The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

Kevin De Bruyne came back to haunt his old club as his fine strike handed Premier League leaders Manchester City a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Against no side has De Bruyne scored more Premier League goals than he has against the Blues (five), with this total the most against Chelsea by any player who has previously played for them in the competition.

Elsewhere, Manchester United threw away a two-goal lead at Aston Villa to draw 2-2, with Philippe Coutinho sealing a point on his debut following his loan move from Barcelona.

Wolves beat Southampton 3-1 and Norwich City piled the pressure on Rafael Benitez with a 2-1 win over Everton, while strugglers Newcastle United and Watford played out a 1-1 draw.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from another eventful day in the Premier League.

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: De Bruyne edges Guardiola's men closer to the title

City's seemingly unstoppable march towards the Premier League title continued with a 12th straight top-flight win.

It marked the ninth run of 12 or more victories in the competition's history, with Pep Guardiola's side now responsible for four of those.

The decisive goal came from Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgium international superbly whipping into the bottom-right corner from distance with 20 minutes remaining.

De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area – the most of any player since his first season with City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Citizens player in the competition's history (level with Sergio Aguero).

Chelsea scarcely landed a blow on their hosts, failing to register a single shot in the first half. Indeed, they had just seven touches in City's penalty area – their fewest in a single Premier League match since January 2015 (also seven vs Man City).

Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United: Red Devils squander two-goal lead

A stirring late fight back from Villa meant United failed to win a Premier League away game in which they led by 2+ goals for the first time since January 2016 against Newcastle (3-3).

Bruno Fernandes' opener was the first Premier League goal United have scored from a set piece situation this season (excluding penalties), before the Portugal international doubled their advantage in the second period.  

Since making his United debut in February 2020, only Mohamed Salah (45) and Harry Kane (34) have scored more Premier League goals than Fernandes (33), while only James Ward-Prowse (seven) has scored more goals from outside the box in the competition during this period than the Portuguese (six).

Jacob Ramsey inspired a memorable comeback, though, the 20-year-old becoming the first Villa player to both score and assist against United in a single Premier League game since John Carew in April 2009, and the third-youngest player to do it against the Red Devils in the Premier League overall after Kelechi Iheanacho in September 2016 and Harry Kewell in November 1998.

Coutinho ensured the points were shared in what was his first Premier League appearance in 1477 days (for Liverpool vs Leicester City in December 2017).

Norwich City 2-1 Everton: Idah gets off the mark to put Benitez on the brink

The Canaries kick-started their bid for survival with a second win in six Premier League home games under Dean Smith – as many as they managed in their final 21 home games in the competition under previous manager Daniel Farke.

There were just 92 seconds between Michael Keane's own goal and Adam Idah's first Premier League strike, the hosts scoring as many times inside the opening 18 minutes as they had in their previous eight top-flight matches combined (one).

Idah's goal was his first in 27 Premier League appearances, while it was his first league goal since May 2021, when he scored in Norwich's final game of the Championship season.

The result meant Everton, who pulled one back through Richarlison, have won just 19 points from their 19 league games this season. Only twice previously have they had fewer at this stage of a Premier League campaign (17 in 1997-98 and 2005-06) and it looks as though Benitez's time may be up.

Wolves 3-1 Southampton: Traore off the mark as hosts' fine season continues

Wolves completed a top-flight double over Southampton for the first time since 1971-72, as well as winning three in a row against Saints in the top tier for the first time since October 1970.

Raul Jimenez and Conor Coady put them 2-0 up before the hour mark, with the latter's three Premier League goals coming from just four shots on target in 134 appearances.

Saints captain James Ward-Prowse scored his 12th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League to reduce the deficit – a haul bettered only by David Beckham (18).

However, Adama Traore's first goal in 22 top-flight appearances ensured Wolves picked up 31 points from their first 20 games of the season – their best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1979-80 (also 31 points) when they finished in sixth place.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Serbian media mogul Dragan Solak and his company, Sport Republic, have acquired a controlling stake in Southampton Football Club, it was announced on Tuesday.

The club confirmed the change of ownership, stating that Sport Republic had purchased the 80 per cent shareholding of the club held by Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, and that they will work with Katharina Liebherr, who retains her 20 per cent.

Liebherr inherited the club from her late father Markus in 2010 when the Saints were in League One, with Gao buying the majority share in August 2017.

Lead investor of Sport Republic Solak told the club's website: "My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry.

"Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market.

"Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base.

"We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build."

Current Chief Executive Officer Martin Semmens added: "Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution for our club.

"Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports.

"That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future."

Sport Republic was founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen, Brentford's former co-director of football who only recently left the Bees.

The Premier League has confirmed three of the fixtures postponed over the festive period will now be played in January.

Rising coronavirus cases at clubs across the league has led to large-scale disruption of the top-flight schedule in recent weeks.

In total, 18 games have been postponed since Brighton and Hove Albion's match with Tottenham was called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Spurs' camp in mid-December.

Three of those fixtures have now been rearranged, with the games to be played midway through next month.

Southampton were due to host Brentford on December 18, but the Bees will now travel to St Mary's for a 19:45 GMT kick-off on Tuesday, January 11.

Everton, who last played on December 16, will welcome Leicester City to Goodison Park at 20:00 GMT on the same day.

January 12 sees West Ham and Norwich City face off, with that game also rescheduled from December 18.

The latter match clashes with the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Chelsea, though the Premier League have had little choice but to attempt to slot fixtures into any free weeks in the calendar.

Newcastle United's trip to Southampton this weekend has become the latest Premier League fixture to be postponed due to the number of coronavirus cases and injuries in the Magpies' squad.

United were due to take on Southampton at St Mary's Stadium in their opening game of 2022 on Sunday aiming to build on their recent 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

However, having had their scheduled meeting with Everton called off on Thursday, Newcastle confirmed on Friday that their next match will also not go ahead as planned.

The postponement was put down to "several players and staff having succumbed to illness and injury over the festive period".

Newcastle only named eight substitutes instead of the permitted nine, including two goalkeepers, for Monday's draw with Ralf Rangnick's side. 

Eddie Howe's side also lost Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser to injury in that game, while Javier Manquillo is serving a suspension. 

The minimum player availability required by the league to allow a game to go ahead is 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper.

A statement from the Premier League added: "The league aims to provide as much clarity as possible but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is our priority.

"Where possible, the league will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a matchday."

Seventeen games have now been postponed since the start of December in the English top flight, with Leicester City versus Norwich City this weekend also having to be rescheduled.

Liverpool suffered a major blow to their title hopes when they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman scored, netting in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career, having grabbed a goal in the 6-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.

The former Everton player's contribution, after a rare penalty miss from Mohamed Salah, means City's lead in the title race stands at six points at the halfway stage in the season.

West Ham and Crystal Palace also won on Tuesday, while Southampton battled for a point against Tottenham.

After a big result in the context of the title race, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of Tuesday's Opta data.

Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Salah miss hurts as ex-Everton man Lookman sinks Reds

After converting 15 consecutive Premier League penalties, Salah missed at Leicester, and it was that kind of frustrating game for Liverpool.

It was just Salah's second ever miss from the spot in the English top flight and his first since October 2017 against Huddersfield Town. From then on, he had been immaculate, so when Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a save at the King Power Stadium it was a major surprise. Having said that, since the start of 2020, Schmeichel has saved more penalties in the Premier League than any other goalkeeper, with the latest stop his third in this period.

The result was also a major turn up, Leicester winning consecutive league matches against Liverpool for the first time since April 1999, thanks to Lookman's second-half strike.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games and for the first time in 28 away fixtures across all competitions, as Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated a big win against one of his former clubs.

The Reds had been unbeaten in 35 December games since a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in 2016, but their year ends on a negative note.

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham: Kane scores again but Spurs denied a winner

Tottenham's Harry Kane has made a habit of getting the better of Southampton's defence during his stellar career, but this time he had to settle for a penalty equaliser at St Mary's Stadium. By firing past Fraser Forster to level up after James Ward-Prowse's opener, Kane ensured Antonio Conte became the first Tottenham manager to go unbeaten in the first seven league games of a Spurs career.

Kane has now been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League starts against Southampton (11 goals, six assists), and he was only denied a winner by a controversial VAR offside call.

A fine early strike from Ward-Prowse gave the Saints midfielder a goal for a third successive game. The last time he scored in three straight matches was back in March 2019, and the third goal in that run also came against Spurs.

Perhaps Southampton fans were not expecting their team to hold on. After all, the last time they won their final game of a calendar year was all the way back in 2010, when they beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 in a League One fixture.

The dismissal of Mohammed Salisu, who fouled Son Heung-min to give away the penalty that Kane tucked away, certainly hurt Southampton. Indeed, since Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first Premier League game in charge of Southampton in December 2018, only Arsenal (13) have been shown more red cards in the competition than Saints (11).

Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich: No Zaha, no Gallagher, no problem for Eagles

Wilfried Zaha was suspended and Conor Gallagher was also absent, but Palace were three goals to the good by half-time against bottom side Norwich.

It was Odsonne Edouard who stepped up to shine, scoring the home side's opening goal from the penalty spot before claiming assists as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp boosted the lead.

His three goal involvements followed the former Celtic striker having just four (three goals, one assist) across his previous 15 games in the Premier League.

Palace finished the day in 10th place and have impressed many under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira, losing just once and scoring 18 goals in their 10 Premier League home games since the Frenchman came in, taking 17 points from those fixtures.

This was just Palace's fourth win in their last 25 games without star man Zaha (D3, L18), but they have not lost in their last five when he has been absent.

Norwich have conceded a league-high six penalties this season and have only scored eight goals in 19 games – the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after as many matches, alongside Leicester in 1977-78.

Watford 1-4 West Ham: Worrying times for Ranieri

Despite impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United early in Claudio Ranieri's reign, the Italian's Watford team are in trouble now after a fifth consecutive defeat.

An early opener here from Emmanuel Dennis was a red herring. Watford were mauled as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic scored for the Hammers.

The result means West Ham won 22 Premier League games in 2021, and only in 1959 (23) have they enjoyed more top-flight league wins in a calendar year.

West Ham have also clawed back 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side.

Captain Noble netted the Hammers' third from the penalty spot, his first Premier League goal for 706 days since he scored in January 2020 against Leicester.

It was Noble's fifth successful penalty against Watford in the competition, with only the Premier League's record scorer Alan Shearer having put away more spot-kicks against a team in the competition, netting seven against Everton.

Tottenham extended their unbeaten Premier League start under Antonio Conte following a 1-1 draw with 10-man Southampton at St Mary's.

The in-form James Ward-Prowse put Saints ahead with a sweetly struck 16-yard shot in the 25th minute.

Harry Kane equalised from the penalty spot 16 minutes later after Mohammed Salisu was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Spurs were also denied goals twice by offside rulings, as Conte became the first manager in the club's history to remain unbeaten through his first seven league games in charge.

Tottenham had lost their final league game in just one of the last 12 calendar years and thought they had taken the lead in the 14th minute, but Ben Davies' header from a Son Heung-min free-kick was ruled out for offside.

The hosts capitalised by breaking the deadlock as a long Salisu throw-in was only cleared as far as Ward-Prowse, who scored in a third consecutive Premier League match for the first time since March 2019.

But Salisu's joy at playing his part there was short-lived as he was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Son in the box, and Kane equalised with a thumping penalty for his 11th goal in 12 starts against Saints in the English top-flight.

An offside decision came to Southampton's rescue once more eight minutes after the restart, Kane fractionally straying beyond the last defender before clinically tucking away Harry Winks' throughball. A VAR decision came as the teams prepared for a restart in the centre circle.

The visitors controlled large periods of the second half, enjoying over 70 per cent of possession. They were unable to convert their numerical advantage into a winning goal, however, with Kane heading just wide in stoppage time and Bryan Gil thwarted by Fraser Forster.

Antonio Conte insisted he never doubted Harry Kane during the striker's dry spell of goals for Tottenham.

Kane, who has won the Premier League Golden Boot award on three occasions, managed just one goal in his opening 13 league games in the 2021-22 campaign, but new head coach Conte remained enthusiastic over his forward's qualities.

The England international has responded to that support by finding the net twice in his past two league games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively.

Kane struck against Jurgen Klopp's side with his first home league goal since May and just his second of the season, before he again netted the opener against Palace on Sunday.

The latter strike was Kane's sixth consecutive Boxing Day appearance with a goal as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas, and Conte claimed he always knew his forward would return to form.

"When I say that we have top players and for sure Harry is one of these," Conte told reporters.

"We are talking about a top-class striker, and I wasn't worried when he didn't score. And I know in every game we created chances and to have Harry is a good thing for me and therefore for my team.

"Now I repeat, we have to continue to work and improve the link also with the strikers, with the wing-backs, with the midfielders.

"We need to improve the confidence and to take more and more personality, to play football and to control the game more. 

"Sometimes we lose the control and I think a great team, a big team has to stay in every moment, into the game to understand what is happening."

Spurs have been reinvigorated under Conte, who became just the third Tottenham manager to remain unbeaten in his first six league games in charge after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

The former Inter head coach afforded Kane 25 minutes of rest in a dominant 3-0 win over 10-man Palace, but hinted at potentially rotating his other players ahead of Tuesday's trip to Southampton.

"It is not easy for us, for every team to play after 48 hours is not simple," he added.

"When you have this type of situation if you have a strong squad it's easier, because you can make rotation and try to give rest and have a fresher team. We will see tomorrow [Tuesday] because I want to understand the real physical condition of my squad.

"It's normal when you change many players that it's not simple. You can have a fresh team on one hand but on the other you can lose a bit of identity.

"We will try and make the best decision but it won't be easy."

Even numerous coronavirus-enforced cancellations could not stop the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule from delivering a mountain of goals.

Leaders Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0 earlier in December before a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and followed that up with a nine-goal thriller against Leicester City.

Mikel Arteta's in-form Arsenal maintained their pursuit of a Champions League spot by smashing five past struggling Norwich City, while the reinvigorated Tottenham cruised past London rivals Crystal Palace.

Staying in the capital, West Ham's poor run of form continued in a 3-2 home loss to Southampton before Chelsea came from behind to defeat Aston Villa on the road.

After plenty of festive cheer across Sunday's top-flight action, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data.

Tottenham 3-0 Crystal Palace: Conte's deadly trio down sorry Eagles

Spurs had lost just one of their last 12 top-flight home games against Palace and continued that impressive run of form as Harry Kane equalled another record in a dominant 3-0 win.

Kane opened the scoring in the first half after Lucas Moura's set him up, netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas.

Lucas added a second as he scored and assisted in the same top-flight game for the first time, with the Brazilian registering five goal involvements in his last five league games, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Wilfried Zaha's first-half dismissal for two bookable offences compounded Palace's misery, the winger's fifth red card for the Eagles in all competitions - three more than any other player for the club since his debut in 2010.

Son Heung-min then scored his sixth goal in six home top-flight games against Palace, as Antonio Conte became just the third Spurs boss to go unbeaten in their first six league games after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

Manchester City 6-3 Leicester City: Citizens defeat Foxes in Boxing Day record thriller

City went down 5-2 in this fixture last season but triumphed in a 6-3 classic this time around, despite a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, in the first Premier League game on Boxing Day to see as many as nine goals.

Kevin de Bruyne netted first and has now scored in five of his last six league starts at the Etihad Stadium, before Riyad Mahrez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance for the first time since he moved to England in 2014 as he converted from the spot.

Raheem Sterling, who has won the most penalties by any player in Premier League history (22), rolled another spot-kick in, while Ilkay Gundogan was on target as Leicester went 4-0 down inside 25 minutes for the first time in the top flight since Watford did so against City in 2019.

Leicester reduced the deficit after the interval as James Maddison found the net for the fourth time in his last five top-flight appearances before loanee Ademola Lookman finished past Ederson.

Those two earlier goals were teed up by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted twice in a top-flight match for the first time before adding a goal of his own to make it 4-3.

However, Pep Guardiola's side confirmed victory with an Aymeric Laporte header and Sterling's second – City's 112th league goal in 2021, the most a team has netted in a year since Arsenal also scored 112 in 1963.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal: Saka at the double as Gunners equal away record

Bukayo Saka registered a brace as high-flying Arsenal ran riott in a 5-0 victory over Norwich, who have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (eight).

Saka struck his first after just six minutes before his second arrived after the hour mark. At 20 years and 112 days, he is the second-youngest player to score 10-plus Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19y 225d).

Kieran Tierney doubled the Gunners' lead in between Saka's pair of goals, with Martin Odegaard providing his second assist of the game – the Norway international has been involved in six goals in his last six league games, two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexandre Lacazette added a fourth, while Emile Smith Rowe scored after coming off the bench once again – his league-leading third goal as a substitute. No top-flight team have bettered Arsenal's five goals from substitutes this season.

Norwich were unable to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale as the Gunners registered their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, while scoring four-plus goals in consecutive away league games for the first time since 2009.

Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Jorginho penalty brace seals Blues comeback triumph

Chelsea have stuttered in recent weeks but returned to winning ways as a Jorginho brace ensured they came from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1.

Reece James inadvertently flicked into his own net as Villa were gifted an own goal by Chelsea in the Premier League for only the second time, after Frank Sinclair also turned past his own goalkeeper back in December 1994.

Jorginho soon restored parity from the spot after Matthew Cash had felled Callum Hudson-Odoi before substitute Romelu Lukaku headed the Blues into the lead with his ninth top-flight goal in 10 appearances against Villa.

Jorginho wrapped things up as he rolled in again from 12 yards, with his 17th Premier League strike from the spot. In fact, 89 per cent of his 19 goals have come from penalties, the highest such ratio of anyone with 10-plus goals in the competition’s history.

Since Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge in January, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other club in England's premier competition (12), with Jorginho netting 10 of these himself - more than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

The carnage of the Premier League festive schedule is well and truly upon us.

Arsenal, who stripped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of his captaincy on Tuesday, snatched West Ham's Champions League spot with a comfortable victory in Wednesday's headline clash.

Just 11 miles away in London, Crystal Palace hosted Southampton following a 3-1 defeat of Everton but they could only muster a draw against Ralph Hasenhuttl's side.

Brighton and Hove Albion succumbed to yet another defeat against Wolves in the other clash of the day, after Watford's visit to Burnley was postponed due to COVID-19 cases within the Hornets' squad.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of Opta data from the top-flight action.

Arsenal 2-0 West Ham: Youth shines again for Arteta's top-four chasers

West Ham have a woeful record at Emirates Stadium and extended that poor run as they lost their 11th league match in 12 games at Arsenal's ground, trading fourth spot with Mikel Arteta's side, who were inspired by two of their young stars.

Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock in the second half with his seventh Premier League strike, Gabriel Jesus (16) the only Brazilian with more goals in the competition before their 21st birthday.

Vladimir Coufal then became the 15th Czech Republic player to receive his marching orders in the Premier League when he received a contentious second caution for bringing down Alexandre Lacazette, who saw his penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

Lacazette's miss may have been Arsenal's third consecutive failed penalty in the league – doing so for the first time since 1992 – but substitute Emile Smith Rowe sealed the victory with the Gunners' 10th goal scored by an under-21 in the competition this season, which is more than any other side.

David Moyes, who became the fourth manager to 600 games in the Premier League, has never won at Arsenal in 18 top-flight attempts, extending the record for the most times a manager has played away against a side in the competition without winning.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-1 Wolves: Saiss scores as Seagulls grounded once more 

Wolves headed to the South Coast without a win or a goal in four top-flight games, facing five consecutive blanks for the first time since 2003, but held on in a marathon slog against Graham Potter's timid Brighton.

Roman Saiss nodded in what proved to be the winner for Bruno Lage's side on the stroke of half-time, as Wolves scored their first top-flight goal before the interval in seven matches – dating back to when they netted twice in the first half against Everton in early November.

The Morocco international now has five league goals to his name since the start of last season – only Raul Jimenez (nine) and Ruben Neves (six) have managed more for Wolves in that period.

Wolves, though, had to wait for their win as they battled for 106 minutes and 29 seconds of action in total in the longest English top-flight game since Manchester City and Liverpool in September 2017 (108 minutes and 35 seconds).

In contrasting fortunes, struggling Brighton are still without a win in all competitions since beating Swansea in the EFL Cup in September, while the Seagulls have not tasted top-flight victory in a club record 11 games.

Crystal Palace 2-2 Southampton: Broja form continues as Ayew breaks duck

The Premier League's most fragile away defence in 2021 travelled to Selhurst Park having conceded 50 times on the road, but were unlucky to not walk away with all three points against Patrick Vieira's side.

Wilfried Zaha struck first after just 119 seconds as he fired another away goal past Ralph Hasenhuttl's team, with what was Palace's fastest Premier League goal since May, which also came against Southampton.

However, James Ward-Prowse restored parity with his 11th direct free-kick goal in the league – only David Beckham (18), Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola (both 12) have scored more in the competition.

Armando Broja deservedly nudged the visitors ahead with his fourth finish in six league starts, with Mason Greenwood (also four) the only played aged 20 or younger to have scored as many times in the competition this season.

Jordan Ayew then ensured the sides shared the spoils with his first goal in 43 Premier League games, his last coming against Leeds United in November 2020, while the Saints claimed an unwanted record as the first top-flight side to ship more than 50 away goals in a single year since West Brom in 1985 (52).

Mikel Arteta preferred to focus on Arsenal's comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton despite repeated questions over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's absence.

Arteta left out Aubameyang on Saturday due to a "disciplinary breach", but Alexandre Lacazette stepped up and delivered the opening goal in the first half.

Martin Odegaard soon added a second at Emirates Stadium – where Southampton have never won in 23 Premier League games, the longest barren run for one team away to another in the competition's history – with Gabriel netting after the interval.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 27 home league games against Southampton dating back to November 1987, their joint-longest such run against any opponent, and Arteta was keen to discuss the performance rather than Aubameyang.

"The first 15 minutes we started nervy; after that I think we picked up the rhythm of the game, scored a really good goal and started to dominate the game," Arteta told reporters after the game.

Pressed for an update on Aubameyang's situation, Arteta responded: "Let's talk about the game, guys. I'm not going to say anything else, I want to focus on the performance.

"I am really happy that we won. I'm telling you you're not going to get anything else from me.

"I cannot say anything else. You're not going to get anything else from me out of the dressing room."

Arteta then hinted at a return for Aubameyang in the next game against West Ham as he nodded in response to whether the forward's absence was just for one match.

Meanwhile, the manager was impressed with Odegaard, who has scored three goals in as many games, having only scored twice in his previous 25 Premier League appearances.

"He should have scored a hat-trick against Everton," Arteta added. "He's getting in the box more and is understanding what he has to do for the team."

Arsenal recorded a dominant 3-0 home win over an uninspiring Southampton in Saturday's Premier League clash.

Mikel Arteta dropped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from his squad on Saturday due to a "disciplinary breach", but Alexandre Lacazette stepped up to open the scoring before Martin Odegaard added a second in the first half.

Gabriel netted a third after the break before Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were each denied by the woodwork, with Southampton long since having given up on ending a winless run away at Arsenal that extends to 27 league matches.

Saints are five without a win and just six points above the relegation zone, but victory moved Arsenal within a point of fourth-placed West Ham.

Although Aaron Ramsdale denied Adam Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse as Arsenal started tentatively, they were soon ahead after a lovely passage of play was capped off by Lacazette finding the top-right corner following Saka's cutback.

And it was two just six minutes later as Odegaard reacted fastest to Kieran Tierney's looping header and sneaked in to nod past Willy Caballero – the Norway international's third goal in as many games.

Odegaard looked to double his account after the interval but whipped over, while Nathan Tella forced another smart stop from Ramsdale.

Gabriel, who was earlier denied a goal for offside, then towered above Caballero to head home from Martinelli's corner, before the 20-year-old and Saka were thwarted by either post.

Nathan Redmond and Tella responded by inducing a further two saves from Ramsdale, but it was too little too late as the hosts cruised to a comfortable victory.

What does it mean? Arsenal respond well at home

Arteta's team succumbed to defeat on the road against both Manchester United and Everton but responded emphatically against Southampton and have now won three league home games in a row without conceding for the first time since October 2017

Southampton, who badly need results over the festive period, have still never won a Premier League away game against the Gunners, their 23-match barren run away to one opponent the longest in the competition's history.

Brilliant Bukayo

Saka was once again a shining figure for Arsenal as he repeatedly tormented Kyle Walker-Peters down the right-hand side.

The England international created three chances – including the opener – and has now assisted 22 Arsenal goals in all competitions since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, four more than any other player.

Saints subpar again

Southampton are going through a goalkeeper crisis, with both Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster injured, and were forced to call upon 40-year-old Caballero, signed to a one-month contract.

However, that does not excuse the fact they have now conceded 50 Premier League away goals in 2021, becoming the first side to do so in the top flight since both Watford and West Brom in 1985.

What's next?

Arsenal host fellow European challengers West Ham on Wednesday, while Southampton travel to Crystal Palace on the same day.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was left out of his squad for the game with Southampton because of a disciplinary breach.

The 32-year-old was named on the bench for the Gunners' 2-1 defeat at Everton last week but was left out of the squad altogether when the team was announced on Saturday for the home clash with Saints.

Speaking before the game, Arteta confirmed the decision was taken was for disciplinary reasons. 

"Unfortunately, due to a disciplinary breach," he said when asked about the player's absence. "There are non-negotiables we have set as a club and I think we have been very consistent."

The Arsenal boss was asked how long Aubameyang could be out for, replying: "It starts today.

"Certainly it's not an easy situation and not a situation we want."

The Gabon international, who signed a new three-year contract at Emirates Stadium in September last year, has scored just four times and assisted once in 14 appearances in the Premier League this season, averaging a goal every 259.8 minutes.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has not discussed the idea of selling captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the January transfer window, but has acknowledged that the striker is going through "difficulty".

Aubameyang was named on the bench for the Gunners' 2-1 defeat at Everton on Monday, and only came on late in the game, missing a good chance to equalise in the closing seconds at Goodison Park.

The 32-year-old, who signed a new three-year contract at the Emirates Stadium in September last year, has scored just four times and assisted once in 14 appearances in the Premier League this season, averaging a goal every 259.75 minutes.

Aubameyang's goal return rate has been decreasing at Arsenal for the last few years, averaging a goal every 105.8 minutes in his first half season in 2017-18, followed by a goal every 124.14 minutes in his first full season, then one every 142.64 minutes in 2019-20, and every 233.6 minutes last season.

However, his manager has vowed to support the former Borussia Dortmund man, saying at a media conference on Friday ahead of the weekend's clash with Southampton: "Obviously, when a player is not scoring it's affecting his confidence, it's affecting the mood and probably the belief, but you have to rebel against this situation, don't accept it and feel sorry for yourself."

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