# winter classics
Chelsea not easily shaken off stride and more talking points from a frenetic Premier League weekend
Chelsea look set to topple records as they lift trophies.

PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES are coming thick and fast these days, and there’s more to come tomorrow, so here’s five points to ponder after a frenetic weekend of matches brought us into the New Year.

Old United resilience is back

Alex Ferguson spent his 75th birthday watching Manchester United play Middlesbrough at Old Trafford and his former side produced a fitting tribute to their old mentor. United specialised in last-gasp comebacks in the Ferguson era and they pulled off another against Boro, coming back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 through late goals by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.

Manchester United v Middlesbrough - Premier League - Old Trafford Dave Thompson Dave Thompson


Both players had earlier been thwarted by the woodwork, but they stuck to their task to keep United in touch with the leading pack. The victory also suggested that unlike in the grim final months of his Chelsea tenure last season, Jose Mourinho’s players are determined to produce the goods for their manager.

Chelsea made of stern stuff

If Saturday’s gritty 4-2 win over Stoke City proved one thing, it’s that Chelsea are unlikely to crack under pressure when the title race heats up in the new year. On the brink of a record-equalling feat, Antonio Conte’s side were given a stern examination by Stoke and rose to the challenge in impressive style.

Chelsea v Stoke City - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Adam Davy Adam Davy

Twice Chelsea were pegged back by the visitors after they had gone ahead through goals from Gary Cahill and Willian. But the Blues didn’t flinch as Willian struck again before Diego Costa wrapped up his team’s 13th successive league win, equalling Arsenal’s single-season record and maintaining their six-point lead at the top. Conte says he is only concerned by trophies rather than records, but on current form Chelsea might well reward him with both.

This could be Giroud’s year

Arsenal v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Emirates Stadium EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

Any New Year’s Day hangovers among the 60,000 fans at the Emirates Stadium were quickly forgotten as Olivier Giroud produced a goal-of-the-season shoe-in to help Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Giroud endured a difficult 2016 which saw him left out of Arsenal’s starting line-up for long periods, as manager Arsene Wenger preferred Alexis Sanchez in the central striker’s role. But he remains a potent force on his day and he may have convinced Wenger not to splash out on a replacement in the January sales when he launched himself into an astonishing mid-air, backheeled volley that gave Arsenal the lead in the 17th minute. Giroud’s seventh goal of the season will rank among Arsenal’s greatest strikes of all time and gave the France striker and his manager renewed hope of a year to remember.

Spurs firing on all cylinders

A recent return of two wins from eight league games suggested Tottenham Hotspur would struggle to match their feats from last season, when they were the closest challengers to champions Leicester City.

Watford v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League - Vicarage Road John Walton John Walton

But they have stormed back to win four games on the spin, which has catapulted Mauricio Pochettino’s side into the top four. Their two most recent wins — 4-1 at Southampton and 4-1 at Watford — have showcased Spurs at their best, with Harry Kane on target three times and Dele Alli scoring four.

Klopp’s Reds highlight City failings

Pep Guardiola wasted little time making an impression at Manchester City, clearing the deadwood from his squad and instilling his trademark possession-focused philosophy. But with his side 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea at the season’s halfway stage and outside the Champions League places, he has not yet had the impact people expected.

Hull City v Manchester City - Premier League - KCOM Stadium EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

Guardiola’s great Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams pummelled their opponents into submission, but City have struggled to impose themselves at times and registered just two shots on target during Saturday’s meek 1-0 defeat at Liverpool. They also have big problems in defence. Barcelona conceded an average of 27.25 goals per season under Guardiola and Bayern just 19.3, but City have let in 21 already and kept only four clean sheets.

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