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Around the Premier League: The top six take advantage of Arsenal’s foibles

Chelsea will lead on Christmas after opening up a six point gap at the top of the league

Matchday 16 came and went in a flash, arriving quickly after last weekend and then making room for next weekend just as fast. The hectic festive period takes a tiny breather after that, before resuming on Boxing Day with another barrage of fixtures and matchdays, essentially replacing training sessions with matches as teams concentrate on recovery and keeping fitness levels high. It’s a test of character and determination as much as footballing skill, but being ahead by six points, we can certainly “have a good Christmas”, as Antonio Conte put it in his post-match press conference after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Sunderland, Chelsea’s tenth win in a row!

Arsenal were up first on Matchday 16, and just as on the weekend, had the chance to go top, if only temporarily, were they to beat Everton.

Everton, with just one win in their last eleven matches, were coming off a defeat to mid-table Watford just days prior, and thus were considered simple enough opposition for Arsene’s men to grab the points and confirm their title ambitions. In a rather unusual reaction to the pressure, Arsenal bottled the match by slowing down after taking the lead to lose 2-1. Never seen that happen before!

Wenger had a complaint or two about the referee in the end — prompting a rather hilarious response from Koeman about beating Wenger who then always blames the referee — but the Arsenal boss was equally disappointed with his team for faltering in a winnable game, just when the world was considering their title challenge.

The majority of fixtures took place on Wednesday, including opportunities for all the other top teams to take advantage of Arsenal’s foibles. Which they duly did.

Liverpool, who had dropped points in their previous two games, clinically and powerfully dispatched Karanka’s Middlesborough by three goals without reply. It was a timely return to second in the table for Liverpool and Klopp’s swashbuckling team with the Merseyside derby looming on Monday. Lallana, Origi and Mane have been in truly inspired form as of late for a Liverpool team joint second in the world of top level football when it comes to scoring goals:

Man City, coming off of back-to-back defeats, were similarly ruthless in their surprising two-nil victory over Watford. Few would have bet on a clean sheet — just their third all season.

Tottenham, losers of two out of three, also had very few problems against lowly Hull who now sit second to bottom. Spurs are quietly holding on to fifth and the promising Thursday night glories of the Europa League that position implies.

Crystal Palace provided stern competition against for Manchester United and were on course to reintroduce Mourinho’s men to the ‘disappointing draw’ until world’s most expensive player, Paul Pogba, combined with legendary Zlatan to break their hearts. United have now won back-to-back games for the first since the third week of the season. They have only lost twice in their last 19 games (it’s the six draws, which are hurting their ambitions).

So, wins all around at the top then, except Arsenal. In fact, they were the only team in the top half of the table to not gain any points this midweek.

Meanwhile, Swansea, Hull and Sunderland are battling the hardest at the bottom to try to avoid relegation. But the best news of all is that Chelsea are guaranteed top spot over Christmas; we’ve won the Premier League all four previous times that has happened.

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