Bad news for Leeds, Arsenal and Liverpool fans – the final day rarely delivers a change in the table

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The Premier League final day promises to be as gripping as we have seen in years.

The title and the final Champions League spot are still in play, with Liverpool one point behind Manchester City at the top and Tottenham Hotspur in pole position to take fourth place ahead of Arsenal. At the opposite end of the table, Everton confirmed safety with a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace on Thursday, leaving Burnley and Leeds United to fight it out to avoid relegation to the Championship.

With the potential for the most exciting final day since the “Agueroooooooooo” goal a decade ago, what are the actual chances of teams changing positions?


Title race

Manchester City sit top of the Premier League table on 90 points, with Liverpool trailing them by a point in second.

This season is not the first time these modern-day titans of the English game have fought it out on the final day. In one of the tensest title races in Premier League history – with City collecting maximum points from the last 14 matches and Liverpool collecting eight wins from their final eight – City went into the final day on 95 points in 2018-19, one ahead of Liverpool . Such was the dominance of these sides during that season that their point tallies before the final match would have seen them crowned champions in all-but-two Premier League seasons up to that point.

18-19 Matchday 37

Rank Teams GP Pts GD

1

37

95

69

2

37

94

65

Sadio Mane put Liverpool ahead against Wolves in the 17th minute, lifting them above City, who were drawing 0-0 away to Brighton. Anfield erupted when Glenn Murray put Brighton ahead, but Sergio Aguero leveled the terms only a minute later. City went into half-time 2-1 ahead and eventually won 4-1.

That was the only time the title has briefly switched hands on the final day since City’s dramatic victory over Queens Park Rangers seven years earlier. In the Premier League era, guards of honor for crowned champions are far more commonplace than a tense final-day decider, making this season an anomaly. On average, 8.7 points have separated the team in second from first place on the last day over the past decade. The 18-point gap between Liverpool and City in the COVID-19-affected 2019-20 season is the largest, and the smallest is zero in 2011-12.

19-20 MD 37

Rank

Teams

GP

Pts

GD

1

37

96

50

2

37

78

62

11-12 MD 37

Rank Teams GP Pts GD

1

37

86

63

2

37

86

55

Liverpool and City first battled for the league title in 2013-14, when a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool side dramatically collapsed to a defeat against Chelsea and a draw against Crystal Palace, leaving City needing a draw on the final day to win their second Premier League. Thanks to goals from Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany, they strolled to victory against West Ham.

To add insult to injury for Liverpool fans, the team that has started the final day in first place has never won the title in the Premier League era. History dictates City will be celebrating their sixth Premier League trophy come Sunday afternoon, but Klopp’s “mentality monsters” will not give up yet.


Race for the top four

City, Liverpool and Chelsea have confirmed their places in next season’s Champions League, leaving Tottenham and Arsenal to fight it out for the final spot.

A result against already-relegated Norwich City will confirm Champions League status for Antonio Conte’s men.

But, in keeping with previous seasons, the top four will likely remain unchanged on Sunday. Over the last decade, there has never been a meaningful change in the Champions League positions after the final day’s results, with third and fourth switching positions in 2020-21 and second and third switching in 2015-16 – both largely insignificant.

The most dramatic final day changing of places came in 2005-06, when “Lasagne Gate” infamously cost Tottenham a place in the Champions League. Needing to match Arsenal’s result against Wigan, Tottenham lost 2-1 away to West Ham, with many of their players suffering food poisoning on the eve of the match, while their rivals ran out comfortable 4-2 winners thanks to a Thierry Henry hat- trick.

In 2012-13, Tottenham let a seven-point lead slip over Arsenal with nine matches remaining, as Arsene Wenger’s side capitalized and collected the final Champions League spot over their rivals.

Supporters on the red half of north London will pray for a similar collapse on Sunday, however unlikely it seems, but they can take encouragement in knowing that they are the only club to climb into the Champions League on the final day since the Premier League were granted four spots in 2003.


Relegation fight

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s winner, completing a come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Crystal Palace, confirmed Everton would remain one of six teams (Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham) to have played every season of the Premier League .

Fight for survival

Rank Teams GP Pts GD

17

37

35

-18

18

37

35

-38

Meanwhile, Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, with Leeds United slipping into 18th position. Burnley interim manager Mike Jackson can take encouragement from the fact that no team in the past decade that has started the final day outside the drop zone has been relegated from the Premier League.

The most dramatic final day of the Premier League era came in the 2004-05 season, with West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Southampton within two points of each other at the foot of the table.

04-05 MD 37

Rank Teams GP Pts GD

17

37

33

-29

18

37

32

-20

19

37

32

-21

20

West Bromwich Albion

37

31

-27

Bryan Robson’s West Brom took four wins and four draws from their final 11 matches, including a 2-0 final-day win over Portsmouth, to become the first team to survive after being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas.

04-05 Final

Rank Teams GP Pts GD

17

West Bromwich Albion

38

34

-25

18

38

33

-21

19

38

33

-35

20

38

32

-32

Jesse Marsch can be emboldened by West Brom’s achievement, who started the day in 20th, for their final-day showdown against Brentford.

So, final-day changes are pretty unlikely and, in fact, there have only been seven seasons in the Premier League era when a significant move has happened in the table on a season finale.

Has the picture changed on the final day

Season League title Champions League Relegation

1992-93

NO

NO

NO

1993-94

NO

NO

YES

1994-95

NO

NO

NO

1995-96

NO

NO

NO

1996-97

NO

YES

YES

1997-98

NO

NO

YES

1998-99

NO

NO

NO

1999-00

NO

NO

YES

2000-01

NO

NO

NO

2001-02

NO

NO

NO

2002-03

NO

NO

NO

2003-04

NO

NO

NO

2004-05

NO

NO

YES

2005-06

NO

YES

NO

2006-07

NO

NO

YES

2007-08

NO

NO

NO

2008-09

NO

NO

NO

2009-10

NO

NO

NO

2010-11

NO

NO

YES

2011-12

NO

NO

NO

2012-13

NO

NO

NO

2013-14

NO

NO

NO

2014-15

NO

NO

NO

2015-16

NO

NO

NO

2016-17

NO

NO

NO

2017-18

NO

NO

NO

2018-19

NO

NO

NO

2019-20

NO

NO

NO

2020-21

NO

NO

NO


Golden boot

Going into the final day, Son Heung-Min (21) trails Mohamed Salah (22) by one goal in pursuit of his maiden Premier League golden boot.

Salah is chasing his third golden boot after winning it outright in 2017-18 (32 goals) and then sharing it with team-mate Sadio Mane and former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 22 a season later.

The 2018-19 campaign was the last time the award was won with goals scored on the final day of the season, with Mane and Aubameyang scoring twice to take them level with Salah. If the Egyptian were to take home the award, he would go level with Harry Kane and Alan Shearer on golden boots won, one behind Henry, who is the only player to have won the award more than three times.

The most dramatic race for the golden boot seen in England came in the season before the Premier League’s inception, with Ian Wright finishing ahead of Gary Lineker with a hat-trick on the final day. Wright had scored a penalty against Southampton to draw level with Lineker on 27, who had led for much of the season, but fell behind after Lineker scored an 86th-minute goal to seemingly clinch his fourth English First Division top-scorer prize. Wright then scored twice in injury time to complete his hat-trick and win his first and only golden boot award with 29 league goals.

It would be a fitting end to an exciting season if Son achieved a similar feat at Carrow Road on Sunday.

(Top photo: Getty Images)

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