Arsenal win ugly to stay top, as Chelsea and Man U finally return to form
A captivating weekend of Premier League action saw important wins for leaders Arsenal, fallen champions Chelsea and a recently out-of-sorts Man United.
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners ended 2015 on top of the table and opened up a two-point lead Saturday with an unconvincing, but useful, 1-0 home win over Newcastle.
Center-half Laurent Koscielny was the unlikely hero after scoring a rare winning goal at the Emirates Stadium, with the North London hosts not at their scintillating best but picking up three more points.
Leicester was held at home by Bournemouth to a 0-0 draw, meaning Wenger’s men pushed ahead in the race for the Premier League title.
The French coach admitted his side looked fatigued, with Arsenal relying on Petr Cech to pull off a number of key saves to prevent Newcastle from scoring.
Wenger: "To not drop points after the way we played today helped. Lets focus on the fact we are in a strong position." #AFCvNUFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 2, 2016
Man United broke an eight-match winless run on Saturday and took a step closer to the top four with a 2-1 victory over Swansea at Old Trafford.
Pressure has been mounting on Louis van Gaal, with the press speculating that the experienced Dutchman could be given his marching orders.
Wayne Rooney scored a sublime back-heel effort to secure the win for the Red Devils after Anthony Martial and Gylfi Sigurdsson exchanged strikes.
United are in fifth place after the weekend, three points behind Tottenham in the final Champions League qualification berth.
Sunday’s action saw Chelsea get back to somewhere near their best, beating London rivals Crystal Palace 3-0 at Selhurst Park.
Guus Hiddink has taken over at Stamford Bridge from the sacked Jose Mourinho on an interim basis and led the Blues to a convincing victory in extremely wet conditions against the Eagles.
Oscar opened the scoring in the first half before a thunderbolt by Willian and a close-range finish from Diego Costa confirmed the away win in the second 45 minutes.
The only setback for the West London side was an injury to star attacker Eden Hazard, who hobbled off after 16 minutes with a suspected groin strain.
Chelsea fans will hope this impressive performance can be the start of a run of positive form to lift the club from 14th place up the table.