Football: Three talking points from the Premier League

Liverpool players celebrate after the team scored a goal during a match against Crystal Palace in London on Dec 19, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - Liverpool surged ahead at the top of the Premier League in record-setting fashion by thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0, while the Manchester giants kept their title challenges afloat in contrasting fashion as City edged past Southampton and United demolished Leeds 6-2.

At the other end of the table, Arsenal are looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone after an eighth defeat in 12 league games at Everton.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the Premier League weekend.

1. Liverpool take control

The defending champions rounded off what could be a seminal week in the title race by winning an away game in the top flight by seven goals for the first time at Selhurst Park.

Jurgen Klopp's men had opened up a three-point lead at the top of the table thanks to Roberto Firmino's last-minute winner against Tottenham in midweek and now enjoy a four-point advantage over Leicester, who inflicted another defeat on Spurs to move second.

Firmino's lack of goals had been one of Liverpool's early-season issues, but the Brazilian scored twice at Selhurst Park, as did Mohamed Salah despite only coming off the bench for the final 35 minutes.

Sadio Mane also ended a nine-game goal drought as Klopp acknowledged his front three "clicked" into gear.

With West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton to come over the festive period, Liverpool could quickly pull away from the pack unless some of the other contenders quickly find some consistency.

Chelsea have also lost their last two games prior to hosting West Ham on Monday, while City again struggled to take their chances despite seeing off high-flying Southampton.

2. Are Man Utd title contenders?

Should United win their game in hand, they would be Liverpool's closest challengers as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men climbed into third, five points off the top, after hitting Leeds for six.

Slow starts and poor home form have blighted United's season so far, but both were quickly forgotten as Scott McTominay scored twice inside the first three minutes in the first league meeting between the Red Devils and Leeds for 16 years.

Solskjaer's men have plenty of reason to want to reel in Liverpool as they could equal United's record tally of 20 English top-flight titles should they retain the Premier League.

Doubts remain over United's consistency and defence as Leeds could have had plenty more than two goals to show for their trip to Old Trafford.

However, in Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani they have the firepower to mount a title challenge and are the form team in the league over the past two months.

Since losing at home to Arsenal on November 1, United have won six and drawn one of their last seven league games with the only dropped points coming against City last weekend.

3. Arsenal facing relegation battle

That victory at Old Trafford was Arsenal's last in the league as their first full season under Mikel Arteta has spiralled from aiming to reach the Champions League to hoping to avoid the Championship next season.

The Gunners were undone in familiar fashion at Goodison Park as self-inflicted damage from Rob Holding's own goal and an inability to create chances despite dominating possession saw Everton emerge 2-1 winners.

After winning the FA Cup win August, Arteta earned a promotion from first-team coach to manager, affording him more control over recruitment.

But the Spaniard is now the favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked with Arsenal just four points above the relegation zone and facing Chelsea next on Boxing Day.

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