Arsenal head into 2023 with a formidable seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League after a 4-2 win at Brighton, while Manchester City’s title defence suffered a major setback as Everton snatched a 1-1 draw against the champions on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s side powered to a fifth successive league victory thanks to goals from Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli on New Year’s Eve at the Amex Stadium.
The Gunners stormed into the lead after just two minutes when Martinelli’s deflected effort reached England forward Saka, who took a deft touch before slotting past Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez.
Arsenal were in complete control and Danish midfielder Odegaard netted with a thumping 39th minute strike after a corner was cleared to the edge of the Brighton area.
Nketiah scored Arsenal’s third in the 47th minute, poking home after Sanchez failed to hold Martinelli’s effort.
Kaoru Mitoma’s 65th minute strike for Brighton would have shaken Arsenal’s nerves in the past, but the current crop are made of sterner stuff.
Six minutes later Martinelli bagged the fourth from Odegaard’s sublime long pass, a strike that rendered irrelevant Evan Ferguson’s first league goal for Brighton in the 77th minute.
“It’s a big win against a really good side,” Arteta said. “We know the other results, but we know our success will be from what we do.
“This is what we want to continue, to improve as a team and play better, to dominate all the areas like today.”
Arsenal’s ninth win in their last 10 league matches was even sweeter coming just hours after second placed City stumbled at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side blew the lead given to them by Erling Haaland as Demarai Gray scored an eye-catching equaliser for struggling Everton.
City have failed to win two of their last three league games and head into 2023 in danger of surrendering the title they have won four times in the last five seasons.
Haaland put City ahead in the 24th minute with his 27th goal in 20 competitive appearances since his close-season move from Borussia Dortmund.
Riyad Mahrez provided the assist with a dazzling run and pin-point pass to the Norway striker, who slotted past Jordan Pickford in ruthless fashion.
But Everton equalised against the run of play in the 64th minute as Gray robbed City midfielder Rodri and curled a blistering strike into the top corner, in the process buying under-fire boss Frank Lampard some much-needed breathing space.
Guardiola stayed positive, saying: “Dropping points at home is always tough. But we played really good in the last three games and it makes me feel optimistic.”
– Rashford’s ‘right answer’ –
Marcus Rashford responded to his benching for missing a team meeting after over-sleeping with the late strike that clinched Manchester United’s 1-0 win at Wolves.
United manager Erik ten Hag dropped Marcus Rashford because of an “internal disciplinary” issue that broke “our rules”.
The 25-year-old’s exile only lasted until half-time when he was sent on by Ten Hag in a move that proved the catalyst for fourth placed United to seal their fifth successive win in all competitions.
Rashford looked determined to prove Ten Hag wrong as he rampaged through the Wolves defence to score his 11th goal in all competitions this season and his third in three appearances since the World Cup.
“We draw a line under it and move on. I was a little bit late for a meeting. I overslept but it can happen,” Rashford said.
Ten Hag added: “It’s good after the decision. Coming in he was bright, lively, he scored a goal and that is the right reaction.
“Of course (that is the end of the matter). Everyone has to match the rules. This is the right answer.”
Third placed Newcastle’s six-match winning run came to a halt in a 0-0 draw against Leeds at St James’ Park.
Joao Palhinha’s last-gasp goal sealed Fulham’s 2-1 win against Southampton, who sit bottom of the table after a fifth successive defeat.
Crystal Palace eased to a 2-0 win at Bournemouth as Patrick Vieira’s side ended their three-match goal drought thanks to Jordan Ayew and Eberechi Eze.