The Premier League served up hefty plate of footballing fare last weekend, with the first round of festive fixtures throwing up more shocks and surprises than a greedy hound on Boxing Day after wolfing down a stolen Christmas dinner.
Manchester City slumped to an unbelievable 3-2 loss at home to Crystal Palace, while Chelsea suffered the indignity of being beaten at home to Leicester City.
Liverpool cruised past a tame Wolverhampton Wanderers, while Arsenal and Spurs both dealt out some festive shellackings. While Manchester United, with shiny stocking filler Ole Gunnar Solskjær at the helm, jingled all the way to a 5-1 win over Cardiff City.
Bournemouth and Watford picked up important wins in the battle for Europa League qualification, while Newcastle, like a drunken grandfather regaling us with the same tales of yore year upon year, managed to bore the pants off everyone with a particularly stodgy 0-0 draw.
As always, the games offered up a host of big talking points. So, kick back with a mince pie or two and chow down on the ten things we learned from last weekend’s Premier League action…
10. Aubameyang Is Going to Be Arsenal’s First Golden Boot Winner Since Robin van Persie
It really is extraordinary that so many elite European sides turned their nose up at Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. The Gabonese goal machine is simply prolific, and joined Arsenal on the back of 141 goals in 213 games for Borussia Dortmund.
Aubs was in mesmeric form against Burnley once again on Saturday, and his brace put him atop the Premier League scoring chart tree with 12 goals.
Arsenal haven’t had a Golden Boot winner since Robin van Persie in 2012, but Aubameyang looks like he’s got more than enough in the locker to claim the prize this season,
9. Manchester City Can’t Afford to Panic
Wow. It’s fair to say that Crystal Palace provided the shock – and indeed goal, thanks Andros Townsend – of the season so far when they beat Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
With Liverpool now four points clear at the top of the table, it’s crucial that Pep Guardiola doesn’t panic as his side head into the festive fixtures in need of a perfect set of results.
The Reds look unbeatable at the moment, but hey, so did City a couple of weeks ago! The Premier League champions have a lot of work to do to retain their title, but it’s still well within their grasp.
8. Liverpool Have Their Best Chance Ever to FINALLY Win the Premier League
What a merry Christmas it’s going to be for Liverpool fans this year!
Four points clear at the top of the league, unbeaten and with a defence even stronger than your great auntie’s infamous homemade mulled wine, things are looking awfully rosy for the Reds – who galloped over a potential banana skin and beat Wolves 2-0 last Friday.
Of course, the club have an uncanny ability for bottling title challenges, there is not denying that. But potential Gerrard slips aside, Liverpool, with their juicy four point lead, are very much in pole position to bag their first ever Premier League title.
7. Manchester United Are BACK
Christmas came early for Manchester United fans last week, when the increasingly unpopular José Mourinho was finally given his marching orders, and former fan favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjær stepped into the hot seat.
It was the perfect start too, with United’s previously despondent side suddenly springing to life – destroying Cardiff City in a 5-1 hiding.
It’s amazing what a change of management can do, and fans of the Red Devils will be swiftly readjusting their expectations from mid-table mediocrity to a tasty top four finish.
6. Chelsea Are All Over the Shop
Chelsea are a really, really mixed bag this season. It’s no wonder that Maurizio Sarri is contemplating bringing in a sports psychologist to get some consistency in his team’s mentality.
The Blues, fresh off the back of beating Manchester City and Brighton, succumbed to a dismal 1-0 defeat at home to Leicester City, where they failed miserably to respond to going a goal down in the second half.
A top four finish is crucial for the west Londoners if they’re to progress under Sarri, but they’ll stand no chance if they can’t start stringing wins together.
5. Southampton Might Just Avoid Relegation
Ralph Hasenhüttl, or ‘Jürgen Klopp of the Alps’ as he has been relentlessly monikered by the press, has got his Southampton reign off to a belter of a start.
After opening up with a dreary 1-0 loss to Cardiff, the former RB Leipzig boss began to work his magic, conjuring up a 3-2 win over Arsenal. Things got even better last weekend, as his side romped to a 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town.
It’s a long old season, and Southampton’s rejuvenated side could come a cropper again, but they look more than capable of beating the drop under their new boss.
4. Football Is a Lot More Enjoyable Without Defensive Midfielders
Pundits get a lot of flack for their often inane comments during football matches, but the commentary team on the Everton vs Spurs 6-2 thriller had it bang on the money: Football is more fun without defensive midfielders.
With Eric Dier and Idrissa Gueye out injured, the enthralling game resembled a bunch of high-spirited school students locking the classroom doors, and turning their once stuff learning institution into a fairground of fun in the absence of their teachers.
Spurs’ win also made them a solid shout for title challenge dark horses, especially with their much-anticipated move to their new stadium on the horizon…
3. Re-Signing Ben Foster Was a Lovely Piece of Business From Watford
The thinking man’s Fantasy Football goalkeeper of choice, Ben Foster was in excellent form for Watford again on Saturday.
Showing the kind of athleticism that a 35-year-old simply shouldn’t possess, the former England international kept a clean sheet with a series of stunning saves in his side’s 2-0 win over West Ham.
Sure, he’s only got a couple of seasons left in him, but the Hornets found themselves a real bargain bringing back in their former star loanee stopper (who began his career at the extravagantly named Racing Club Warwick) on a free transfer last summer.
2. Mike Ashley Needs to Stop Being a Scrooge & Finally Splash Some Cash
“He was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge: a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” – Not my words, the words of Charles Dickens.
Newcastle fans will be hoping against hope that, on Christmas Eve, Mike Ashley is visited by a series of spirits showing him how the errors of his ways will see the club relegated once more.
The Magpies’ threadbare side looked bereft of confidence as they drew 0-0 with fellow strugglers Fulham on Saturday, and are in desperate need of recruiting some new players come the January transfer window.
So, come on, Ashley! Dig deep into those pockets and give Tiny Raf the biggest turkey in the shop this Christmas (No, that doesn’t mean re-signing Andy Carroll.)
1. Bournemouth Are Going to Be Fighting Off Bids for David Brooks Next Summer
Two things about Bournemouth’s David Brooks are baffling: 1) That he barely got a look-in last season at Sheffield United, and 2) That those in charge of selecting England players let the Warrington-born youngster slip through the net.
The Wales international bagged a delightful double in his side’s 2-0 win over Brighton, as his side moved up to eighth in the league table.
Blessed with a touch so delicate he could craft intricate origami with his left foot, the 21-year-old is going to be on a number of managers’ wishlists come next summer.