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Arsenal 3 – 1 West Ham United

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Arsenal 3 - 1 West Ham United

Arsenal 3 – 1 West Ham United. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says club great Arsene Wenger “picked the right moment” to go back to Emirates Stadium as he saw them underline their title credentials.

Arteta’s young team produced a second-half fightback to beat West Ham and move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, which was resuming after the World Cup.

Wenger, who was the last Arsenal manager to win the title, made his first return since stepping down in 2018.

“His presence is something that has to be very, very attached to this football club so thanks [to him] for doing that because it means a lot for everybody at the club,” said Arteta.

“Hopefully he is willing to spend more time with us and be around us because he is such an influence.”

West Ham took the lead against the run of play when Jarrod Bowen was judged to have been clipped in the box by William Saliba, allowing Said Benrahma to smash a confident penalty down the middle.

There was a mood of frustration among the home fans until Bukayo Saka converted from close range after collecting Martin Odegaard’s mis-hit shot.

The equaliser gave added impetus to the Gunners and another home goal looked increasingly likely.

Five minutes later, it duly arrived. Gabriel Martinelli put the hosts ahead, catching out West Ham’s former Gunners keeper Lukasz Fabianski by tucking inside the near post from a tight angle when he seemed more likely to cross.

The points were sealed when Eddie Nketiah – starting in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus – spun sharply in the box before firing into the opposite bottom corner.

Arsenal extended their lead at the top over Newcastle, who moved second by beating Leicester earlier on Monday.

Reigning champions Manchester City – who go to Leeds United on Wednesday – are now eight points behind the Gunners.

West Ham are 16th and just a point above the relegation zone after their fourth league defeat in a row.

Arsenal fans are starting to believe Arteta’s side can genuinely maintain their push for the club’s first title since Wenger’s Invincibles in 2004.

And as Wenger watched and heard his name lovingly sang by the home crowd, Arteta’s young team added further encouragement to those dreaming of a long-awaited triumph.

“It is a really special day because Boxing Day is a beautiful day to play football and I thought the performance was at the level today that we deserve,” said Arteta.

“Hopefully he [Wenger] will like it.”

The match came on the third anniversary of Arteta’s first game as Arsenal manager, and significant progress has been made since then.

When the former Gunners midfielder took over, they were closer to the relegation zone than the top four.

Their current position – and mood around the club – is a measure of how they have come.

The Spaniard has built a new team in the past three years which bears little resemblance – in style and substance – to the one picked for his first game at Bournemouth in 2019.

Arteta will not be getting carried after this win over West Ham, especially with several significant fixtures – not least against Manchester City on 15 February – on the horizon.

But the Gunners sent a message with a clinical second-half performance and the omens are also in their favour.

The team who topped the Premier League table on Christmas Day have gone on to be champions in 10 of the past 13 seasons.

One of the key questions as the Premier League returned was how the Gunners would cope without key striker Jesus.

The Brazil international had knee surgery after being injured in Qatar and is expected to be out until late February, fuelling talk the Gunners might need to sign some cover.

But against West Ham, a first Premier League start of the season was handed to Nketiah – and the 23-year-old delivered.

After stretching the Hammers defence and creating space with his sharp movement, he capped an impressive all-round performance with a fierce finish and staked his claim to be Jesus’ replacement.

“Gabby will be a big miss but we all believe in Eddie,” Saka told Amazon Prime. “That’s all he needs, us to keep supporting him and we will keep encouraging him.

“Everyone in the team is chipping in [with goals] and everyone will be important.”

In contrast to the leaders, West Ham are struggling in front of goal.

They have been better than their league position suggests, according to their expected goals statistics, with converting chances being their main problem.

Few opportunities came against Arsenal, although the game might have panned out differently had Michail Antonio not been denied by Aaron Ramsdale shortly after the restart at 1-0.

Hammers manager David Moyes said before the match he has not been feeling pressure because of results, instead urging for perspective and togetherness across the club.

But a fourth straight league defeat leaves West Ham as one of the cluster of teams packed tightly together in the bottom half.

“I don’t think we’re in a relegation fight. Every team has a blip when it isn’t plain sailing and results don’t go your way,” said midfielder Declan Rice.

“It’s down to me as captain to keep everyone going and pushing. We still believe we are a top team. But we need to start showing that. It’s down to us.”

source – BBC Sport

English Premier League

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United

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Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United. Rasmus Hojlund scored for the sixth successive Premier League game as Manchester United survived a Luton Town display of fierce determination to stay in contention for the top four with victory at Kenilworth Road.

United’s £72m summer signing from Atalanta has hit a red-hot streak after early struggles in front of goal and scored twice in the first seven minutes to set up a fourth successive league win for Erik ten Hag’s side.

The 21-year-old pounced on Amari’i Bell’s error after only 37 seconds to round keeper Thomas Kaminski and score, adding a second in the seventh minute, instinctively diverting Alejandro Garnacho’s shot into the net.

Luton Town, in an uproarious atmosphere, responded with defiance and character, Carlton Morris swiftly giving the Hatters hope with a header as United struggled to cope with the intensity of the home side, especially in the opening half.

United lost defender Luke Shaw to injury before the interval, while Harry Maguire and Casemiro also went off at the break, but for all Luton’s second-half endeavour it was the visitors who created the better chances, Kaminski denying Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, and a Hojlund hat-trick.

However, there was one more nervous moment for the visitors in stoppage time when Ross Barkley’s glancing header clipped the top of the crossbar.

The win means United are now only five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

United needed leaders to see them through an encounter that became an ordeal for long spells, especially in the opening half, and they emerged from unlikely sources as another important three points were secured.

While experienced players such as Casemiro, so lucky to avoid a second yellow card, Maguire and Raphael Varane struggled and were exposed by the sheer energy of Luton’s approach, it was match-winner Hojlund and outstanding 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo who stepped up.

Hojlund has really come to the fore in recent weeks, now getting the goals all his hard work – even early in the season when they were in short supply – deserve, his first a composed piece of work and his second quick thinking as United established early control.

The Denmark forward showed commendable hold-up play, a willingness to engage in the physical exchanges with Luton’s defence, and was only denied a treble by Kaminski’s block before he departed to a standing ovation from United’s away support.

Mainoo, meanwhile, rose above the blood and thunder with rare composure for one so young. United have a gem on their hands.

The visitors improved after the break and even though Luton pressed, they were the more dangerous side, Kaminski and Albert Sambi Lokonga denying Rashford before a combination of the goalkeeper and Bell thwarted Garnacho.

In the end, Hojlund’s early goals were enough as United extended their winning run.

Luton lost another home game to one of the Premier League’s big guns but once again more illustrious visitors to Kenilworth Road were made to fight every inch of the way.

United joined Manchester City and Arsenal in chalking up a narrow wins while Liverpool were held to a draw – and it is no surprise when Luton’s approach in this wonderfully hostile environment is taken into account.

The Hatters could have been forgiven for thinking their day was done when they conceded two goals in only seven minutes but, galvanised by the home support, Rob Edwards’ side responded superbly and were right back in it after Morris’ goal.

The reborn Barkley prompted from midfield with confidence while Lokonga was one of the game’s outstanding performers.

Luton faded after the break but showed enough to suggest they can make a real fight of things before the relegation places are decided, the standing ovation at the final whistle merited for their efforts.

Barkley almost snatched a point when his header glanced off the bar in the closing seconds but it was not to be for battling Luton.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton

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Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton. Brighton thrashed 10-man Sheffield United, who stayed bottom of the Premier League and conceded five goals at home for the third consecutive game.

The game swung in the 12th minute when United’s Mason Holgate caught Kaoru Mitoma in midfield with a horrific challenge just below the knee.

The Everton loanee was shown a yellow card, but the decision was upgraded to a red after intervention from the video assistant referee (VAR).

Against 10 men, Brighton attacked at will, taking the lead through Facundo Buonanotte, who bundled in a corner.

Danny Welbeck doubled the advantage, firing in a rebound after keeper Wes Foderingham denied Mitoma.

The hosts thought they had pulled a goal back just before the break through Ben Osborn, but his hooked volley has ruled out for offside.

Brighton got a deserved third midway through the second half when United defender Jack Robinson diverted Mitoma’s cross into his own net.

Simon Adingra added two late goals, burying Pascal Gross’ cutback and benefiting from a looping deflection.

Sunday’s victory was only Brighton’s second in the league in 2024, although they have won twice in the FA Cup, including a 5-2 triumph over United at Bramall Lane in the fourth round.

Even before Holgate’s sending-off Roberto de Zerbi’s side were routinely carving forward.

Adingra, back from winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, had a cross deflected off Anel Ahmedhodzic and narrowly kept out by a diving Foderingham.

At 2-0, Yasser Larouci twice cleared off the line for United, denying Mitoma and Gross from close range. Foderingham also smartly kept out Welbeck and Mitoma either side of half-time.

Brighton’s win is their biggest away from home in the top flight, and they have scored four or more goals seven times in all competitions this season.

Seventh-placed Brighton face teams from the bottom half of the table in their next five games.

They host Everton on Saturday, a game De Zerbi will expect to win.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

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Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea. Rodri dramatically rescued a point with a late leveller for Manchester City to deny Chelsea victory and maintain his side’s long unbeaten home record.

City still lost ground in the title race after seeing Liverpool and Arsenal both post emphatic wins earlier on Saturday, but this has to go down as a point gained given how close they came to defeat.

Raheem Sterling had given Chelsea the lead just before half-time, finishing off a brilliant counter-attack by meeting Nicolas Jackson’s cross, cutting inside Kyle Walker and curling his shot home.

The visitors looked threatening on the break all game, with Jackson earlier spurning an even better chance from Malo Gusto’s cross when a heavy touch allowed Ederson to smother his shot, and City’s keeper also denied Sterling a second from point-blank range.

City were racking up the chances too, but seemed unable to take any of them, or even seriously test Chelsea goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic despite piling on the pressure in the second half.

Erling Haaland was the main culprit, with his worst miss coming when he somehow headed wide from a delicious Kevin de Bruyne cross.

The defending champions were facing their first home league defeat since November 2022, until Rodri struck with seven minutes to go.

After Walker’s shot was deflected into his path on the edge of the box, Rodri fired in a ferocious first-time strike that was going in anyway but took a touch off Chelsea substitute Trevoh Chalobah on its way into the net.

The draw sees City drop to third in the table, four points behind leaders Liverpool but with a game in hand – they can close the gap, and leapfrog second-placed Arsenal, if they beat Brentford here on Tuesday.

Chelsea, who were minutes away from a third successive away win, stay 10th, but head to Wembley for next weekend’s Carabao Cup final on the back of one of their best displays of an erratic campaign.

source – BBC

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