nights in the Europa League. That said, it would not take long for news of a swift breakthrough against Everton to reach Anfield and with it the potential for something of a last-day season salvo.
Can Chelsea make Premier League history?
With the title secured, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's attention is now on setting a new Premier League record of 30 wins in a season. That would signify a remarkable achievement considering we hear, ad nauseam, how competitive the English top flight is. And Chelsea will likely earn their place in history because their final game of the campaign comes against bottom-of-the-table-Sunderland. There will doubtless be some rotation from Conte as he looks to ensure of the freshest XI possible to face Arsenal in the FA Cup final, with a double within their grasp. This has been quite the debut campaign for Conte, especially compared to how Pep Guardiola and Mourinho have fared at Manchester City and United respectively. He's set a very high bar for 2017-18.
Will Jose Mourinho's gamble pay off at Manchester United?
Manchester United's failure to win any of their last five Premier League matches firmly indicates where their -- and more specifically their manager Jose Mourinho's -- priorities lie. With their position in sixth finally set in concrete, their season hinges on next Wednesday's Europa League final against Ajax. Win that match and Mourinho will have two trophies -- including the EFL Cup -- and Champions League qualification to his name. Those merits taken in isolation while ignoring some mind-numbing football at times, make the campaign a success. But fail to dispose of Ajax and Mourinho effectively writing off the league run-in would come back to slap him in the chops. Let's see if Mourinho, who will again ring the changes vs. Crystal Palace on Sunday, still knows what he's doing.
Which managers will bow out on Sunday?
It's possible that Watford's announcement that Walter Mazzarri will be leaving the club after this weekend was the first of a number of impending managerial departures. Wenger aside, Claude Puel's position at Southampton looks uncertain, Slaven Bilic is under significant pressure at West Ham while Mark Huges' Stoke and Tony Pulis' West Brom have both finished the season in uninspiring fashion. Of those teams, Stoke travel to Southampton, who have been linked with relegated Hull boss Marco Silva, while Bilic's farewell could come at Burnley after West Ham fans made their fondness for the season just gone abundantly clear after the final whistle at the London Stadium last Sunday.
James Dall is an associate editor at ESPN FC. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesDallESPN.