10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 18

It was a huge weekend for Arsenal and a good one for Manchester United and Liverpool as the only ‘big six’ teams to collect three points as the Premier League continued its festive fixtures this weekend.

Arsenal beat Brighton and Man United beat Wolverhampton as Arsenal lead the league by seven points and can get an advantage of 10 the next time Man City take the field. Liverpool also beat Leicester, fighting their way through the first four encounters.

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That’s because the Citizens dominated Everton in second place – Erling Haaland scored again – but were pulled back by Jamal Demarai Gray to join Chelsea’s draw and beat Tottenham as the top teams for dropping points. Third-placed Newcastle continued their unbeaten run but failed to finish several chances, drawing with Leeds heading into Tuesday’s big test with Arsenal.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

So what does all this mean?

Here’s a look at the 10 highlights (with Round 17 continuing on Tuesday and Wednesday), as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Andy Edwards (AE) and Nicholas Mendola (NM) share their observations from around the world. Recent PL games.

10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 18

1. Arsenal sends out a new threatening headline message to pursuers (Brighton 2-4 Arsenal): Mikel Arteta’s men will not be pleased with their shaky defense while boasting 3-0 and 4-1 in the Amex, but the signal they showed the rest of the league in this six-goal thriller was roaring. Arsenal can now lose both of their Premier League matches against Manchester City and still control the fate of their title, an idea that would have seemed far-fetched pre-season and would have been crazy just a year ago. Arsenal have scored the second most goals in the league (Man City) and have the second strongest defense (Newcastle). There is no doubt that Arsenal should now be considered as a team that can win the Premier League. Fabulous. Soak it up, Gooners. (nautical mile)

2. Everton defense with nine, 10, 11; It makes life very difficult for Manchester City (Manchester City 1-1 Everton): Three defensemen with two fullbacks stay home almost all the time. Three central midfielders who operate almost exclusively in their own half. Toffees striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored 15 touches of the ball in 70 minutes, more than half of which were inside Everton’s half. It was ugly, negative football on the part of Frank Lampard, and it proved effective in giving Manchester City little time or space inside the box. Riyad Mahrez’s reckless run for Manchester City’s goal was just astonishing because that was what it took to beat the Everton defense that day. The final xG tally favored Manchester City, 2.04 to 0.09. Less than a tenth for Everton. 598 completions, to 183. 16 shooting, to 2. 74 percent possession, to 26. Unfortunately, a one-on-one goal. (AE)

3. Marcus Rashford bounces back from the “Inner Discipline” bench (Wolverhampton 0-1 Man United): Marcus Rashford was left out of the starting line-up after arriving late to a meeting, but he came back with good graces as he jumped off the bench and propelled United into the top four of the Premier League. He has been in fantastic form this season and especially in recent months with club and country. When asked by BT Sport after the match if Rashford had given the correct answer to being dismissed, the United boss was in a happy mood. “This is the correct reaction.” When asked if this is the end of the matter with Rashford, this is what the United boss said: “Of course. Everyone has to match the rules and values. If you operate in this way, that is the correct answer.” (JPW)

4. Conte could walk early as sluggish Spurs lose more ground (Tottenham 0-2 Aston Villa): Yes, Tottenham miss Dejan Kulusevski, Rodrigo Bentancourt and Richarlison but Tottenham should have a lot more about them than this offer. They seemed disinterested from the start, although we are used to them starting games slowly and then coming back in the second half. They were even worse in the second half this time around. The fact that Antonio Conte has yet to commit his future beyond this season says it all. He really doesn’t believe Tottenham will give him the squad he needs to be successful in North London. There is malaise at Tottenham centered around the uncertainty over Conte’s future. They need extras for January but they also need commitment from their manager. If they do not arrive soon, they must separate as soon as possible. (JPW)

5. Chelsea fail to top as Boley Forest bully a point (Nottingham Forest 1-1 Chelsea): Raheem Sterling got his goal but he will lament his lack of company on the score sheet as the wide men provided chances but scorers were nowhere to be found in blue shirts. USMNT star Christian Pulisic has joined Sterling in action from the start. He dribbled across his own half before swooping down the right to move Chelsea forward early in the game, shortly after delivering the cross that led to Sterling’s dart goal around the left edge of Forest’s back line. Kai Havertz had 48 touches, but Willy Boly was getting the better of him and the Forest centre-back was ready to challenge at the other end when he jumped in with Pulisic – not heading into the American’s face – and nodded the second ball towards Aurier past Havertz. A clearing attempt was launched directly into the air. Graham Potter may get reinforcements in other positions, but the centre-forward must arrive constantly – Havertz appears to be the best bet – if Chelsea are to claim a top-four spot.

6. Newcastle squander and Mezler Leeds, Adams handles the rest (Newcastle 0-0 Leeds): Newcastle fired some phenomenal chances wide or over the frame – two Sean Longstaff feats being the most shining examples – and Ilan Mesler claimed a full load of crosses with confidence. Leeds got good offers from Liam Cooper and Robin Koch and really consolidated once Rasmus Christensen entered for Luke Ayling. But the real star was Tyler Adams, who handled quite well the challenge of Bruno Guimaraes and Miguel Almiron. The USMNT man had nine recoveries and created a pair of chances (according to Fotmob), one of the few Leeds players who could make such a claim on the day. (nautical mile)

7. A fateful Wout Faes day led to Liverpool’s comeback (Liverpool 2-1 Leicester): Weiss’s first own goal, Leicester City, returned the equalizer in the 38th minute, as he badly missed trying to clear a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross over the head of goalkeeper Danny Ward. Seven minutes later, Weiss put the ball into his own net again, and it was no less painful to watch. Darwin Nunez lifted the ball over Ward but only found the front face of the far post. The ball bounced back into play, into Weiss’s path two yards from the goal line. In a hasty attempt to clear the ball, Weiss rammed it into the roof of the net and sent Anfield into a trance once again. The Foxes took a 1-0 lead on his ear, and Liverpool stayed in charge. (AE)

8. Bees learn from their mistakes, and keep buzzing to make that early lead (West Ham 0-2 Brentford): For the second time in five days, Brentford got off to a great start and took a 2-0 lead, but this time the Bees held on to seal a 2-0 win away at West Ham on Friday. Despite leading Tottenham 2-0 after the hour mark on Boxing Day, Brentford (23 points – ninth) came away with just one point. An exciting 2-2 draw. Thomas Frank’s men learned from their missteps on Monday and put in a full 90-minute performance against West Ham. (AE)

9. The benevolent saints are extinguished, and the hut takes all the points (Fulham 2-1 Southampton): Southampton were lucky to go behind after a shot was deflected off James Ward-Prowse and volleyed into the goal, those are the things that happen when you’re bottom of the table. The Saints hung on to their tally there and were due by Ward-Prowse’s usual free-kick magic. The Saints had chances to win it and looked very dangerous. But Nathan Jones would be devastated when his side closed in: a Fulham corner was passed and an unmarked Balenha scored the winning goal. There were plenty of positives for the Saints to take but with a huge home game coming up against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday they simply have to win that to give them more confidence in their ability to get out of the bottom three. (JPW)

10. Palace calm down, earn a well-deserved victory in Bournemouth(Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace): Patrick Vieira was bitterly disappointed to see not only his team Lost 3-0 to Fulham Monday, but also finishing with only nine men in a truly disastrous position. Saturday’s result – and a performance to match – will help calm fears after they suffered back-to-back defeats by Nottingham Forest and Fulham during the World Cup break. (AE)

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