Three things we learned from the Premier League
Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League is up to 10 points as Jurgen Klopp’s men ground out a 2-0 win over Watford despite being far from their best, while Leicester’s chase finally faltered in a 1-1 draw with Norwich.
Manchester City looked more like their old selves with Kevin De Bruyne scoring twice in a 3-0 win at Arsenal, but the damage to their title bid already looks done as they remain 14 points behind the runaway leaders.
Behind the top three, Tottenham were the big winners in the race for fourth as they snatched a late 2-1 win at Wolves to close to within three points of Chelsea, who suffered another shock home defeat to Bournemouth.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League weekend:
Arsenal going nowhere
Arsenal hoped to replicate the bounce created by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment at Manchester United a year ago by putting a legendary former player in temporary charge, but Freddie Ljungberg’s first five games have reaped just one win with no noticeable upturn since Unai Emery was sacked.
Only City’s mercy kept the scoreline down at the Emirates as after De Bruyne ran riot by scoring twice and setting up Raheem Sterling for another before the break, the champions eased their foot off the accelerator.
The statistics of a depressing season for the Gunners are damming. Arsenal is ninth with a -3 goal difference after 17 games; have won just once in 12 in all competitions and are seven points off the top four despite Chelsea’s faltering form.
Questions must be asked not only on the pitch but off it. Emery was under pressure for weeks before he was relieved of his duties, but the appointment of a new permanent manager still seems some way off, leaving Ljungberg in charge to negotiate the busiest run of league fixtures all season over the festive period.
Liverpool keep Leicester’s dreams in check
As City’s title challenge has fallen away, Leicester stepped up as the surprise challengers to Liverpool thanks to a club-record run of eight straight league wins.
However, the difference between the Foxes’ incredible title triumph four seasons ago and now is that they are now up against a relentless Liverpool side sensing their time has finally come.
Leicester paid for a slow start as Norwich took a deserved lead through Teemu Pukki before Tim Krul’s own goal brought Brendan Rodgers’s men level.
But while Liverpool has always found a way to win over the past few months, including on Saturday as Watford wasted a host of huge chances at Anfield, there was no late Leicester winner against the side second bottom of the league.
A reality check for the Foxes may be in store over the next 10 days too as they travel to City next before hosting Liverpool on December 26.
Lampard loses patience
For the first time in his Chelsea reign, Frank Lampard felt compelled to blast his players in public following their latest shock defeat against Bournemouth.
Lampard had enjoyed a sustained honeymoon period following the club’s all-time top scorer’s return to Stamford Bridge as manager.
His development of youngsters Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori alongside a string of good results earned plenty of plaudits.
But Chelsea has hit a major dip after suffering a fourth defeat in their last five league games.
Lampard responded by demanding his players “show some balls” and questioning their ability to cope with defensive opponents. That war cry needs to garner an instant response if his side is to ward off Tottenham’s charge towards the top four.
Chelsea was 12 points ahead of Spurs when Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino less than a month ago.
Now the Portuguese has his old club in his sights as Jan Vertonghen’s last-gasp winner at Wolves means Mourinho’s men will be level on points with Chelsea if they beat the Blues at home next weekend.