With Crystal Palace and Arsenal still to play, Week 32 went pretty much to script. The big clubs beat the small clubs and the battles at both the top and the bottom stayed pretty much steady. There was even a "relegation six-pointer" that failed to produce any change as Middlesbrough and Burnley battled, and I do mean battled, to a nil-nil draw at the Riverside. Liverpool gave their supporters some nervous moments but eventually took the three points back to Anfield from the Britannia. It was even the same same story from a fantasy standpoint as much of the fantasy point production came from the usual suspects. Diego Costa scored (although it was credited as an own goal) and Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku, and Dele Alli all chipped in goals. It was the sort of blue chip that has to happen from time-to-time to make the usual so striking.
Since there was relatively little of note to pass along it seems like a worthwhile time to spend some time starting to look ahead to the summer and beyond. Here are some thoughts about things that are either likely to happen or that I think SHOULD happen.
Likely - It feels more and more likely that Wilfried Zaha is going to ride his strong second half of the season to another big club. I love what Zaha has done and his physical tools are impressive but I have a hard time seeing him displace any of the incumbents at Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs or Liverpool. I could see him as an upgrade, or at least a move younger and healthier, over Theo Walcott at Arsenal. He could also have a place at Manchester United under another regime but it's hard to imagine him as a Jose sort of wide player. If he goes to a bigger club only to be a key reserve it would be a massive shame that we would be deprived of his talents in mid-table every week. I can see why he'd want to go but I certainly hope he doesn't.
Should - I suspect we're headed toward a world where Anthony Martial is the next Kevin De Bruyne. By that, I mean that he'll flame out as a wide player under Jose Mourinho only to return as a special attacking player at his next stop under a manager who is more inclined to unleash him as an attacking force and worry less about his defensive contribution.
Likely - I'm torn as to how likely this is exactly but I'm growing more and more convinced that the delay in announcing Arsene Wenger's plans for next season and beyond has to do with the Board wanting to see if the Gunners are going to qualify for the Champions League. It's easy to see the logic. Let the unknowing media continue to blame the delay on Wenger. Wait to see if you can qualify and essentially maintain the current holding pattern relative to prestige and revenue while they let Wenger bow out gracefully. If it turns out that they don't qualify then you have the smoking gun of failing to finish ahead of Spurs AND failing to qualify for the Champions League to justify the decision. I don't KNOW that this is the case but given the uncomfortable situation that the club is facing between honoring a living legend and getting on with life without him it would certainly be an approach I'd consider to balance politics and pragmatism.
Should - This weekend reminded us of the loss we suffered two summers ago when Kieran Trippier left for Spurs to languish on the bench. Trippier isn't a starter on a Champions League team but it would be fantastic to see him earn a move somewhere that he'll play every week. Everton would be an interesting option if Seamus Coleman can't recover sufficiently from his horrific double leg fracture. Stoke City, as a replacement for Glen Johnson/Phil Bardsley would be a less romantic option but it would give Mark Hughes an additional attacking avenue and not detract from the defense. Finally, a move to West Brom to mirror Chris Brunt outside of the always packed Tony Pulis central defense/holding midfield could be interesting as well.
Likely - The biggest story of the summer involves one (or both) of the iconic forwards in Manchester leaving their current club and the Premier League. Manchester City are in a better position to move on both because they've acquired Aguero's presumed successor in Gabriel Jesus and because they'd be in line to get a fee if Aguero leaves. With Manchester United on the outside looking in with respect to qualifying for the Champions League it's hard to see Zlatan sticking around for a second Champions League-less season with the Red Devils. Maybe United with the Europa League and qualify that way but there could be a decided drop in star power at the forward position or at least a changing of the guard heading into next season.
Should - Marco Silva should get serious consideration for a bigger managerial opening. You don't want to confuse a strong run with sustained excellence but this is a guy with a track record of winning in Portugal and Greece. Like bringing in a prolific forward from the Eredivisie you don't necessarily know what you're going to get but now that Silva has shown his qualify in the Premier League over a short run in addition to his previous track record. That's the point where a bigger club like Everton (if Koeman leaves), Spurs (if Pochettino leaves), or even Arsenal should give Silva serious consideration. Let's not minimize the turnaround that Silva has masterminded given how poor the club was in the first half PLUS having sold two key midfielders in Livermore and Snodgrass in January. That's some strong stuff.
Likely - Some of the stalwarts of Chelsea's season will be in reduced roles next season. With Champions League coming, it is reasonable to expect guys like Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso to get less playing time as the Blues will have to look to expand their options in the wide spaces. With reinforcements present at the level you'd expect Chelsea to recruit at you have to think that the current incumbents will give way a little more often.
Should - Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry, and David Moyes should offer up an ex-Everton package to a Major League Soccer or Chinese Super League side that wants a built-in audience back in Europe. I'm sure it wouldn't carry over past the start of the next Premier League season but I'd bet you could get some eyeballs tuning in over the summer months when Transfer Rumors are the only Premier League alternative.
[NOTE: At this point in the column, the Arsenal debacle at Selhurst Park has been completed, your intrepid writer is engulfed in a dark cloud of disappointment, and his belief that Arsene Wenger should be dismissed at the end of the season in favor of a combination of a Technical Director and a Manager is redoubled]
Likely - Whomever the new Technical Director/Manager combination at Arsenal is will do what Arsene Wenger should have done a couple of seasons ago and look to salvage any value from Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Theo Walcott. Probably Jack Wilshere too. At least three out of the four will be very productive taking a step down in competition level.
Should - Ramsey upset Cardiff City supporters and join arch-rivals Swansea where he will be at his most marketable. Oxlade-Chamberlain should head to West Ham where he can take over for the quickly caldifying Mark Noble at the base of midfield. Theo Walcott should go to Stoke City and maybe between he and Xherdan Shaqiri Mark Hughes will get 30 starts from a wide attacking player. Jack Wilshere should end up at Crystal Palace as a replacement for the rapidly aging Yohan Cabaye with the France international spending a final season at Selhurst Park mentoring Wilshere and turning him into the guy that we always hoped he could be and smoking cigarettes with him while doing so.
I'm sure I'll have plenty more to say on what is realistically going to happen at Arsenal and over the summer transfer window in general as the seasons winds down and the summer sets in. For now, this was a pleasant diverson from the troubles of being a frustrated Arsenal supporter. On the plus side, I finished the week 5th overall in Togga Perfect XI and 2nd in the Rotoworld and Men in Blazers private leagues. If only I hadn't gotten there by betting on someone (Zaha) doing well against my team.