The Premier League is wide open and makes no sense. Losses for Arsenal and Leicester City have opened things up, Chelsea dropped points again and Manchester United have to be thinking about changing managers after suffering their fourth straight loss. After Boxing Day, just 12 points separates first from 11th, while that 11th-placed team — Stoke City — is just six points out of top four.
Boxing Day scores
Stoke City 2-0 Manchester United
AFC Bournemouth 0-0 Crystal Palace
Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham United
Chelsea 2-2 Watford FC
Liverpool 1-0 Leicester City
Manchester City 4-1 Sunderland
Swansea City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Norwich City
Newcastle 0-1 Everton
Southampton 4-0 Arsenal
Throw all your assumptions about the title contenders out the window
One week after wrecking Manchester City, Arsenal suffered one of their worst defeats of the Arsene Wenger era, losing by four goals to Southampton. That same City team ran over Sunderland. Liverpool beat Leicester in what might be a Champions League six-pointer, but honestly, might be a title one too. Tottenham Hotspur have bounced back from a backbreaking defeat to Newcastle by winning two in a row, and very easily.
Last year's champions had a plus-41 goal differential. That's the same GD achieved by perhaps the worst champions ever, the Manchester United team that won the league on just 80 points. There have been numerous seasons where three teams achieved that mark, and it usually takes a GD above 50 to win the title. But right now, Spurs and City are on pace to finish with a GD around 35, with the Gunners just south of that. At the same time, 11 teams have an even or positive GD, while Liverpool are just minus-1.
We're now far enough into the season to conclude that this is a league with no excellent teams and a lot of very good teams. It's likely that one of Arsenal or City wins the title, and that two of Spurs, Liverpool, Leicester and Liverpool round out the top four. But how can anyone be confident in any prediction? United are bad, Liverpool are inconsistent and Spurs are Spurs, but why can't they be title contenders?
Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are up to fifth and haven't lost in five straight. Watford are up to seventh and are also on a five-game undefeated run. This season makes no sense, and it could be anyone's year. January transfer and coaching change decisions are usually season-saving or solidifying moves, but this year they could flip the top half of the table on its head. Assume nothing, and be surprised by nothing.
Louis van Gaal might just quit
This dude is so sick of being asked about getting fired that he decided to remind everyone that he can quit, too.
When asked if he'd still be Manchester United's manager against Chelsea, he said "I don't know, I hope so." He's doing worse through 18 games than David Moyes did, by the way.
A Laurent Koscielny imposter showed up to St. Mary's
Laurent Koscielny has slowly improved a little bit every season, becoming one of the best defenders in the Premier League. And then Saturday's game against Southampton happened.
koscielny dropped mane, and nearly avoided a yellow with his takedown. gotta imagine the next one's a card...— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 26, 2015
saying kos is good in the air is like saying carbon monoxide is key to a healthy lifestyle— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 26, 2015
kos slips again on the pitch during a counter...— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 26, 2015
i guess the only question is: do we all get invites to kos' funeral? cause i think he just died today— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) December 26, 2015
As great as Koscielny has been the last couple of seasons, he's still prone to the occasional meltdown game. Arsenal supporters will be hoping he's got it out of his system now.
Sunderland are providing an important service
Did you just suffer a devastating loss that threatens to damage your season irreparably? Try playing Sunderland immediately afterwards!
Much like they did for Chelsea after Jose Mourinho was sacked, Sunderland helped provide Manchester City with a big morale boost after they got taken apart by Arsenal. City should be back to themselves after being handed this victory.
Catch the Dele Alli show
Next time you have a chance to watch Spurs, check out their 19-year-old prodigy. Dele Alli plays with such ridiculous swagger and arrogance that it's hard to come up with a direct soccer comparison. He's like Allen Iverson.
Dele Alli plays a sexy through ball into Kane, and Rudd brings him down. Stonewall.— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) December 26, 2015
DELE ALLI NUTMEG KLAXON— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) December 26, 2015
Dele Alli with a great skill move but doesn’t get the foul. Come on, Mike Jones!x— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) December 26, 2015
Dele Alli coming off to a standing ovation; Son Heung-Min coming on.— Cartilage Free Capt. (@cartilagefree) December 26, 2015
Skills on skills on skills, then a standing O. Every game.
Men don't know the offside rule
Someone other than Sian Massey-Ellis — who never misses a call —- was the linesperson in the Leicester half during the second half of Saturday's match. That means we get to play another round of England's favorite game: Men Don't Know The Offside Rule!
During the last big Liverpool chance of the game, there were four offside players and the officials just didn't notice.
The offside rule states that there need to be two defenders between an attacker and the goal when the ball is played to them. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was way up the pitch, meaning the blue shirt you see behind all of the attacking Liverpool players is the only one behind him. They're all off.
Amazingly, this could have been prevented by all of them just waiting a second, since you can't be offside in your own half.
The best part is that they're *all* offsides, and the line is literally drawn on the field. pic.twitter.com/04k4oFWSe2— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) December 26, 2015
This is probably the most egregious non-call you'll see this season.
We close with that Cuco Martina goal
LOOK AT THIS.
WHAT THE HELL.