Chelsea set a club record with their 11th successive win to cement top spot, Arsenal suffered a painful loss at Manchester City and Zlatan Ibrahimovic shone again for Manchester United.
Here are five things we learned in the Premier League this weekend:
Chelsea have grit as well as glitter
Chelsea have played some dazzling football during the 11-game winning streak that has sent them clear at the top of the Premier League table, notably crushing Manchester United 4-0 and thrashing Everton 5-0 in a scintillating display last month. But their most recent victories have showcased a different side to their game as Antonio Conte’s side have recorded one-goal wins over Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Saturday’s success at Palace, courtesy of Diego Costa’s 43rd-minute header, was their third 1-0 win in succession. Costa edged the visitors in front with Chelsea’s first effort on target and they would have won more comfortably had Marcos Alonso’s late free-kick been a centimetre or two lower. If winning even when you are not firing on all cylinders is the sign of a championship-winning team, Chelsea’s title rivals should be very worried indeed.
Soft-centred Arsenal struggle with familiar problems
For Arsenal’s supporters, their team’s 2-1 defeat at title rivals Manchester City carried a troubling air of déjà vu. Just as in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at Everton, Arsenal took an early lead, only to wilt in the face of a second-half fightback, leaving manager Arsene Wenger to rage vainly against refereeing decisions. But it was the nature of Arsenal’s capitulation that was the most concerning element. Dominant in the first half, they barely got out of their own half in the second as a defence missing the injured Shkodran Mustafi struggled to repel wave upon wave of City attacks. Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, was emblematically anonymous, drifting across the pitch forlornly and shying out of challenges.
Age just a number for Ibrahimovic
After a run of just one goal in 11 games, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has rediscovered his early-season goal-scoring form for Manchester United, netting for the ninth and 10th times in nine outings in their 2-0 win at West Bromwich Albion. The giant Swede opened the scoring in the fifth minute at The Hawthorns, steaming into the box to apply a headed finish to Jesse Lingard’s superb right-wing cross, and made it 2-0 early in the second half by shuffling between two defenders and netting with the aid of a deflection. Speaking before the game, the 35-year-old told BT Sport: “I feel like a 20-year-old boy.” Manager Jose Mourinho admitted before the match that Ibrahimovic’s “phenomenal” form made it difficult to drop him. But with the busy festive period looming, Ibrahimovic is likely to be rested at some point.
Leicester battle back
Any doubts that Leicester still retain the remarkable spirit that carried them to the Premier League title were quashed on a freezing day at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium. After a miserable first half of the season appeared to bring an abrupt halt to Leicester’s fairytale run, Claudio Ranieri’s side could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel when events appeared to conspire against them once again on Saturday. Leicester striker Jamie Vardy was controversially dismissed by referee Craig Pawson for a two-footed tackle on Mame Biram Diouf and Stoke took advantage to open up a two-goal lead. But Leicester refused to surrender and mounted a thrilling comeback in the final 15 minutes to snatch a point that keeps the champions away from the relegation zone.
Spirited Spurs still in hunt
Despite pushing Leicester hard in the Premier League title race last season, few pundits expect Tottenham to go one better and lift the trophy in May, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed they shouldn’t be ruled out of the running with a spirited 2-1 win over Burnley on Sunday. Despite the shock of Ashley Barnes’ 21st minute opener at White Hart Lane, Tottenham equalised through Dele Alli soon after and laid seige to the visitors’ goal until England left-back Danny Rose smashed in the winner in the 71st minute. Tottenham are now one point behind the top four and, although leaders Chelsea are 10 points further ahead, a lot can change over the busy Christmas period.