EPL results at a glance: Gunners stay top for X’mas after Anfield draw

ALL eyes were on Anfield for the top of the table clash with the symbolic Christmas top spot up for grabs. Both teams served up a treat with an end-to-end game for fans tuning in. The draw leaves Arsenal at the top of the pile and looking to bury last season’s failure.

FocusM looks at the talking points in the games played thus far:

Liverpool 1 v Arsenal 1

A clash of the titans served up a spectacle worthy of the hype. For 90-plus minutes both sides committed to attacking football with a clear desire to take maximum points. Arsenal drew first blood with a third-minute goal from Gabriel Magalhães who evaded his marker to nod home a cleverly worked set piece. The home side was slow to get into the game but scored from their first shot on target. Trent Alexander Arnold’s pin-point pick out of Mo Salah saw the Egyptian international unleash a ferocious shot into the roof of David Raya’s net for the equaliser.

Arnold had the chance to seal all three points late on a lightning counterattack, but his shot struck the woodwork. Arsenal do seem to look a lot more solid and confident compared to last season and they look set for another sustained title challenge.

West Ham United 2 v Manchester United 0

The screws are tightening on Erik ten Haag as his misfiring side puts on another shambolic, spineless display. After being hailed for a robust performance at Anfield last weekend, the Red Devils reverted to type with a listless performance that will have fans screaming for the Dutchman to be sacked. The Hammers were good value for the win, with two goals in six minutes from Jarrod Bowen and Mohamad Kudus sealing the points.

How could Manchester United do with a fast, clinical striker like Kudus who incidentally played under ten Haag at Ajax? Instead, the usual suspects of Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Hojlund and Alejandro Garnacho looked toothless, and more worryingly for Red Devil supporters, disinterested.

Fulham 0 v Burnley 2

The match was significant as it was the first English top-flight game to be refereed by a woman – Rebecca Welch. Burnley are trying to do the impossible with a record low point tally for a team at Christmas to avoid the drop. But this victory at Craven Cottage against in-form Fulham will have given Burnley players and supporters plenty of belief.

Two stunning goals helped take Burnley off the foot of the table and Vincent Kompany will want similar performances to boost their improbable bid for survival. Missing the suspended Raul Jimenez and the injured Willian upfront, Fulham looked blunt and bereft of ideas, perhaps feeling the effects of their exertions in the League Cup quarterfinal victory over Everton in midweek.

Luton Town 1 v Newcastle 0

It has been an emotional week for Luton after skipper Tom Lockyer collapsed on the pitch last weekend from a cardiac arrest. His teammates responded with a gritty fighting performance that saw them boost their survival hopes. Andros Townsend scored the winner and celebrated by holding Lockyer’s jersey.

The Magpies are on a downward spiral with injuries and fatigue making it difficult for them to consistently replicate the high-pressing, hard-running style that Eddie Howe demands. A couple more defeats and do not be surprised if chants for Howe’s head are heard on the terraces of St James Park. Football is notoriously fickle and the adage that ‘you are only as good as your last result’ is beginning to pile the pressure on Howe.

Nottingham Forest 2 v Bournemouth 3

A thrilling game marred by refereeing controversy as Forest’s Wily Boly was sent off after a second bookable offence. That Boly seemed to win the ball cleanly clearly made the booking baffling and ultimately cost the home team the game. Nuno Espirito Santos was in charge of Forest for the first time and will be fuming over the decision as his team now hovers dangerously close to the drop zone.

Forest fans will also feel aggrieved that VAR did not award a penalty for what seemed like a clear handball with the score at 2-2. Bournemouth needed an injury-time goal from Dominic Solanke to take all three points. Solanke’s hattrick in this game places him just below Eerling Haaland and Mo Salah in the goal-scoring charts.

Tottenham Hotspurs 2 v Everton 1

Everton have been on a fine run that has seen them win four in a row which saw them move out of the bottom three after being deducted ten points for financial irregularities. But this loss along with wins by Luton and Burnley highlights that the danger is far from over. The Toffees were ultimately undone by two early goals from former Evertonian Richarlison and Son Heing-Min.

But they didn’t give up the fight pushing Spurs all the way with an 82nd-minute goal that had the home supporters chewing on their fingernails. The Lilywhites have now won three on the bounce and it would seem that they have turned the corner after a recent blip saw them give up top spot.

Crystal Palace 1 v Brighton & Hove Albion 1

This “derby” was played early Friday morning with the bitter rivals sharing the spoils. The Eagles are hamstrung by a lengthy injury list but this performance along with their come-from-behind draw against reigning champions Manchester City will have heartened boss Roy Hodgson.

The home side seemed to have done enough to seal all three points until a late surge saw the Seagulls score a late equaliser courtesy of Danny Welbeck. Roberto De Zerbi will need to boost Brighton’s flagging form if they want to participate in European competition again next season.

Aston Villa 1 v Sheffield United 1

This was an early Saturday morning kickoff, which presented Villa with the chance to overtake Arsenal and Liverpool. Villa fans could be forgiven for dreaming of being at the top of the pile at Christmas before the match given Sheffield United’s awful form.

But returning manager Chris Wilder seems to have instilled some steel into the Blades’s performances which were good value for the point against a team that has won all of its home games this season. Unai Emery will be rueing the missed opportunity as Villa did not make their home advantage count. – Dec 24, 2023



All photos credited to The Guardian

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE