Gameweek 28 of the Premier League campaign brought with it more twists and turns than your average episode of Magnum PI, and in the end a number of parties can reflect on what could be a defining weekend; for better or worse.
There were a couple of huge games at the foot of the table, while the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham continued their assault on the top four. Manchester United and Chelsea, meanwhile, played out an entertaining contest at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But who were this week’s key Premier League winners and losers?
All league wins in football come with three points attached….but sometimes they really are worth far more than that.
The proverbial ‘six pointer’ is a term that gets bandies around almost willy-nilly these days, but the meeting between Brighton and Swansea on Saturday could very much be added to that category.
Hence why the Seagulls’ 4-1 was so impressive. They embraced the high stakes nature of the game and produced arguably their best performance of the season; rattling in four goals, having another disallowed and conceding only through the unluckiest of own goals from Lewis Dunk.
The victory was all the more impressive give that Swansea were unbeaten in five league outings up until Saturday – beating Liverpool, Arsenal and Burnley in that spell. Brighton are now twelfth in the table and should, theoretically at least based on the laws of momentum, kick on from here.
Loser: Newcastle United
At the end of the season, many teams can reflect upon results which may have altered the course of their campaign. Newcastle United, you suspect, may live to rue the two points they threw away at Bournemouth on Saturday.
The Magpies had cantered into a 2-0 lead on the south coast courtesy of a brace from Dwight Gayle, and from there they really should have seen out the win that would have lifted them up to twelfth in the Premier League table.
Instead, they shipped a pair of late goals to Adam Smith and Dan Gosling as the Cherries rallied late, and the two points lost – which is the only way Newcastle can look upon this result – means they remain just two points above the dropzone.
In their next three fixtures they play both Liverpool and Tottenham away; you can forgive the Geordies for feeling a little on edge at present.
Winner: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
The much-maligned 24-year-old has faced intense scrutiny since he was a teenager, and only at times has he shown glimpses of fulfilling the potential he showed at such a young age.
Often, it takes the right manager, at the right time, to really get the best out of a player.
It appears though Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain’s move to Liverpool might just have been the transfer he needed; away from the claustrophobic stylings of Arsene Wenger, the Ox now has a manager in Jurgen Klopp who is willing to put his arm around him and let him express himself.
Of course, it’s easy playing in midfield when you have messrs Salah, Firmino and Mane ahead of you, but once again Oxlade-Chamberlain showed some nice touches in his side’s 4-1 win over West Ham. If he continues like this, he will surely be a guaranteed starter for England in the World Cup.
Loser: Alan Pardew
It’s been a tough few weeks for ‘Pards’, having witness the club sack their chairman and chief executive – the two men who appointed him – and then having to deal with the fall-out of the ‘Barcelona four’ incident in which a taxi was, allegedly, high-jacked while late night Happy Meals were being purchased by Gareth Barry and co.
The concern for Pardew is that the results on the pitch haven’t improved one iota since he took over the job at the Hawthorns. They have won just one of their last fourteen, and remain seven points adrift of safety after Saturday’s 1-2 loss at the hands of Huddersfield.
The Baggies are rooted to the bottom of the league table, and they will need an almighty turnaround in fortunes to avoid the drop. Pardew, according to reports, has to get a result against Watford next time out to save his job.
Winner: Romelu Lukaku
There are lies, damn lies and incriminating statistics in football, and Romelu Lukaku has been one of the favourite fall-men for the stats brigade.
He hadn’t netted against another top six team all term, and had failed to score against Chelsea in seven attempts while turning out for Everton and Manchester United.
But that all changed on Sunday when the burly Belgian slotted home the United equaliser in an intriguing clash with the Blues. He also assisted Jesse Lingard for the winner in a man-of-the-match performance, and now the stats men can sleep easy knowing that one of their rather trivial lines of enquiry has been ended. Lukaku CAN turn it on when the spotlight is shining at its brightest.