The Premier League leaders were allowed to open the fixtures on Matchweek 17, and Chelsea duly obliged by winning once again (eleven in a row!) and opening up a temporary nine-point gap above Arsenal and Liverpool. While the latter won as well in the Merseyside Derby, Arsenal dropped three points to Manchester City, and thus, in turn, dropped to their iconic fourth position.
Chelsea are the Premier League’s Christmas number one. Most Christmas number one have also become champions at the end of the season.
This is how the Premier League table looks heading into Christmas... pic.twitter.com/YqLmzch3m8— Premier League (@premierleague) December 20, 2016
After Chelsea’s noon kick-off on Saturday, attentions turned to relegation six-pointers in the bottom half of the table. Then it was Manchester United’s turn, away to West Bromwich Albion. Mourinho’s fortunes appear to be changing, as another clinical performance saw United pick up a third win in a row and make it eight games unbeaten since their destruction at Stamford Bridge back in late October.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued in majestic form by scoring both goals in the 2-0 win at the Hawthorns, silencing any critics and continuing to cement his legendary status in the process. He now stands just two goals behind leading striker Diego Costa.
Zlatan can pick Oranges from an Apple tree and make the best Lemonade you've ever tasted. #ZlatanFacts— Zlatan Facts (@ZIatanFacts) December 18, 2016
Since turning 30, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 151 goals in 170 games (and has 70 assists). pic.twitter.com/n4h5i2ErgY— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) December 18, 2016
On Sunday, Bournemouth hosted Southampton for a bit of post-lunch mid-table entertainment. The first half saw two Chelsea-related players scoring with Nathan Ake notching yet another headed goal and ex-Blues left back Ryan Bertrand equalizing with a powerfully accurate equaliser.
Then, it was the Jay Rodriguez show, who notched a winning brace in the second-half. Having been hindered by injuries for the last two seasons, it was nice to see him return with such aplomb. His second was especially sumptuous.
The Etihad stadium filled to capacity for the biggest game of the weekend, as Arsenal were in town to meet Manchester City for a top four showdown. The losers would fall even further behind Chelsea at the top, so motivation wasn’t in short supply. Unless of course you’re Mesut Özil.
Mesut Özil's pressing>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> pic.twitter.com/tGlakHnpHt— Wasiu Elegponmeje (@Nigerianscamsss) December 18, 2016
Arsenal had the upper hand in the first-half, seizing the advantage through Theo Walcott in the fifth minute. But their failure to capitalize on their chances came back to haunt them in the second half as goals from Leroy Sane (his first for the club) and Raheem Sterling completed the City comeback. Back-to-back losses leave the Gunners nine points off the pace in fourth.
Liverpool were hoping to avoid a similar fate on Monday night as they traveled the short distance across Stanley Park to take on Everton in the Merseyside Derby. A spiky, fiery, intense affair looked to be heading towards a 0-0 stalemate, but then former Chelsea and City-prospect Daniel Sturridge rolled one of the weakest shots you’ll ever see past Joel Robles in the 4th minute of added-on time, and even though that still hit the post, Sadio Mane was there to slot home the rebound.
The end of the weekend sees Chelsea strong at the top and Swansea and Hull City struggling at the bottom. Arsenal took zero points this weekend and descend into the familiar fourth place while Liverpool maintain second and will hope to be within striking distance when Chelsea’s visit to Anfield comes around in late January.