We are well and truly in the midst of some good old festive fixture congestion as managers and players must contend with a glut of matches in a short window as they try and scrap for points.
Here’s a look at five things we learned from a frenetic weekend of Premier League action.
Spurs shambolic defending yields more precious points
With the race for top four football hotting up Spurs went to bottom side and perennial whipping boys Norwich City in the hope of a routine three points on Saturday. However, routine it certainly was not.
Some miserable defending allowed the Canaries to twice take the lead and the hosts were robbed of a perfectly good goal courtesy of the misers at Stockley Park and their confounding made up offside lines during what was a hard-fought 2-2 draw.
With Champions League football on the line, Jose Mourinho will expect much better from the likes of Serge Aurier and Juan Foyth who both had a helping hand in the goals against their side. Aurier’s own goal was as bemusing as it was comical, with the Ivorian virtually dribbling the ball into the back of his own net.
The veteran Portuguese manager must find a way of stopping the goals flying in as Spurs recorded their 17th away fixture in the league without a clean sheet. It’s a problem that is only going to keep on yielding points unless it is urgently addressed.
Aaron Mooy inspires Brighton to big win
Brighton’s progress so far this season under Graham Potter has been steady rather than spectacular. The Seagulls have played some lovely football at times without necessarily getting the results they have deserved and perhaps no player better personifies this form better than Aaron Mooy.
The Australia international has impressed but was yet to find the back of the net in Brighton colours until Saturday afternoon. The on-loan midfielder was at the heart of everything positive done by Potter’s men against Bournemouth and the goal he scored to break his duck was a real beauty.
Swivelling neatly and drilling the ball into the net at close range, Mooy capped off an excellent display and proved how useful a player he can be in the dogfight.
Aaron Mooy was on 🔥 for Brighton today 👏pic.twitter.com/13Oop3B5Xb
— Goal (@goal) December 28, 2019
Anthony Martial influential as Manchester United narrow the gap on top four
Manchester United‘s hard-fought win over Burnley may have been lacking in quality but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can at least reflect on his side’s ability to show their quality in the key moments at Turf Moor on Saturday night. United have not done in these kinds of fixtures so far this season but with Anthony Martial finding form, the Red Devils are different attacking prospect altogether.
In his 13 starts Premier League this season, the Frenchman has been involved in 10 goals and underscored his influence once again by netting the opening goal against a stubborn Burnley side.
Yes, it was a gifted goal after Charlie Taylor’s bizarre dawdling on the ball, but it represents another big step in the right direction for a United side who have now taken 13 points from their last six matches as they pile pressure on Chelsea in fourth place.
Joe Gomez shines as Liverpool grind out a big win over Wolves
With their tails up from their victory over Manchester City, Wolves came to league leaders Liverpool in the hope of ending the Reds’ 49 match unbeaten run at Anfield. The Black Country side are easily one of the toughest sides to beat this season and made Liverpool work for their three points in a highly contentious match in which VAR sadly reared it’s ugly head once again.
However, it was the defensive work of Liverpool’s Joe Gomez that really caught the eye. With several injuries to key personnel, Jurgen Klopp opted to keep his side pretty much as it was against Leicester City, barring the selection of Adam Lallana in midfield. As a result there were plenty of tired legs all over the park and Wolves had their fair share of spells of possession and probing attacks on the counter.
Gomez was however equal to the task of keeping Diogo Jota, Pedro Neto and later on, Raul Jimenez quiet. The 22-year-old has now helped steer Liverpool to four clean sheets in a row in all competitions since regaining his place in the starting XI and looked comfortable alongside Virgil Van Dijk as Wolves ran the home side very close on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea gifted three points in London derby as defensive woes ruin Arteta’s homecoming
There was plenty of good work in Arsenal’s game against Chelsea. The side’s tempo and aggression in possession was far better than at any point over the past few weeks in what has been a sorry season for the Gunners. However, Mikel Arteta‘s first home game as Arsenal boss saw his side surrender a 1-0 lead with two late goals gifted cheaply to Chelsea.
We all know Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities but it appears that Bernd Leno has also been infected by the malaise in the club’s rearguard. The German keeper showed a complete lack of concentration as he flapped at a late ball in from the left and completely missed his punch, allowing Jorginho the easiest of tap ins for 1-1.
7 – Bernd Leno has made seven errors directly leading to an opposition goal in the Premier League since the beginning of last season, the most of any player. Howler. pic.twitter.com/DSCYWYFrqW
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 29, 2019
The 27-year-old Germany international should be doing a lot better with basic work like that and it is yet another sign of just how much work Arteta has on his hands in North London as Arsenal stay marooned in the bottom half after 20 games played in 2019/20.