As we roll into the Christmas party season you can be sure there will be plenty of festive football to ease the hangovers and mince pie fueled indigestion.
This weekend served up a nice taster of things to come as the action heats up at both ends of the league table. Here’s a look at five things we learned from this latest round of Premier League fixtures.
Salah back in the goal scoring groove to power Liverpool past Watford
Liverpool faced a reinvigorated Watford side during Saturday’s early kick-off. Nigel Pearson, taking the reigns for the first time, will have taken plenty of positives from his side’s performance as they created their fair share of chances.
However, the Hornets were faced with the sobering reality of the ruthless quality that Liverpool’s Mo Salah possess in abundance. The Egyptian has been a tad wasteful in front of goal in recent weeks but was bang in form for the home side during this clash.
He took his two goals so well, with his second a really clever piece of rapid thinking to divert a scuffed shot past the excellent Ben Foster. Liverpool needed that extra bit of quality to find the win against a dogged and organised opponent, and they found it with their mercurial and ever-popular number 11 as they ground out a huge victory.
Pukki Powers Norwich to a vital point
Despite the goodwill afforded to Daniel Farke and his low-budget heroics with Norwich this season, the German has overseen the worst ever start that the Canaries have ever made to a Premier League campaign, with just 11 points from 16 games going into this weekend.
However, their efforts against high-flying Leicester City were admirable and arguably deserved more than just the point they took from the King Power Stadium. Their early season dynamo, Teemu Pukki was back to his best form as he constantly occupied awkward spaces in behind the Foxes back four and caused no end of problems during an entertaining 90 minutes.
The Finn took his goal expertly and probably should have doubled his tally. Pukki has now notched an incredible 38 goals since the start of last season, more than any other player in England’s top four tiers. The Canaries need their main man to keep this up if they are to pull off a remarkable survival story.
Greenwood salvages some good cheer for Manchester United
Mason Greenwood’s 7th goal of the season was enough to salvage a draw for Manchester United after a low key performance against Everton on Sunday at Old Trafford. The home side should have been coming into this clash with their tails up after huge wins against Spurs and Manchester City had propelled them to fifth in the table.
However, despite enjoying 70% of the ball heading into the final 15 minutes, they trailed to a struggling Everton side, albeit via a contestable goal for the visitors. Greenwood’s low strike was enough to divert another costly defeat and marked the 4,000th match in a row that United have fielded an academy graduate, however, question marks will remain over the character being fostered in this side by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Having taken a commendable 14 points this season in matches with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Leicester and Spurs, United have notched just 11 points from their other clashes against the so-called weaker sides in the division, a stat which sees them remain firmly outside the top four as Christmas approaches.
Chelsea’s lack of a creative spark hurting them after another costly defeat
After such an impressive start to the season characterized by free-flowing attacking football, Chelsea have come unstuck in recent weeks and were subjected to another defeat this weekend after Bournemouth’s injury-depleted side bagged all three points at Stamford Bridge.
The home side had 67% of the ball but could not find a way through the Cherry’s deep sitting defensive lines. Bournemouth were happy to surrender possession in the first two thirds which should have allowed Chelsea to build on a strong platform but the like of Rudiger, Zouma, Jorginho and Kovacic were only able to recycle possession between them.
That’s now two out of three home games that Frank Lampard’s men have failed to find the net in and with Spurs around the corner, the rookie coach is in dire need of remedying a growing problem in his ranks.
Kevin De Bruyne first-half Masterclass highlights the gulf in class between Manchester City and Arsenal
Okay, so we all know that Kevin De Bruyne is a bit of a talented lad, but his first-half antics at the Emirates on Sunday was a bit special even by his own crazy standards.
The Belgian scored two excellent goals and teed another up for Raheem Sterling as a rampant City left Arsenal bruised and running for cover. De Bruyne thrived in the space he was afforded and could have a third goal had his thunderous strike not been tipped against the post by Leno.
He won 100% of his tackles as his work rate was again exemplary for the defending champions. In contrast, Arsenal were disjointed as the clash descended into a mere training exercise for the away side. With the Belgian in this kind of form, it is hard to argue against Man City being the best attacking side in the league.