As the Premier League rolled on into another month of this peculiar season with Everton’s Monday night victory over Southampton, the latest round of matches maintained the mystery of how several storylines of this season might end.
Ok, the title itself is virtually a foregone conclusion at this point, but elsewhere, West Brom’s eventful victory over Brighton and Arsenal’s superb comeback at Leicester reminded us that both relegation and European qualification could go right down to the wire. There will be a question of which players and managers will be able to hold their nerve over these last couple of months, but in the meantime, and particularly during Matchweek 26, there were plenty of old names who managed to recapture our attention.
Stars in Premier League – Gameweek 26
Goalkeeper: Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion)
West Bromwich Albion’s crazy and somewhat fortunate win over Brighton on Saturday was a vital result for the Baggies, and one that Sam Allardyce will hope can get his team’s wheels turning ahead of a fierce relegation battle.
As he has done quite often this season, Sam Johnstone stood out for the midlands side between the sticks. Although he had some good fortune to see Brighton hit the woodwork twice from the penalty spot, the goalkeeper still put in a strong performance for his side to help them edge out a 1-0 victory.
Johnstone surpassed the milestone of 100 saves in the league this season during this match, the first goalkeeper to do so in 2020/21.
Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
It’s fair to say that Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t quite been at his best this season, perhaps becoming a victim of the incredibly high standards he had set in the previous 18 months.
However, Trent showed flashes of last season’s form against basement side Sheffield United, marauding down the right-hand side with a confidence that has seemingly been lacking this year. Most of Liverpool’s good play came through him, and it was his cutback that created Curtis Jones’s opening goal.
You know what they say, the form is temporary…
Midfielder: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
With a relatively low number of goals being scored this week, it seems only fair to recognise the contributions of a defensive midfielder, and who better to highlight than Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante?
Chelsea’s midfield general held down the middle of the park against Manchester United, making seven tackles and four interceptions and being present for just about every single situation in which his side needed him.
The hype surrounding him may feel a tad quieter than it once was, but this performance served to remind everyone that N’Golo Kante is comfortably among the best defensive midfielders in the world, and that that won’t be changing any time soon.
Forward: Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
On the theme of comebacks, the most spectacular one of all this weekend was achieved by an old Premier League great, Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale.
The Welsh international put on a five-star show against a sorry Burnley side, scoring twice and assisting another as he managed to replicate his brilliant recent Europa League form against Premier League opposition.
The second goal in particular, in off the post on the left foot, reminded us all just what Bale is capable of, and that he certainly isn’t done yet.
Manager: Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
It’s never easy heading into a weekend fixture having played European football on the preceding Thursday. However, against Leicester City on Sunday, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta showed exactly how that situation should be handled.
Despite going a goal down early, Arsenal rallied to claim a 3-1 victory, with Willian, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe all delivering for the Gunners after being rotated into the XI by Arteta.
With this victory following hot on the heels of their dramatic European win over Benfica, Arteta may have just masterminded what could be two of the most important results of Arsenal’s season; can they kick on from here?