There were no big upsets in the Premier League on Saturday, but plenty of big results that might alter the course of this season. Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City all won, despite all looking like they could drop points for the vast majority of their matches.
It's something we learned to expect from the big sides over the last decade, but that hasn't happened at all this season. For once, all of the league's richest teams looked like themselves on Saturday, finding a way to score despite playing poorly.
Elsewhere, Leicester City failed to win at home against Bournemouth in a match they really needed to win if they want to be title contenders, not just try to hold on for fourth place. And then there's Liverpool, who got beat down, and look like they have a lot of work to do in order to challenge for top four.
West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle
Leicester City 0-0 AFC Bournemouth
Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City
Norwich City 1-0 Southampton
Sunderland 3-1 Aston Villa
West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Stoke City
Watford FC 1-2 Manchester City
Manchester City might have turned a corner
City's away form has been poor this season. They started strong with three early wins away from home, but then dropped off, failing to win six straight away from Etihad Stadium. It looked like they'd drop more points away against Watford on Saturday, but then they came up with an impressive late flurry, with Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero both scoring in the last 10 minutes.
Liverpool's personnel doesn't work well together
Christian Benteke's game by numbers: 0 shots on target 75% pass accuracy 0 take-ons 15% aerial duels won (2/13) Not at his best.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2016
LRT - Benteke scores one in two. That's what you get. And when he's not scoring you don't get a damn thing else out of him.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) January 2, 2016
Players like Coutinho and Lallana need an outlet. They're creators first. Rob them of a compatible focal point to play off they look shit.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) January 2, 2016
And then they start firing the ball into the stands from 30 yards out and we all die of liver failure.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) January 2, 2016
Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino are all really good players. But together, in Jürgen Klopp's system, they don't make much sense. Benteke's a poacher and Coutinho has a big bag of tricks, but both need someone else to do a lot of running for them to be big parts of a top side. It's not quite working at the minute, and it's not easy to see how Klopp can make these players fit together.
Laurent Koscielny rescued Arsenal
Arsenal's first half was really poor by their standards.
Arsenal not coping with pressure from Newcastle defenders well right now.— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
Newcastle winning most of the challenges now, predicting most of Arsenal's attacks, cutting off passes— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
Arsenal with very little time on the ball lately, not moving quickly to avoid challenges— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
Arsenal still without a shot on target.— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
And it's not like they started the second half great at all. But Laurent Koscielny came up clutch from a set piece when his team needed to create a goal out of nothing.
KOS KOS KOS KOS KSO KOS OSK SOK SDOF;KJAS;DLKFJAS;LDJ 1-0— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
He's been the one driving things on and moving, and he's the one who just scored a classic Kos scrappy goal at a corner. 1-0, 73'.— The Short Fuse (@TheShortFuse) January 2, 2016
Escaping bad performances with three points might be the difference between contending for a title and holding onto fourth for Arsenal.
Wayne Rooney is awake!
Hey, welcome to the Premier League season, Wayne Rooney! This excellent goal ended an eight-game winless streak for the Red Devils and probably saved Louis van Gaal's job. They're fifth in the league, two points out of a Champions League spot, and nine points off the top of the table.
Aston Villa were effectively relegated on Saturday
Villa swan dive into the grave. Sunderland somehow manage to work a throw-in to Defoe in the box with no Villa player nearby.He scores #avfc— 7500 To Holte (@7500toHolte) January 2, 2016
Things are so bad right now that the McCleish era looks good by comparison. That's horrifying.— 7500 To Holte (@7500toHolte) January 2, 2016
They can barely be bothered to acknowledge the ball, let alone the fans. (But yes, agreed) https://t.co/bHWjDrQPeA— 7500 To Holte (@7500toHolte) January 2, 2016
Pour one out for the Villains. There's no way back for them. After dropping three points to one of the teams they need to leapfrog, they look certain to go down. Villa need to make up 11 points in less than half a season.