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Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Following the latest round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.

Southampton best-equipped to bounce back?

Southampton were the first team to be relegated from the Premier League this season, but there will be some that feel the Saints are perhaps best-equipped to bounce back at the first attempt. Leicester’s shock relegation is expected to lead to a fire sale of talent, while a rebuild is required at Leeds who have a squad lacking in experience of England’s second tier.

Southampton, meanwhile, have several stars readymade for a promotion push. Will Smallbone and Nathan Tella will return from impressive loan spells in the Championship this season, with the latter having scored 17 league goals for promoted Burnley and Smallbone handed a senior debut for the Republic of Ireland in March after starring at Stoke.

Elsewhere, Adam Armstrong and Che Adams are proven goalscorers in the second tier, while prospects in Kamaldeen Sulemana, Gavin Bazunu and Tino Livramento could all benefit from a season of first-team football in the Championship.

There’s a strong foundation to build upon at St Mary’s and the expected sales of James Ward-Prowse and Romeo Lavia will bring in much-needed funds for a new manager to strengthen. The key now will be identifying the right head coach to lead the club’s rebuild.

Levy’s £100m decision

Harry Kane’s future is set to dominate the headlines this summer with Tottenham facing a major decision on the club’s record goalscorer.

Kane is set to enter the final season of his contract at Spurs and has been linked with an exit after a disappointing campaign in north London. The England captain will turn 30 this summer and has failed to win a major trophy in his career to date, despite individual excellence that has seen Kane become Spurs’ and England’s all-time record scorer and close in on Alan Shearer’s Premier League record.

Manchester United are understood to be keen to give Kane a chance to compete for honours and it’s not difficult to see how the forward would add to Erik ten Hag’s improving team. Only Newcastle (+22) have had a greater points swing than the Red Devils (+17) from last season, with Ten Hag having secured Champions League qualification and led to the side to both domestic cup finals in an encouraging debut season.

United’s progress has come despite the lack of a recognised centre-forward and there are few number nines in world football better than Kane. The 29-year-old scored 30 league goals for Spurs this season, the joint-best return of his career despite his side’s lowest league finish since 2008/09.

United appear the obvious destination for Kane, both in terms of need and the financial power to secure a deal. Daniel Levy will be loath to lose his biggest asset to a direct rival, but can Spurs afford to take a £100m gamble and allow Kane to run down his contract?

Excitement at Villa for Europe under Emery

Aston Villa are set to compete in European competition for the first time since 2010/11 next season, with a final day win over Brighton confirming the club’s place in the Europa Conference League.

Excitement is understandably high at Villa after a remarkable transformation under Unai Emery, who inherited a team who had won just two of their opening 12 games. Villa ended the campaign seventh, the club’s highest Premier League finish since consecutive top-six finishes under Martin O’Neill between 2008 and 2010.

The prize is a place in the Europa Conference League, a competition that offers Villa a real chance of silverware success. West Ham’s impressive performances in the tournament this season will offer encouragement to Villa, who boast a European specialist in the dugout. Emery is a record four-time winner of the Europa League, lifting the trophy three times at Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

His experience of continental competition and two-legged ties will be invaluable, as Villa look to win a first major trophy since 1996 next season and begin a consistent period of European qualifications.

Can Pochettino turn things around at Chelsea?

Chelsea’s calamitous campaign concluded with a home draw against Newcastle, a result which confirmed the club’s lowest Premier League finish since 1993/94.

It’s been a disastrous season for the west Londoners, who despite record-breaking sums of investment have dropped nine places and a staggering 30 points from last season.

Chelsea have decided on Mauricio Pochettino as the club’s next head coach and the Argentine’s task will be to delve through the wreckage of their 2022/23 season and determine which parts are worth salvaging for the immediate future.

Goals have been a major issue for Chelsea and the Blues were reliant on a Kieran Trippier own goal to earn a point on the final day. Only four teams – two of which were relegated – scored less than Chelsea (38) in the Premier League this season, while the club’s chance creation figures ranked only ninth in the division. Improvements are required all round, but no place more so than in the final third.

Pochettino has a reputation for high-intensity attacking football and nurturing young talent. He will need to live up to that if Chelsea are to recover from a season of struggle few envisaged before a ball had been kicked.

Xhaka to depart with redemption arc complete

The Premier League’s final weekend was one of farewells and several stars made fitting goodbyes. James Ward-Prowse scored for Southampton before leaving the pitch emotional upon his late substitution, with the expectation the club captain will move on after the Saints’ relegation.

Roberto Firmino also scored in the same fixture in his final appearance for Liverpool, while Yerry Mina – set to leave Everton on a free transfer this summer – was superb as Everton beat Bournemouth to secure Premier League survival.

Perhaps the best farewell came at the Emirates as Granit Xhaka scored twice in Arsenal’s resounding win over Wolves. The midfielder is understood to be close to signing for Bayer Leverkusen as Arsenal prepare for a rebuild in the engine room, but will depart as a fan favourite after a rollercoaster ride in north London.

The Switzerland international appeared destined for the exit door in 2019, with his public fall out with the Arsenal fans an incident from which there appeared no road back. Stripped of the captaincy, it was anticipated Xhaka would be pushed out the exit door, but he has since rebuilt his relationship – and reputation – with the club from ruin.

This season has been the best of his career with the club, with Xhaka a driving force in the Gunners’ title challenge. He has scored seven league goals – as many as in the previous four seasons combined – and has been appreciated for his will-to-win and a maturity that has been lacking in past seasons.

His redemption was emphasised during his late substitution, when the Emirates rose to serenade the midfielder as he departed the pitch. There will be many in that crowd questioning whether his exit, unconfirmed but expected, is the right decision.

Read – Premier League Team of the Week – Final day

Read Also – Eight big-name Premier League players who look set to be on the move this summer

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