1.) Is it time for Arsenal to thank Wenger and move on - or is that still unthinkable?
Arsenal have seemingly yet again don what they do best under Wenger, just enough to secure Champion's League football and flirt just enough with winning some silverware that the fans are kept happy.There comes a point where simply finished in the top 4 is no longer going to cut the mustard. This has been a hot top in recent seasons and it is far from going away. The weekend loss to Watford in the FA Cup has yet again exposed Arsenal's failure to convince they can compete at the very top level. This was supposed to be Arsenal's season wasn't it? The fact Leicester City can go from relegation to the cusp of winning the league in less than a year with a few budget but brilliant signings and the appointment of a manager that no one even gave a chance just proves that life beyond Wenger is possible. So where does it go wrong for Arsenal seemingly every year? Everton will certainly not give Arsenal any help in their Week 31 clash, fail to win that, and the Gunner faithful will have to serious consider life beyond the Frenchman.
2.) The Tyne-Wear derby is crucial for Rafa Benitez's beleaguered Newcastle, will a win set them on the way to safety?
Rafa Benitez taking over the hot seat at Newcastle was certainly a surprise if not the coup of the season in terms of managerial changes. Even though his side lost to league leaders Leicester City on Monday, you could see what an instant impact the former Liverpool manager has had on the squad. Newcastle played with energy and vigor, just failing to find the final piece of quality to break down a scrambling Leicester defense. Given the appointment by owner Mike Ashley, you have to feel Newcastle's survival chances have been given a huge boost. Sunderland are also embroiled in the relegation fight, leaving the next 3pts crucial to each sides campaign. If Rafa is to keep Newcastle up, then the Tyne-Wear derby is the first of a monumental set of challenges until season end.
3.) Are Manchester City's title hopes all but over?
12pts behind (albiet with a game in hand) makes for grim reading from City's perspective. Could it be that their hopes were dashed when Kevin de Bruyne went out injured, or when Pep was declared Pellegrini's successor before the season was even finished? Regardless, the points gap seems too large now, even for a team of players boasting the likes of Aguero et al. What is crucial now is not slipping out of the top 4, especially with rivals United and West Ham still within striking distance of that last CL spot. City will have to bounce back from a torrid draw to Norwich and will face their city rivals at home in Week 31. However, they cannot underestimate United in such a monumental clash, it is one game at a time now, even for CL qualification.
4.) Can West Ham realistically break the into the Top 4?
Speaking of Champions League qualifications and managerial appointments - Slaven Bilic has been an inspired addition at the helm of West Ham's remarkable season. Add to that the emergence of Dimitri Payet as one of the most exciting players in the league and you have all the ingredients for a top 4 finish. In a season as bizarre as this, one could hardly predict the heights that the traditionally smaller clubs have been able to hit. Given the fact West Ham have performed so unbelievably well against the "bigger" teams, it isn't too far out to think a win over London rivals Chelsea wouldn't hand them a huge advantage in challenging City for 4th. The Hammers sit just 2pts behind City, with the same amount of matches played. In a week of derby clashes, West Ham's visit to Stamford Bridge will be a crucial test to see if they have what it takes to stay at the top.
5.) Does the emergence of so called smaller clubs hurt or help the value of the Premier League?
If you talk with my best friend and fantasy rival, he will tell you that La Liga is the best league in the world. "Put any Premier League team against Barca or RM and see what happens," he would say. While I do agree La Liga boasts two of the very best teams, the over quality of their league is still light years away from the PL. Realistically only Barca and RM can win La Liga year to year. However, the influx of TV money in the PL has leveled the playing field, creating a much more exciting and dynamic league. The fact the smaller clubs can go toe to toe with the big boys is a huge factor as to why the PL remains the most followed league in the world. Success stories like Leicester City, West Ham, Watford and Crystal Palace (pre 2016) are all indicators that the Premier League holds incredible value. The fact that multiple teams can challenge for the highest honors remains why I will always follow the PL above any other in Europe.
What other questions do you have for Week 31?