City start the fire
It was a difficult day for anyone hoping a year would pass by without 1963 Boxing Day getting a mention, as City’s four in the first half turned nine-goal thriller meant plenty were throwing back to the ultimate post-Christmas goal-fest with other games following suit.
We can only assume the trio of postponed games would have produced a 10-1, 8-2 and 6-1, but on top of a 6-3 at the Etihad we also got a 5-0, 3-2, 3-0, 3-1 and to finish, a 2-0.
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That final scoreline from Brighton’s home win over Brentford brought the goal average down to 4.7 per game, but it still led to the highest average since that much-talked about 1963 bonanza.
‘A typical Boxing Day with a lot of goals’ – Guardiola
Leading the way were City, as they do in the standings, although you get the sense it was one of the games Pep Guardiola won’t have enjoyed too much after a 4-0 lead became 4-3.
“It was a rollercoaster, a typical Boxing Day game with lots of goals,” Guardiola said. “For everyone, it was an entertaining game, but it was weird.”
Nevertheless, with Liverpool’s game against Leeds postponed, City hold a six-point lead at the top – and let’s face it, rollercoaster rides are always better when you’re at the front.
The north London ding-dong
There’s clearly a glitch in the matrix because somehow both the red and white side of north London are functioning like normal, well actually quite decent, football teams. So do we suddenly have a two-horse race for fourth spot brewing between Arsenal and Tottenham?
The Premier League table is an absolute mess, so it’s difficult to make much sense of it, with Manchester United also in the mix despite not having played for what feels like a month, but as it stands Arsenal are setting the pace and challenging the rest to play catch-up as we enter the halfway point (ish) of the season.
Mikel Arteta celebrated his two-year anniversary at Arsenal yesterday with a 5-0 thumping of Norwich, and this is now four straight Premier League wins where the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saga is but a sideshow as this youngest of sides continue to thrill. Certainly, few can begrudge Bukayo Saka for finishing the year with a flourish and a smile on his face.
Over at Spurs, they’re looking slick too. What a difference a couple of months can make, when you have the right manager in charge, and that’s now four wins in their last five under Antonio Conte with Harry Kane back among the goals. As you were.
Conte praises his strikers after Kane, Moura and Son score in win over Palace
Luk who’s back
“We are the hunters now,” said Romelu Lukaku after he inspired Chelsea to a 3-1 win at Villa Park. His second-half man-of-the-match worthy cameo was enough to turn the game against Villa and saw the Belgian score just his fourth league goal of the campaign.
“I needed a performance like this,” he admitted. “It has been difficult. Every footballer wants to be on the pitch. The manager has his reasons but I have kept working hard.”
Indeed, it has not been an easy time for Lukaku of late, having looked undercooked since returning from Covid and an ankle issue, and boss Thomas Tuchel want so far as conceding he wasn’t suppose to have played his striker for 45 minutes yesterday.
“It’s not fair today,” Tuchel said afterwards. “He [Lukaku] had a very good performance, he was very helpful, but it’s not fair. He’s not ready for that even if he wants it. We’ve all been in bed for 10 days with flu. He was a game changer today. I’m super impressed with the guys but I’m super concerned.”
Concerned, because their next game is – *checks calendar* – ah… in two days.
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Martial wants out
Player wants to leave, manager explains it calmly and accepts they’ll leave if the right offer comes in. It’s all very dutiful at Manchester United after Anthony Martial declared to interim boss Ralf Rangnick his intentions to depart Old Trafford and seek a new adventure.
“We spoke at length. He explained to me he’s been at Manchester United now for the last seven years and he feels it’s the right time for a change, to go somewhere else,” Rangnick said.
“I could follow his thoughts, but on the other hand it’s also important to see the situation of the club. We have Covid times, we have three competitions in which we still have high ambitions.”
It has never quite worked out for Martial at United, despite some memorable winners and what many seem to forget a 17-goal Premier League tally in 2019-20, so this one works out if all parties.
Nine years ago Manchester United and Newcastle United played out a seven-goal cracker. It’s also the only Premier League match on tonight, so that’s enough for a throwback wouldn’t you say.
Tonight there’s just Newcastle United’s match with Manchester United to get stuck into, so we’ll bring live updates of that right here on Eurosport this evening. Tomorrow we go again, with as it stands four more Premier League matches.
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