37 down, and only 1 Matchweek to go now! Ahead of Sunday’s finale to bring the curtain down on an extraordinary, unparalleled season, you would usually expect most of the important matters in the league to be settled by now. However, incredibly, the European race is still yet to be decided and is poised for a grandstand finish, with three teams still fighting for their Champions League hopes and another four battling for two spots in next season’s Europa League.
As is the timeless nature of the Premier League, though, entertainment and unforeseen results can be found in all corners of the table, with Brighton’s astonishing comeback victory over champions Manchester City, and Manchester United’s home draw with already-relegated Fulham serving as evidence to that fact. These were just some of the offerings of Matchweek 37’s entertainment.
It’s still all to play for on the final day. As a number of teams prepare for one last battle to have a shot at European football, it’s time to look back with our penultimate Stars of the Week.
Stars in Premier League – Gameweek 37
Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
He appears again, and again, and again and again and again. Most have likely lost count now of the number of performances like this from Emi Martinez in a dream debut season for Aston Villa, and he reminded everyone what he can do one more time with another great display against Spurs.
With his side snatching an early 2-1 lead, the Argentine goalkeeper helped the Villans hold their lead for over 70 minutes, making two excellent saves from Steven Bergwijn to keep his side in front. He’s faced busier days this season, but was still on top form here to lead Villa to another memorable victory in an excellent season for the Midlands side.
Undoubtedly the goalkeeper of the season, if such doubts were still lingering prior to this match.
Defender: Nat Phillips (Liverpool)
Martinez isn’t the only player to have made a name for himself this season – in fact, for Liverpool’s Nat Philips, who was for all intents and purposes a complete unknown before his team’s centre back injury crisis, it is all the more impressive to see him thrive.
Starting at the heart of the Reds defence in a must-win match against Burnley, Philips put in his finest performance so far in this exceptional breakthrough season. Not only did the defender put his side 2-0 up with a bullet header in the second half, he also used his head to good effect with a goal line clearance at the other end just a few minutes later, as Liverpool got the win.
It’s hard to say what might happen for Philips in the immediate future, but with a performance like this he’s given himself a real chance of being involved next season.
Midfielder: Joe Willock (Newcastle United)
There weren’t a whole lot of either exciting or successful transfers that took place in this year’s January transfer window, but Newcastle United’s on-loan midfielder Joe Willock has been a spectacular exception to that reality, proving so again in the win over Sheffield United.
A fantastic leap enabled the young midfielder to plant a terrific header beyond Aaron Ramsdale just before half time, giving Newcastle a slender lead that they would not relinquish. In front of the newly-returned Newcastle fans in the Gallowgate End, it became the sixth game in a row that Willock scored in, an astonishing return for a midfielder.
His impact in steering The Magpies away from trouble has been monumental – might he be tempted to return for a longer stay next season?
Forward: Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
It may have been Roy Hodgson’s final game in charge of Crystal Palace after almost four years at the helm, but it was Arsenal who came away from Selhurst Park celebrating, getting their fourth league win in a row at the end of an underwhelming season.
For the Gunners, though, there will be great encouragement drawn from the performance of Nicolas Pepe. Given a start here, the winger gave his side the lead with a lovely cushioned volley in the first half, before dancing through defenders and finding the bottom corner to seal the result in stoppage time.
Starts and managerial trust seem to be the key for Pepe, and Arsenal fans will be wanting to see plenty of both next season if the £72million star is to finally reach his best.
Manager: Graham Potter (Brighton and Hove Albion)
It’s been a tale of mission accomplished for Graham Potter and Brighton and Hove Albion this season, but in their final home match The Seagulls finally earned the blockbuster win that their performances have arguably deserved, beating Manchester City 3-2.
Even with City down to 10 men, it would’ve been easy for Brighton to lose heart at 2-0, but Potter instead maintained the brave approach of bombarding the City penalty area – a risk that paid off handsomely, as Brighton completed one of the finest comeback victories of the season.
This will give Potter additional encouragement going into next season, and maybe some hope that Brighton can fix their only major issue – finishing.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.