The St Stephen's Day Takeaway: Man United move up through the gears and Leicester need wake-up call
The Premier League action has left plenty of talking points19:10 Monday 26 December 2016, 19:10 26 Dec 2016
Another St Stephen's Day has come and gone and in the absence of a winter break, the Premier League has delivered plenty of talking points once again.
A 3-0 win for Chelsea at home to Bournemouth means they continue to march away while Arsenal have Olivier Giroud to thank for a late 1-0 win over Tony Pulis' tough West Bromwich Albion side at the Emirates to just about stay in with a shout of a title challenge.
But there was a lot more besides...
Leicester need to get their act together quickly
Before kick off, Leicester City left a host of Jamie Vardy masks in the stands for fans to wear in a show of support for the suspended striker.
But it's on the field where they could do with plenty of help.
The Foxes went down to a 2-0 defeat as Belgian pair Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku found the net for Everton.
The result leaves Claudio Ranieri's reigning Premier League champions on 17 points. More significantly, that's just three points above 18th place Sunderland who occupy the last relegation spot.
With the Champions League knockout stages not until next Spring, Leicester don't have the excuse of fixture distractions for the next couple of months and after a poor start to their domestic title defence, now is the time to be picking up points to put daylight between the Foxes and a sensational relegation.
After the 4-2 win at home to Manchester City earlier this month, Leicester were expected to find their feet again but a draw and two defeats have now followed, bringing their tally of losses to nine already in this campaign.
On January 14th, they face Chelsea but before then they have an improving West Ham at home following a trip to Middlesbrough. On paper, points could be won but Leicester have been tearing up a fairytale script without hesitation in 2016-17.
Man United's form looks ominous (for their rivals)
After plenty of early flak, Manchester United are now totting up the results in succession.
A 3-1 victory over David Moyes' Sunderland brings them to four wins in a row in the Premier League as they move up the gears.
A feature of the improvement results wise recently has been built around the well balanced midfield trio of Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera who complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.
But Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal record deserves highlighting. He has long since usurped Wayne Rooney's guaranteed place in the team and has delivered when it matters with another goal against Sunderland, meaning the Swede has eight goals in his last eight games.
Sergio Aguero's absence noteworthy against Hull City
For the second time this season, Sergio Aguero is serving a ban and the starting line up against Hull pointed towards what Man City are missing.
Rather than start with nominal second forward Kelechi Iheanacho up front at the KC Stadium, Pep Guardiola went for a more fluid forward line featuring Nolito, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne.
None of the three are primarily centre forwards and although they played a part in City dominating the first half with 72% possession, the Sky Blues huffed and puffed when it came to creating chances at the start of the 3-0 win.
Young Iheanacho was finally thrown on in the second half to provide a focal point at a period in the game when things began to change. First Sterling was brought down for Yaya Toure to convert a penalty, while Iheanacho added a second when the influential De Bruyne set up David Silva to cross for the Nigerian international.
But just as City get used to life without Aguero, the Argentine becomes available again having missed the four games required against Leicester, Watford, Arsenal and Hull.
And fortunately for City, three wins have resulted from those four games.
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