The final calendar month of Premier League football this season is now officially up and running. Although Matchweek 34 didn’t offer too many surprises on the pitch, it was dominated by a talking point off it, as an anti-Glazer protest by Manchester United fans spilled over into Old Trafford and forced the delay and eventual abandonment of the United vs Liverpool game.
Prior to that last-minute postponement in Manchester, another key moment of this Matchweek came in the form of a social media blackout by the Premier League and all 20 member clubs, in protest of the ongoing and appalling abuse that players continue to face on social media platforms. We of course hope that gestures such as this will begin to force a positive change on these channels.
On the pitch, though, it’s time to look back on some of the top performances over the weekend, and which players shone amidst a somewhat muted weekend of Premier League football.
Stars in Premier League – Gameweek 34
Goalkeeper: Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion)
Regardless of his side’s overall performances, West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone continues to shine, and put in another excellent display in the Black Country Derby, helping his team escape with a point.
Although he had no chance with a deflected Fabio Silva goal, Johnstone made great saves to thwart Silva, Romain Saiss and Nelson Semedo, doing enough to keep his side in the game until they eventually found an equalizer.
Johnstone has been a busy man this season, sitting top of the Premier League saves chart, and he can look back on his debut top flight season and be proud regardless of his team’s fate.
Defender: Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Serge Aurier has had his fair share of criticism for the performances that he has put in for Tottenham this season, with the Ivorian often being accused of indiscipline and rashness.
However, against a hopeless Sheffield United side, he showed just what he can do when his side are pressing hard on the front foot. A wonderful scooped pass to Gareth Bale in the first half gave Aurier a deserved assist, and a neat layoff into the path of the same player brought Aurier his second assist of the game much later on.
The fullback situation at Spurs going forward looks uncertain to say the least but this was a fighting performance from Aurier and a much-needed one at that.
Midfielder: Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Despite a hot-and-cold season for Gareth Bale, he’s demonstrated several times that he still possesses the magic match winning ability that he’s always had, and against Sheffield United he put in his finest display since returning to White Hart Lane.
A poacher’s finish beyond the onrushing Ramsdale got the game going for Bale and Spurs, before two clinical finishes from the edge of the area gave the Welshman his hat-trick and also took him past the 50 Premier League goals milestone.
It was one of the finest and most clinical hat-tricks you’re likely to see in top flight English football, and rolled back the years for a player who clearly still has so much to offer in this league.
Forward: Michail Antonio (West Ham United)
West Ham’s trip to Burnley on a rainy Monday night was a must win clash for the Hammers to maintain the Champion’s League dream, and they eventually managed to sneak three points over the line – just.
In this game of narrow margins, West Ham’s Michail Antonio was once again the hero this season. Having gone a goal down, Antonio pulled his side level with a thumping header from close range, before getting a deft touch on Benrahma’s cross to give the Londoners a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Antonio could’ve in fact had a hat-trick in the second half, but hit the ball against his standing leg with the most presentable chance he had all night. Still, it was the forward who had the last laugh by helping West Ham maintain their European dream.
Manager: Graham Potter (Brighton and Hove Albion)
It’s been a long season of to-ing and fro-ing, rued misses and worrisome results for Brighton and Hove Albion, but now, at long last, it looks like they’re finally over the line in the relegation battle, and what a way to do it.
Manager Graham Potter set his team up to get at a Leeds side who have gone toe to toe with some of the best in recent weeks, and he was rewarded as his side secured an impressive 2-0 win to do the double over the Yorkshire side.
Potter’s side put in an excellent performance, limiting Leeds to few opportunities and creating excellent chances, from which Brighton arguably could’ve scored more. Still, it was a magnificent day and a huge result for The Seagulls.