Arsenal will lead the Premier League at Christmas after a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday but the festive fixtures began in joyless fashion for struggling Manchester United as they went down 2-0 away to West Ham United.
Newly-crowned World Club champions Manchester City slipped out of the top four as Tottenham Hotspur made up ground with a third consecutive victory, beating Everton 2-1 at home.
With City not in action after their triumph in Saudi Arabia, Tottenham moved above the champions into fourth place with 36 points from 18 games, four behind leaders Arsenal.
Liverpool and Aston Villa, who were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United on Friday to snap a 15-match home winning run in the league, have 39 points.
Nottingham Forest’s new manager Nuno Espirito Santo began with a 3-2 home defeat by Bournemouth which left 17th-placed Forest far too close to the bottom three for comfort after big wins for Luton Town and Burnley who are immediately below them.
For the second successive weekend, Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool were held to home draws as they went toe-to-toe with Arsenal in a high-octane Anfield clash.
Just like in last season’s fixture, Arsenal went ahead as Gabriel’s header from Martin Odegaard’s floated pass found the net in the fourth minute. Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah powered in a superb 29th-minute equaliser.
Trent Alexander-Arnold came closest to a winner for Liverpool when he fired a shot against the crossbar after the break but a draw was just about the right result.
Arsenal have not won at Anfield in the league since 2012, but top the league at Christmas for a second season in a row.
“Oh my god, how strong are they? The good news is we are good as well,” was Klopp’s immediate reaction.
“In a game like this, going down early to a set piece is tough, especially with the speed of Arsenal. But the game we played, how we started second half we should have scored.”
United’s gritty 0-0 draw at Liverpool last weekend was seen as a positive sign for Erik Ten Hag’s toiling side but all the negativity returned at the London Stadium as they lost for a 13th time in all competitions this season.
Second-half goals by Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus sealed the win for West Ham who moved above United into sixth place.
United, down in eighth place, again lacked any cutting edge and have now gone four games in all competitions without scoring — their longest such sequence without a goal since 1992.
“We have players who can (score), they proved it in the past they can do it,” Ten Hag, who just cannot get a tune from his team, told reporters. “But we also have to acknowledge the facts that football is about winning games and is about scoring goals.
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We have issues, we had many setbacks, injuries. But the players on the pitch are good enough to win the game.”
Matches are rarely dull when Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham are in action and so it proved again as they ended Everton’s four-match winning streak in a ding-dong scrap.
Everton old boy Richarlison gave Tottenham an early lead and Son Heung-min doubled the advantage inside 20 minutes.
But Everton fought back and wasted a hatful of chances before a clinical low strike by Andre Gomes in the 82nd minute set up a chaotic finale in which they should have equalised.
Everton, carrying a 10-point deduction after breaching Premier League financial rules, remained in 16th place with 16 points, two more than Forest.
Luton have 12 points after making it a bad week for Newcastle United with a 1-0 victory at Kenilworth Road.
Winger Andros Townsend netted the only goal, his first for Luton, to secure a win that had added poignancy as it came a week after Luton captain Tom Lockyer, who suffered cardiac arrest in last week’s game at Bournemouth but has since been discharged from hospital.
Seventh-placed Newcastle have now lost three of their last four Premier League games and went out of the League Cup to Chelsea after a penalty shootout.
History was made at Craven Cottage as Rebecca Welch became the first female referee in the Premier League and while it was a milestone day for her it was also a great one for Burnley who beat Fulham 2-0 with goals by Wilson Odobert and Sander Berge.
Mauricio Pochettino admits his Chelsea team need to be more clinical after Wolves condemned them to an an eighth Premier League defeat of a tepid campaign.
Second-half goals from Mario Lemina and Matt Doherty secured victory for the hosts, who recorded successive league wins against Chelsea for the first time in nearly half a century.
Substitute Christopher Nkunku headed home in injury time on his Premier League debut but it was not enough to salvage a point for the Blues, who lost a fourth consecutive away league game for the first time since December 2000.