X

Winners and Losers from Premier League Matchweek 31

Shane EvansContributor IApril 12, 2021

There's only one Christian Pulisic
There's only one Christian PulisicJustin Tallis/Associated Press

It's just like the Premier League to keep things interesting. 

Consistently one of the most competitive, entertaining and sometimes befuddling of the top-flight leagues, things took another gripping step forward this past weekend. The title-chasers dropped a surprising result, and the push for the top four is still anyone's guess.

What we can rely on is the spicy nature of the proceedings and that more of the same will follow in the weeks ahead. For now, though, let's look at Matchweek 31 and a list of winners and losers in what was an enjoyable set of matches.

     

Winner: Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

The hopes and dreams of a nation seemingly rest on the shoulders of the 22-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania, and for good reason. At his best, Pulisic is one of the Premier League's most dangerous attacking players, and he's enjoyed an impressive rise from his Borussia Dortmund days to the $55 million transfer to Chelsea in January 2019. He's the undoubted face of U.S. Soccer, and the collective sanity of the soccer-adoring public in the U.S. counts on him.

This season, the expectations for Pulisic could not be higher, and he's had quite a time establishing himself in the Blues lineup since his old BVB boss, Thomas Tuchel, became his current boss. The questions over his inclusion in the west London side's starting lineup could be a thing of the past after he scored a pair of thunderous near-post goals against Crystal Palace on Saturday to go with his tally against West Bromwich Albion before coming off injured at halftime.

Chelsea's form continues to shine under Tuchel (still just one defeat in 17 games), and it appears that Pulisic's role will grow. The question now is whether Tuchel can keep the momentum going with the rest of his young core.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

     

Loser: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

It's hard to call the Premier League's joint-leading goal scorer and assist provider a loser, but here we are. Harry Kane has been in blistering form this season and deserves all the plaudits for keeping Tottenham in the mix.

The Athletic reported before the weekend that if Spurs don't qualify for the Champions League next season (and it's not looking great after the 3-1 loss to Manchester United on Sunday), Kane will look to leave the club. My question is this: Can you blame him?

Will we see Harry Kane in a different kit next season?
Will we see Harry Kane in a different kit next season?Clive Rose/Associated Press

He's enjoyed great success with the north London club, but he may be reaching the limits of where they are able to go together. A player of his caliber normally strives for the upper echelon, and at 27, he's nearing that pivotal stage where the big move either happens or it doesn't. With each disappointing result, it feels more certain that he'll be playing elsewhere next season.

     

Winner: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

One of my favorite quirks about England's national football team is the fact that its deepest position is right-back. Yes, right-back. Obviously, it's great to be deep at any position, but when Manchester United's tackler extraordinaire Aaron Wan-Bissaka is somewhere around fifth in the pecking order, it's noteworthy.

One of the biggest names in the conversation for a place in Gareth Southgate's squad at RB is Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 22-year-old is well known for his prowess going forward, but there have been questions about his defensive ability. Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid was a difficult one for Alexander-Arnold. Saturday's 2-1 win versus Aston Villa was a marked improvement. An unbelievable stoppage-time winner kept the Reds' top-four hopes going.

Southgate has a number of tricky decisions to make regarding this summer's European Championship, and TAA's participation is chief among them. 

    

Loser: Manchester City's Cruise Control

It has (mostly) been all fun and games for Manchester City in the second half of this season. The historic 28-match unbeaten run propelled the club to the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable lead.

Pep and Co. aren't in panic mode following a discouraging 2-1 loss to 10-man Leeds United, but they may be beginning to sweat slightly. The lead now sits at 11 points on crosstown rivals Manchester United, with the Red Devils having a game in hand. It's still hard to fathom the lead being relinquished at this late stage, but it keeps things interesting as we enter the season's final stage.

       

Winner: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United

Ole is well and truly at the wheel.
Ole is well and truly at the wheel.Oli Scarff/Associated Press

If Solskjaer isn't the right man for the United job, then who is? 

The big names have come and gone (Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, for example), the chosen one (David Moyes) didn't work out as planned, so United turned to one of its own in Ole—and the patience appears to be paying off.

Despite still hunting for his first piece of silverware as United manager, Solskjaer continues to make the right decisions to put his side in a position to win. The emphatic 3-1 victory over Spurs on Sunday was the latest example of this, as second-half substitute Mason Greenwood left a massive imprint on the match with a stunning assist and late goal to cap the win.

A Europa League triumph seems the most likely positive end to the campaign, but the momentum is there for the Red Devils to make a serious push next season for more important trophies.

     

Loser: Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City

Can Leicester City hold on to one of the Champions League spots? Earlier in the season, it was all but assured, given their consistent performances and team-first play. They still remain the only club to not dip below the top four places in the table for the entire campaign.

The concerns are there for Brendan Rodgers right now, though. A 3-2 defeat (which was 3-0 after 48 minutes) was a huge step back for Foxes fans, as West Ham is one of the clubs that could snatch a UCL place from them. What's worse yet is that some of the squad don't seem to be taking the run-in seriously.

With Jamie Vardy still misfiring, Rodgers has his work cut out for him to avoid similar disappointment to last year's fifth-place finish on the final day of the season. 

     

Winner: Adama Traore, Wolverhampton Wanderers

Adama after his winner against Fulham.
Adama after his winner against Fulham.Glyn Kirk/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Everyone knows Adama Traore. The greased-up battering ram with lightning pace has terrorized Premier League defenses with Wolves since 2018. He has flash, skills and the know-how to drive toward goal with vigor. What's been lacking, however, is the end product.

His assist in the last link was just his first in the last 36 games. His goal against Fulham on Friday was his first in 48 games. A strong finish to this campaign would delight his manager Nuno Espirito Santo and be a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season.