Liverpool will be top of the Premier League table on Christmas Day after they sent a warning to their title rivals by thrashing Crystal Palace this weekend.
Tottenham were unable to bounce back from their Anfield heartache as they were beaten 2-0 by Leicester, who moved up to second. There were contrasting victories for the Manchester clubs while Arsenal are in the mire.
Here, the PA news agency casts an eye on some of the talking points from this weekend’s top-flight action.
It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…
Certainly not if you are Liverpool, who will be atop the Premier League table for the third season in a row on December 25. It has not been plain sailing for the Reds, though, shorn of leading lights such as Virgil Van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara and most recently Diogo Jota because of injuries, manager Jurgen Klopp has cut an increasingly tetchy figure.
While Anfield remains impenetrable, their away form has been dicey with just one win in six matches before demolishing Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday. They will have to improve their record on the road if they are to retain their title but, after 14 games, the defending champions are sitting pretty.
Tottenham fail their acid test
— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) December 20, 2020
For all of the praise Jose Mourinho has earned about rediscovering his spark at Tottenham, the last few days have been the first true test of whether Spurs are ready to challenge for the title. Mourinho took the sting out of a last-gasp defeat at Liverpool in midweek by revealing he told Klopp “the best side lost”. But it will be argued they were unable to shake off what happened on Wednesday after a limp display in a 2-0 defeat at home to Leicester.
Perhaps back-to-back defeats against sides now placed first and second in the standings vindicate Mourinho’s assertion in recent months that Spurs were never ready to challenge for the title to begin with.
Arsenal are looking over their shoulders
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) December 19, 2020
Five months is a long time in football. Cast your minds back to the start of August and Arsenal and Mikel Arteta were basking in the afterglow of beating Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley to lift the FA Cup. Now, no-one will be confident of backing the Spaniard to see out the year with the Gunners sitting 15th after collecting two points from an available 21.
A lack of firepower has been obvious in recent weeks – they are averaging 0.86 goals per game – and after a 2-1 loss at Everton, Alan Shearer said he “wouldn’t be too sure” about Arsenal’s survival prospects. It is too early to discuss an unlikely relegation battle but the north London club need to turn around their fortunes quickly.
City win on the south coast a necessity
Important 3 points against a strong side this year ✊🏾 we keep going 🔥 pic.twitter.com/CapnGMaXQQ
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) December 19, 2020
Pep Guardiola and winning ugly are uncomfortable bedfellows. Yet the dour Manchester derby draw at Old Trafford last weekend was followed by an even more surprising stalemate against West Brom at home, with City slipping further adrift of the title contenders.
So while a 1-0 win at Southampton might not be fondly remembered in years to come, Raheem Sterling’s early strike to claim a hard-fought three points will be a welcome tonic for Guardiola, whose side are eight points adrift of table-topping Liverpool.
They still look short up top, with Ferran Torres only having one shot at goal, but, impressively, this was their fourth clean sheet in five matches.
United-Leeds rivalry produces an epic
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 20, 2020
These sides have not played against each other in the Premier League since February 2004. It was worth the wait.
The result seemed to be a foregone conclusion after three minutes – and United moved up to third, temporarily silencing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s critics – following Scott McTominay’s brace, but try telling Leeds that. There were 43 attempts at goal – 26 from United, 17 from their opponents, who fell 4-0 and then 6-1 behind but still threw caution to the wind in the closing moments.
The record books will reflect a 6-2 drubbing for Leeds, who deserve some credit for being part of one of the games of the season.
© 2020 PA Media