The Premier League provided fans with some fantastic action over Christmas and New Year, setting up a dream second half to the 2015/16 season, as teams fight it out at both ends of the table.
Some sensational strikes headed by the sublime “fluke” of Stoke’s £12 million forward Xherdan Shaqiri and Southampton defender Cuco Martina’s driven curler.
It continues to be a topsy-turvy contest with Chelsea FC down the bottom, famous names like Aston Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle in grave danger of relegation and at the top Leicester City, Stoke and Crystal Palace putting pressure on the big boys.
Premier League title race heating up
Nevertheless Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are right up there, Manchester United, as disappointing as they have been this season, still well in contention, and Liverpool just off the pace. This Premier League title race looks set to be another thriller.
Arsenal flatter to deceive but have shown improved resilience, Manchester City haven’t quite been able to motor at full throttle given the injuries to vital players like Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, Manchester United have found the Louis van Gaal approach baffling, Tottenham Hotspur have made great strides but have a very young squad, while Jurgen Klopp is still trying to ingrain his methods on an inconsistent Liverpool.
Everything to play for then given no-one seems capable of stamping their dominance.
Something very much In line with Arsenal’s latest victory – winning ugly as one pundit put it, a concept so alien to the philosophy of Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners nevertheless moved two points clear of Leicester at the top of the Premier League table at the expense of Newcastle. Defender Laurent Koscielny came to the rescue with a close-range poked winner in the 72nd minute.
Back to the days when the once “boring, boring Arsenal” were the 1-0 kings.
Manchester United won for the first time in eight games but remain a mile away from the swashbuckling, risk-taking, thrilling team of recent times. Albeit a far more attacking approach has been evident in the last two games – have the players told the manager to stuff his methods or has someone quietly taken him aside and said this is not the Manchester United way?
And praise to captain Wayne Rooney, only recently stupidly dropped to the bench, for stepping up and bailing out the Red Devils despite Van Gaal seemingly having no idea of how to get the best out of the England star.
His instinctive winner beat Swansea to secure the points but what a struggle against the manager-less visitors. The England striker flicked home Anthony Martial’s cross with 13 minutes to go.
After a dour first half, Martial had headed United in front, before Gylfi Sigurdsson’s looping effort set nerves jangling at Old Trafford.
Once Liverpool would have had West Ham for lunch, but no longer.
Andy Carroll, who cost the Anfield side a club record £35 million in 2011, then foolishly discarded at the start of the ultimately disappointing Brendan Rogers era, scored against his former club, a first league double for the Hammers over the Reds in 52 years.
Michail Antonio beat Nathaniel Clyne to Enner Valencia’s early cross to net the Premier League’s first goal of 2016.
A poor start to the New Year for the Anfield side, after they finished 2015 with two wins and two clean sheets. Liverpool must do better and Klopp, furious with his players, knows it.
Late goals from Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero rescued Manchester City as they came from behind to beat an unlucky Watford. City are half a team when this pair plus David Silva are out – the beating heard of the Etihad squad.
Watford went ahead after the break when Aleksandar Kolarov put through his own goal. But, with defeat looming, Yaya Toure brilliantly volleyed Kolarov’s corner into the near post to level. And Aguero headed Bacary Sagna’s fine cross home to secure a rare away win.
Chelsea FC have got it back together, looking ominously good in beating Crystal Palace 3-0 away, their first victory in Guus Hiddink’s second spell as boss. Oscar put the Stamford Bridge side ahead, tapping home after being unselfishly played in by Diego Costa.
Once they scored Chelsea dominated, deservedly doubling their advantage with a spectacular Willian strike. Costa sealed the win.
Interim boss Hiddink, who guided Chelsea to third in the Premier League, a Champions League semi-final and the FA Cup in his first spell at the club, remains unbeaten since taking over from Jose Mourinho last month.
A Dele Alli chest-trap and volley secured Tottenham Hotspur a draw against Everton as the Londoners were unable to make their first half dominance count at Goodison Park. Former Spurs player Aaron Lennon put the home team ahead before Alli levelled.
The White Hart Lane side remain in the fourth Champions League spot, six points off the top but three ahead of Manchester United in fifth.
Some say this Premier League is the worst since its inception.
Don’t believe it – it is fantastic that our league is so competitive when with the likes of Germany, Spain and France only one or two sides are ever in with a shout.