Should Arsenal beat Aston Villa to win the FA Cup – a feat they’re as short as 3/10 to achieve – the fearsome tentacles of Europa League qualification will stretch as deep into the English top division as seventh, leaving a host of clubs fearing for their well-being next season.
In a desperate measure designed for consolation competition avoidance, former Champions League hopefuls Tottenham and Southampton have chosen to mash the self-destruct button in the hope that dangerously carefree Swansea will unwittingly swagger their way into at least half a season of Thursday night soccer.
This trio aren’t the only ones who could have their 2015/16’s devastated by long-haul flights to Kazakhstan and other such unglamorously remote locations in between Premier League games, with West Ham and Everton vying for a spot via their standing in the arbitrarily structured Fair Play table.
Some seemingly have plans in place to escape this deadly fate, others don’t, but here’s what each team must do in order to avoid lugging the Europa League millstone around next season.
Spurs and Southampton
In not knowing when to abandon their own top-four dreams, Liverpool have essentially (and foolishly) booked themselves fifth spot, with Spurs and Saints lying in the two places below them.
Intent on saving themselves, both appear to have erased their memories of all knowledge on how to win football matches.
Hapless Newcastle are the only team Spurs have toppled in six, just as Hull are the sole side Ronald Koeman’s men have out-gunned.
In order to be overthrown by Swansea, their objective is simple: keep losing!
It may be possible for Saints, with Villa and Manchester City their remaining foes, but it’ll be decidedly tougher for Spurs to stick to the defeat diet when entertaining easy meat in the Tigers next.
One loss from their remaining three – the next of which is at Arsenal where they’re 9/1 to prevail – should see the Swans shift their long necks off the chopping block.
Having diced with relegation in the previous campaign due to their involvement in the Europa League, Garry Monk’s outfit will be fully aware of the importance in achieving this particular objective.
West Ham and Everton
Ten points separate east London’s finest from the Merseysiders in the Fair Play standings, with the highest finisher to be handed the accolade of entering the Europa League at its earliest stage.
The first match of the competition takes place in the first week of July, so prevailing in this particular race is sure to shatter the summer holiday plans of many.
In order to dodge this disaster both the Irons and Toffees must play dirty.
An industrial amount of fouling, unsporting conduct and colourful language is the best medicine here, so parents are advised not to take small children to either’s remaining fixtures.