Will motivation be a problem for Premier League sides in GW38?
A quick glance at the Premier League table tells us that there is very little left to play for as the curtain comes down on another domestic campaign.
Liverpool need a point to clinch Champions League football at Chelsea’s expense, while Swansea City need a mathematical miracle to avoid the drop. Everything else is pretty much done and dusted.
The Merseysiders’ need for a result sees them topping the GW38 goal projections and it would be a major shock if their unbeaten home record did not remain intact.
However, to suggest that the rest of the teams have nothing to play for might be stretching things a bit too far so let’s take a look at a few of the other motivational factors that might influence Sunday’s results.
The World Cup
Barring injury, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jamie Vardy, John Stones, Jordan Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier are all but guaranteed a spot in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad which is expected to be announced next week.
The England boss has seen what sort of impact last minute rejections can have on players, something he is keen to avoid, so there are perhaps 10 places still up for grabs before he makes those life-changing calls next week.
The likes of Jack Wilshere, Joe Hart, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Ashley Young, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Phil Jones, James Tarkowski, Gary Cahill, Adam Lallana, Danny Wellbeck, Nick Pope, Jonjo Shelvey, Chris Smalling, Jake Livermore, Lewis Cook and Alfie Mawson will therefore be keen to provide Southgate with a timely reminder of their talents if they are fortunate enough to feature in GW38.
It’s not just about getting into those national squads either. Some players will be looking to tie down a starting spot ahead of the opening World Cup group games.
Leroy Sané is a case in point. Michael Ballack recently described the Manchester City youngster as the ‘future’ of Germany but he’s far from a guaranteed starter at the moment due to the fact that coach Joachim Löw is blessed with such an abundance of attacking talent.
However, his performance for City in their 3-1 victory over Brighton on Wednesday will not have done his cause any harm. Sané created all 3 goals, earning a WhoScored 10 out of 10 in the process.
Premier League clubs earn more prize money the higher they finish in the table and in a study that was published on Total Sportek it was estimated that each place is worth the equivalent of around £2m.
Newcastle currently sit in 10th spot but only 2 points separates them from 15th placed West Ham United. While this may be highly significant for the clubs’ hierarchy, it is hard to say whether it will transfer through to the players themselves.
It’s possible that a number of players will also be sweating on new contracts. Premier League clubs tend to release a number of players that are out of contract in the close season so these guys will surely be looking to finish on a high to put themselves in the shop window. Of course, that’s assuming they get the chance to feature in the first place!
Mo Salah is expected to clinch the Golden Boot on Sunday and he also needs 4 Fantasy Premier League points to eclipse the 295 Luis Suárez amassed in 2013/14 campaign, while the magical 300 mark is still well within his sights.
Having won back-to-back Golden Boots, Harry Kane is unlikely to go down without a fight, although (with the possible exception of the aforementioned Rose), the rest of the Spurs players may not over-exert themselves too much. A place in next season’s Champions League group stage is already assured so they could easily be forgiven for turning their thoughts to those World Cup finals that are fast approaching.
Salah and Kane are once again the leading captaincy picks for GW38 followed by the in-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who represents an Arsenal side that have lost all of the 7 away games they have played in 2018.
Other factors to consider
When clubs play their final home games there is often a party atmosphere at the ground so it could be argued that this gives them an added incentive compared to the visiting sides as they look to sign off the season in style.
While that could be seen as a positive, final day fixtures played in basking sunshine are likely to have the opposite effect, certainly in terms of how much running each side puts in. However, this shouldn’t be a problem this weekend, with cooler weather forecast.
There is also the small matter of next weekend’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United. However, knowing the nature of the two managers, it is far from clear whether a big performance in GW38 would be sufficient to earn a starting spot at Wembley for any of the players involved.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, was once quoted as saying ”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” so with football being very much a team game, are you prepared to take a chance on certain players, even if their individual level of motivation is not present collectively?
Food for thought for Fantasy Premier League managers ahead of those final day fixtures!