Our David John says Arsenal can keep up their chase for Europe with a resounding win over relegated Sunderland.
Arsenal v Sunderland (1945BST)
There is not a great deal more to be added to the Sunderland story this season and the conclusion of the Premier League campaign can’t come quickly enough.
It was probably asking a lot from a team that has managed just six wins all season to give the home fans something to cheer against a revved up Swansea fighting for their lives but the abject nature of the performance must leave the faithful with serious concerns for next season.
Their fate has already been sealed but a lack of concentration, application and effort as David Moyes and company wallow in self-pity was embarrassing and I don’t envy the Scot’s job this week of mapping out the club’s immediate future when he sits down with the owners.
I don’t blame the handful of supporters left in the Stadium Of Light booing them off in the midst of this whole wretched situation and it seems unlikely they will add to their win tally with Arsenal and then Chelsea to round things off.
A 2-0 triumph at Hull once their relegation was confirmed looks like a flash in the pan and the Swansea reverse seems to have sucked out any remaining spirit from the club as they prepare to totally clear the decks over the summer.
They are 25/1 in a place to win at the Emirates - basically Lincoln in the FA Cup without the commitment – as Arsenal’s late pursuit of Champions League football next season suddenly shows no signs of halting.
I have not got the faintest idea what Arsene Wenger said to his side since the north London derby but whatever it was, it has worked as they have won three on the spin with tremendous verve.
Stoke were the latest side to be trampled in the rush for a European berth and such has been the turnaround in recent weeks, even the utterly disinterested Mesut Ozil put his best foot forward with a goal in the 4-1 victory.
Tuesday’s match followed by entertaining woeful travellers Everton completes the fixture list and Wenger could probably not have wished for a softer ending to the season with all six points required.
Liverpool romped home in the sun at West Ham on Sunday to keep the Gunners at arm’s length so it is do-or-die yet again but for once, Wenger and Arsenal seem to be relishing both the challenge and the relative pressure.
The current woes for Moyes continue to pile up with Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe both injured against Swansea and it is hard to sensibly argue anything other than Sunderland spending the evening chasing around in circles.
It will be a shame to see young Jordan Pickford in goal fighting a losing battle – the hosts giving up two goals is a fraction of odds-against – if they ship three that could well end up being four or more so minus three on the handicap at a more rewarding price is the call.
Prediction: Arsenal 4-0 Sunderland
Manchester City v West Brom (2000, Sky Sports 1)
City certainly rode their luck on Saturday but they ultimately emerged victorious against Leicester to remain just about in pole position for the top four with a game in hand over Liverpool.
The conclusion that can be drawn from Pep Guardiola’s first season is their attacking flair is comparable with anyone in the section but the issues start when a little bit of pressure is applied and the Foxes seemed to do more than enough to at least force a draw.
Guardiola admitted part of the reason has been nerves as they try and put a seal on the issue but one more victory will ensure no worse than fourth with a trip to Watford left to try and tie up third and immediate entry into the group phase in Europe.
The pressure is on again at 2/9 against the Premier League’s most awkward opponent, who made champions Chelsea work extremely hard for the title-clinching 1-0 triumph on Friday night.
There is probably not the intrinsic quality within the ranks compared to Leicester but Tony Pulis will set up his team to defend in an organised manner and there is always a chance one of their infrequent forays forward will catch City’s backline out.
It will be up to the home side’s collection of starlets then to weave some magic in the final third and although the argument for West Brom retaining the motivation to reach 50 points is wearing extremely thin, I still expect an uncompromising performance from them at the Etihad.
Pulis has said on a number of occasions recently how important it is not to rollover down the closing stretch despite having very little at stake.
The worry is with a relatively quick turnaround at this stage is the spirit may still be willing but whether those veteran bodies can stand up to the attrition and go again having invested such a lot into the Chelsea performance.
That issue just puts me off going for under 2.5 total goals in the game as a Pulis team is rarely overrun but I still see the home side finding a way through on a couple of occasions.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 West Brom
Posted at 1730 BST on 14/05/17.