As there is a hugely important, potentially Premier League deciding game coming up on Sunday, Manchester City vs Liverpool, this has inspired me to explore what has been each team’s most important moment of the Premier League season so far.
Arsenal: Orlando Sa own goal (vs Wolves: 24th February)
Arsenal have had some key moments including the Lacazette equaliser against Crystal Palace, but the magnitude of this game makes this moment all the more critical.
The Thursday night match started with Arsenal in 6th on 42 points (three ahead of Wolves and only three ahead of Tottenham). Wolves had gone 1-0 and were set to move into the top six until Nicolas Pepe scored his first of the season in the 82nd minute.
The points were set to be shared until Pepe played Lacazette in behind Dendoncker and the Frenchman shot across goal. It was going wide or into the path of Saka when Sa went to push it out.
This pushed the ball into the back of the net in the far corner and set the Emirates into pandemonium and helped set Arsenal up to a run of three wins in four (losing only to Liverpool 2-0 at the Emirates) to help them into fourth (until they were beaten by Crystal Palace.)
Without this winner, Arsenal may have lost momentum in a very wide-open top four race and Arsenal are now the front-runners with a game in hand on Tottenham.
Aston Villa: Appointment of Steven GerrardEmbed from Getty Images
Steven Gerrard has inspired a turnaround at Villa park and attracted the talent of Phillipe Coutinho
Whilst this is not for a particular game, the appointment of the ex-Liverpool midfielder has transformed Villa’s season from a relegation battle to a comfortable battle to finish in the top half.
Dean Smith had gone many plaudits for his 11th place finish last season, but the sale of Jack Grealish left Villa playing a Grealish style without their talisman. As a result, Villa struggled and when Smith was sacked on the 8th November, they were in 16th with 10 points from 11 games (just two points above the drop).
The ex-Rangers manager, Gerrard, won his first two matches (2-0 vs Brighton and 2-1 vs Crystal Palace) to push the Villains up to 11th. His his first two months the only matches he lost were to the top three (2-1 vs Man City, 1-0 vs Liverpool and 3-1 vs Chelsea) as Villa stayed 11th at the end of the year.
Whilst their form dipped into the new year, including consecutive defeats to Newcastle and Watford in February, Villa are still 11th after 30 games with 36 points (14 points away from the drop). The irony is the team that condemned Smith to the sack, Southampton, is a team Gerrard’s side beat 4-0.
His use of Watkins and Ings together plus the addition of ex-teammate Phillipe Coutinho have revitalised Aston Villa (who have picked up 26 points from his 19 Premier League games in charge.) In the time Smith was sacked only the top 8 have picked up more points with Aston Villa matching the revival of the richest club in the world, Newcastle.
Brentford: Signing of Christian EriksenEmbed from Getty Images Embed
The return of the diminutive Dane to the Premier League as sparked life back into Brentford's season.
There has often been a saying that certain teams are ‘on the beach’ before the end of the season because of being in mid-table obscurity and this could be used to describe the Premier League newcomers.
After starting the season so well, beating Arsenal 2-0 in their first ever Premier League game, and drawing 3-3 against Liverpool. With a 2-1 win at West Ham they were sitting in 7th with 12 points after 7 games.
A poor run of form (four straight defeats) left them in 14th. November and December were mixed leaving them in 14th at the year’s end. They were helped by the injuries of Leeds, abysmal form of Everton and the struggling of Watford, Burnley and Norwich.
A win against Aston Villa on the 2nd of January pushed them up to 12th but began a run of eight winless games (in which they only picked up one point).
Christian Eriksen made his debut in the last game of that run a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle on the 26th February which left them 15th only three points off the drop, having played three more games than Burnley.
The next game was massive, Norwich away, and the Dane impressed setting up the opening goal as well as having the most touches (66), most passes (44) and most passes in the final third (18) (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/60531464).
They followed this up with a 2-0 win over Burnley to move them 9 points clear of relegation (key to note that Eriksen arriving has brought the best out of Ivan Toney who scored a hat-trick against Norwich before a brace against Burnley.)
A defeat to Leicester City followed, but the hugely impressive 4-1 win against Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge) in which Eriksen scored the second and eventual winner moved Brentford up to 14th and 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
While they are not yet mathematically safe, the arrival of Eriksen has probably secured Premier League football for the second season.
Brighton: Boxing day win against BrentfordEmbed from Getty Images
Trossard scored the opening goal to end a record-breaking winless run for Brighton
For a team that started the season so well, they struggled like Brentford. Brentford were on a 12 game winless streak (having last won against Leicester City on the 19th September.
Two months without a Premier League win had left Brighton only nine points above the drop and had the lost the game they would have been 13th instead of 9th (and only four point off Manchester United in 7th).
It was also critical for Brighton to snap the winless streak, they hadn’t been dreadful (the run included draws at Anfield, the London Stadium and against Arsenal at the Amex.) In the run they had 8 draws.
This win has been shown as even more important as Brighton have very much been on the beach (losing their last four games) and having another long winless streak (7 games).
Fortunately, they started well and their end to December (win against Brentford and draw with Chelsea) was enough to prevent the seagulls from a relegation battle.
Burnley: Pope save against ArsenalEmbed from Getty Images
Nick Pope has been key to Burnley's survival in the Premier League since arriving in 2016
This is more a distant link but the 0-0 draw against Arsenal on the 23rd January set up a decent Burnley run that could help propell them to safety.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gtXSyIvlic (1:33) – Pope’s key save
This save helped secure the point against Arsenal and Burnley had the most successful run of the season from this, losing only one of their next six (1-0 vs Liverpool).
The run was a 0-0 draw with relegation rivals Watford, 1-1 draw with Manchester United, huge wins (3-0 vs Brighton and 1-0 vs Tottenham) with a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.
While it could be argued the Brighton game was the key moment, I believe the momentum and belief from this game at the Emirates inspired Burnley to this run of 9 points from six games (just under half of Burnley’s 21 points). This is supported by their brave performance against Liverpool, in which they missed at least three very scoreable chances.
Their form has dropped off and if they are to stay up they will have a more important moment but this six game run they have given themselves a small chance of the great escape.
Chelsea: Pulisic equaliser against LiverpoolEmbed from Getty Images
The 22 year-old scored the equaliser which threatened to end Liverpool's chances of winning the Premier League
This is a difficult choice because the top two and the inspiration for this article (Man City and Liverpool) have run away from Chelsea, 13 and 14 points ahead of Chelsea. They have also been caught up by Tottenham and Arsenal who are now only five points behind.
Pulisic’s goal was key at the time in the battle for second, as it kept Chelsea ahead of Liverpool (Liverpool did have a game in hand) and was seen as the end of the title battle with both teams double digit points behind City.
Chelsea may have more important Premier League moments in the last two months of the season with a huge top four battle against Arsenal on the 20th April but this goal was seen as critical in what seemed like the battle for the highest place possible for these Liverpool and Chelsea.
Crystal Palace: 3-1 win vs EvertonEmbed from Getty Images
Connor Gallagher (22) celebrates after his brace secured a key win against Everton
Crystal Palace were on a run of three consecutive losses including a 1-0 loss to relegation threatened Leeds. This had pushed them down to 13th and only six points off the drop.
Their opponents, Everton were two point ahead of them in 12th and the win pushed Palace eight points clear of the drop and one point clear of Everton. From this point on, the gap to the drop was never this low and helped set them up for the ninth place they are in currently.
A win against Watford (4-1) was also key as it pushed the gap to 11 points but considering Palace’s poor form to snap out of it during the tough Christmas period was critical in stopping Viera’s men from being absorbed into a relegation battle.
Everton: Iwobi’s late winner vs NewcastleEmbed from Getty Images
The Everton and Nigerian winger, Alex Iwobi, runs to celebrate his last minute winner against Newcastle
The reaction to this goal showed how important the goal was for the Toffees. A team that has never been relegated from the Premier League has been very much up against it.
To put this into context, Everton have only picked up 15 points from their last 24 games (after getting 10 points from their first four), with no other team, even bottom side Norwich, having a worse record in this period.
Everton were level on points with 18th placed Watford before this game (Watford had played three more games) and only one point above Burnley. This Thursday night match against 14th placed Newcastle was key to their chances of survival.
Allan’s 83rd minute red card set up a tense ending that looked favourable to Newcastle but Everton (who had only 38% possession at home) snatched the game and three points from Newcastle with the late winner to extend the gap to three points.
With the poor and inconsistent form of the bottom three, every point means a large amount and none of the sides (Everton and bottom three) have picked up a point since and this goal and the three point gap may be critical.
This moment could be on the day of the article (may have already been) because of Everton’s game against Burnley, a win for either side would be significant (Burnley would go one point behind and Everton would be six points clear.)
Leeds United: Joe Gelhardt winner vs NorwichEmbed from Getty Images
Look what it means to him! The Leeds United youth academy product, Joe Gelhardt, celebrates the most important goal he has ever scored
The addition of Joe Gelhardt to Leeds United through the academy has been a key reason for Leeds floating above the relegation zone rather than sinking. Winning a penalty against Wolves in stoppage time to keep the gap to the relegation zone as Leeds drew 1-1 in October but his contribution at home to Norwich could prove priceless.
This Leeds team finished 9th last season but injuries to key players (most notably top scorer Patrick Bamford and England FA player of the year Kalvin Phillips). Whilst Gelhardt has not filled Bamford’s shoes his goal could be more vital than any goal the 28 year old has ever scored.
The 19 year old from Liverpool had only been brought on in response to Norwich’s 90+1 minute equaliser from Kenny Mclean and scored with his first touch as Raphinina rounded the keeper and squared it to the Liverpudlian to score only his second ever Premier League goal.
Leeds completed the double over Norwich and these six points could prove vital but this goal was especially significant as Watford’s win against Southampton would have closed the gap to only two points had the game ended in a draw.
Leicester City: 4-2 win vs WatfordEmbed from Getty Images
Typical Jamie Vardy! He celebrates a goal against Watford in front of ex-manager Claudio Ranieri (who he won the Premier League in 2016 with)
For a side that has been stuck in mid-table mediocrity this season after an impressive season (almost making Champions League) this side has not had many important moments but their win in November set them apart from those who would be in trouble.
A defeat would have seen them down in 15th (below Watford) only six points above the drop, considering they only picked up one point from their next two games they could have been struggling without this key win.
In this sense the true moment was the mistake by Troost-Ekong that helped James Maddison open the scoring.
Leicester are 10th, with no chance of European Football next season (unless they win the European Conference League) being able to be comfortable was the ultimate goal and this game was key to this.
Liverpool: 2-0 win against ArsenalEmbed from Getty Images
The passion on Thiago's face clearly illustrates the importance of Liverpool's win over Arsenal
Man City’s 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace opened the draw for Liverpool to put the title race in their own hands and close the gap to one point behind their Sunday opponents, Manchester City.
Arsenal were on a run of five straight wins, hadn’t lost in the League since the 2nd January (Rodri’s late winner for Man City) and last loss came against Liverpool in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final.
Liverpool repeated the 2-0 scoreline against Arsenal however, with Jota scoring his seventh Liverpool goal against Arsenal and Roberto Firmino wrapping up the three points in a really impressive 8 minute period around the hour mark.
Arsenal had started the match very well but Liverpool were clinical scoring two out of their three shots on target and thus closed the gap to one point with nine games to go. This is where it remains going into Sunday (with both sides winning their next match), this seemed impossible as Liverpool went top on Saturday (first time since 4th December) after being 14 points behind on the 15th January, after City’s 1-0 win against Chelsea.
This could definitely change on Sunday as a win for Liverpool would put the title in their hands with seven games to go (knowing seven wins would secure the record-equalling 20th English League title), but whatever happens the game promises to be one of the best of the season.
Manchester City: Win against BurnleyEmbed from Getty Images
Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring against Burnley to take City back to the top of the league
On paper a win against the team that is in 19th place should not be the Premier League holders most important moment but that is without the context. Manchester City were 14 points clear (had played two more games than Liverpool) in January and when their rivals Liverpool and Chelsea drew 2-2, people were calling it the end of the title race.
It was only when they lost 3-2 to Tottenham that the chances of a title race were back on the table.
This was very much the case when Liverpool beat Arsenal just before the international break to close the gap to one point. Liverpool played the lunchtime match versus Watford and scrapped through with goals from Jota and a late Fabinho penalty to put Liverpool top for the first time since December.
Man City could easily have been rocked and lose at what has been known as a very tough place to go (Turf Moor). With their match against Liverpool coming up against Liverpool anything but a win would leave Liverpool top going into the key clash.
Man City settle the nerves and went back to the top comfortably, scoring in the 9th minute (De Bruyne) and 25th minute (Gundogan), this means that a draw at the Etihad keeps the title in their hands as opposed to Liverpool if they had failed to win.
The match was key for the permutations on Sunday and will mean that City will still be favourites unless Liverpool can win at the Etihad for the first time since 2018 (Champions League) and first Premier League win since a 4-1 win for the Reds in 2015 (Klopp’s second month in the job.)
Pep Guardiola has not lost to Liverpool in the league at the Etihad and if he can manage to maintain this record, Liverpool will have to rely on City dropping points for a chance for them to lift the title in May.
Manchester United: Ronaldo hat-trick vs TottenhamEmbed from Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his second out of three to propel United into the top four
Cristiano Ronaldo has had a large amount of criticism this season but his hat-trick against Spurs has been key to Manchester United’s season despite their recent struggle against Leicester.
This result took Manchester United into the top four, while they are now seventh they are only three points off the top four (ironically it is Tottenham who hold the final Champions League spot), considering how inconsistent the teams in the Premier league top four race have been, it is very much still possible for United to make the spot their own.
Had Tottenham won the game, United would now be nine points off fourth, which with only eight games (and matches against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea to come) looks almost impossible to overcome.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s treble kept them in the race and considering the draw of the champions League for transfers and how United have areas to improve this match and increased chance of Champions League football may be critical for the future of the Red Devils.
Newcastle United: The takeover
https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11678/12427983/newcastle-takeover-completed-saudi-led-consortium-end-mike-ashleys-14-year-ownership (the Sky Sports news article on the announcement of the takeover)
The most important part of the takeover is the timing, Newcastle were struggling in the first months of the season, under the uninspired leadership of Steve Bruce and with relegation looming.
The takeover was completed in the October international break, at which time Newcastle sat 19th with only three points from seven. The first game under the new ownership started well (Callum Wilson goal in the first two minutes) but saw them fall 3-2 to Tottenham, Bruce was sacked after the game.
New manager, Eddie Howe had a lot to prove after a relegation with Bournemouth in the 2019/2020 season. The start was a struggle with four draws and two defeats in his first six, before securing Newcastle’s first win of the season at home to Burnley (1-0) on the 2nd of December. Before the transfer window they could only pick up one more point (1-1 with Manchester United).
The January transfer window brought much-needed investment, England international Kieran Tripper from Spanish champions Atletico Madrid. He was joined by Brighton defender Dan Burn and Lyon holding midfielder Bruno Guimaraes (who was a target of Arsenal), the loan signing of Aston Villa left-back Matt Targett and the piece de resistance Burnley striker Chris Wood.
These signings helped Newcastle have a great February, wins against Everton (3-1), Aston Villa (1-0) and Brentford (2-0), with a 1-1 draw with West Ham United meaning they ended the month unbeaten and in 14th (four points clear of 18th.)
Consecutive 2-1 wins against Brighton and Southampton were followed by 1-0 defeats to Chelsea and Everton and whilst they were crushed by Tottenham, they are 15th and nine points clear of the relegation zone, which should be enough for the richest club in the world to stay in the Premier League.
Norwich: Win against WatfordEmbed from Getty Images
American Josh Sargent (22) scored his first two Premier goals to help Norwich out of the bottom three
A huge result for the yo-yo club of England, they followed up a win against relegation rivals Everton, which had put them up to 18th, a win against the team in 17th saw them climb out of the relegation zone for the first time all season.
It was more critical for Norwich because they had played two more games than Watford and a loss would have left them 4 points behind with two more games played.
Unfortunately for the Canaries, they have only picked up two points since this win on the 22nd January and are seven points from safety but this win gave them hope of safety and without it they would be even closer to going down.
Southampton: Win at Vicarage RoadEmbed from Getty Images
Scotland's new star Che Adams scored the crucial goal in the Saints away victory at Watford
Southampton started the season rather poorly, this was expected after losing Aston Villa bound Danny Ings (who had scored 34 goals in his last two Premier League seasons for the Saints.
His stirke partner and replacement combined for what may have proved to be the most critical goal for the Saints. Adam Armstrong assisted Che Adams who opened the scoring after 20 minutes.
Before this game, Southampton had 8 points from 9 games and a defeat would have left them only one point above the drop with 10 games played.
They followed this win with a 1-0 success against Aston Villa and their form over the next two months left them 11 points clear of the drop at the end of the year.
Southampton were one of the favourites to go down but a key win against relegation rivals Watford has allowed them to be in a mid-table fight rather than a relegation scrap.
Tottenham: Thumping of Newcastle UnitedEmbed from Getty Images
Dutch man Steven Bergwijn scored the fifth to wrap up a five star Spurs performance
Like Manchester City, Tottenham’s most important moment is their most recent. Whilst the appointment of Antonio Conte has been useful for Spurs, they have still struggled for consistency. A key example is them beating Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad on the 19th February (to do the double over the Premier League Champions) then losing to 19th placed Burnley 1-0, just four days later.
This win was key as pressure had been put on by West Ham, who had won 2-1 against Everton to draw level with their london rivals on points. Tottenham also had to make the most of Chelsea losing to Brentford and Manchester United drawing with Leicester.
Monday’s result in which Crystal Palace beat Arsenal 3-0 made this result all the more key. Tottenham winning was all the more impressive as they had gone 1-0 down to a Fabian Schar free-kick after 39 minutes.
For them to score five with Kane getting one of them shows that Tottenham have the scoring options to challenge for the top four and this race is very important for Tottenham as they look to return to the Champions League after a two year absence.
Arsenal may still have a game in hand on their North London rivals but if Tottenham can take motivation from a huge win at home to Newcastle, with the talent of Kane and Son, you would not bet against them from securing the fourth Champions League spot this season.
Watford: Win at Villa ParkEmbed from Getty Images
Emmanuel Dennis scored Watford's most crucial goal since returning to the Premier League
Watford entered the day (19th February) at the bottom of the Premier League but ended the day in 18th (only four points from safety). A winner from Nigerian striker Emmanuel Dennis in the 78th minute saw the Hornets overtake Burnley and Norwich.
This was imperative as Watford had played one more game than Norwich, who were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool on the same day.
Whilst it has not helped them climb out of the bottom three, it ended an 11 winless run (ironically it was the 4-1 win against Manchester United on the 20th November) and was the Hornets first success of 2022.
Their next game could provide a larger and more important moment as they are at home to Leeds in a huge game to give them a chance of clawing themselves out of a straight return to the Championship.
West Ham: Win against EvertonEmbed from Getty Images
Jarrod Bowen helped West Ham 'leap' above Manchester United and Wolves into the top six
Another team whose most recent result matching their most important result of the season. The Hammers needed to capitalise on dropped points by Manchester United and maintain their gap to Wolves in the race for Europe.
They were playing an Everton side who are fighting for their place in the Premier League and it promised to be a tough game. They took the lead through a world class Aaron Cresswell free-kick but when Everton equalised, through a quality volley from Mason Holgate, the chances of Champions League (at least through the league) were slipping away.
Jarrod Bowen (the star of their season) reacted quickest to a parried out shot to restore West Ham’s lead which held to the full-time whistle.
They overtook Manchester United and Wolves to get up to sixth in the Premier League and this result was key to show their resolves after losing to rivals Tottenham, 3-1. before the international break. having lost two of their last three the Hammers needed a win and this result puts pressure on their London rivals, Manchester United and Wolves to keep picking up points for the chance to play in Europe next season.