Three talking points from English Premier League

Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa all missed out on the chance to make a statement in the Premier League while Manchester City were away at the Club World Cup.

Just six points separate the top five teams at Christmas and Pep Guardiola’s men, in fifth spot, have a game in hand.

Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester United and Chelsea slipped to dispiriting defeats, with few signs from either club that they are close to turning the corner.

AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.

Manchester City’s festive cheer

Pep Guardiola’s men return from hammering Fluminense in the final of the Club World Cup six points behind leaders Arsenal with a game in hand despite just one Premier League win in their past six games.

The Gunners, top of the table at the festive period for the second straight year, will be satisfied with a point in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool as they hunt their first top-flight title for 20 years.

It is not necessarily a good omen for Mikel Arteta’s men, who have failed to win the league on any of the past five occasions that they have been top on Christmas Day.

Aston Villa’s extraordinary run of 15 straight home wins in the league finally came to an end against bottom Sheffield United on Friday.

But the 1-1 draw leaves them level on 39 points with second-placed Liverpool and just a point behind Arsenal.

Toothless United sinking fast

Manchester United have gone from a team who could be counted upon to provide drama in victory or defeat to a side mired in mediocrity.

Erik ten Hag’s mantra has been that we will see a different United once injured stars such as Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez return.

They are expected back next month but, by then, United might already be out of the race for the top four. They suffered their eighth Premier League defeat of the season at West Ham.

Eighth-placed United’s main problem is that they cannot score — they have now gone four consecutive matches without a goal in all competitions for the first time since 1992.

Marcus Rashford is stuck on two Premier League goals while Rasmus Hojlund has yet to get off the mark in the competition.

A return of 18 goals from 18 games after the 2-0 defeat at the London Stadium is poor.

Chelsea ‘our own enemy’

Mauricio Pochettino has remained impressively upbeat during a difficult first season at Chelsea, sticking to his position that they are heading in the right direction.

But the statistics are bleak for a club that has grown used to winning silverware over the past two decades.

No team have lost more Premier League matches in 2023 than Chelsea’s 19 and only three sides have lost more across the big five European leagues this calendar year.

Argentine manager Pochettino lamented his side’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal after a flurry of missed chances in a 2-1 defeat to Wolves at Molineux.

“We’re our own enemy,” he said. “In the first half we were the better side. And because of lack of capacity to score, we didn’t win the game.”

Chelsea, admittedly ravaged by injuries, have spent huge sums on players over the past 18 months but the owners will want to see a return on their investment sooner rather than later.


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