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Arsenal secure Christmas number one but more Chelsea woe – 5 things we learned

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (right) will see his side top the table at Christmas as the Premier League takes a break during the World Cup (Nigel French/PA)
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (right) will see his side top the table at Christmas as the Premier League takes a break during the World Cup (Nigel French/PA)

Arsenal made the most of Manchester City’s home defeat by Brentford to beat Wolves and head into the World Cup break with a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Bees striker Ivan Toney sent a message to England boss Gareth Southgate with a double to sink City, while Chelsea and Everton both suffered another defeat. On Sunday, Aston Villa continued their revival under new boss Unai Emery with victory at Brighton.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what we learned from the weekend’s games as the Premier League now takes a break until Boxing Day.

Gunners march on

While no-one really knows how teams will respond when top-flight action resumes again following the World Cup, the signs are all positive for Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s side took full advantage of Brentford’s unexpected win at Manchester City in Saturday’s early kick-off to later grind out another impressive victory at Wolves. More sterner tests will lie ahead rolling on into 2023, but that will not stop Gunners fans allowing themselves to dream that it could just turn into a vintage year.

Toney sends England message

Brentford’s Ivan Toney celebrates scoring at Manchester City
Ivan Toney was all smiles on Saturday after his goals helped Brentford win at Manchester City (Nigel French/PA)

If Ivan Toney was smarting from being left out of Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, he did not show it. The Brentford striker coolly tapped in a stoppage-time winner at the Etihad Stadium, having earlier given the visitors the lead with a looping header. Tournament regulations allow Southgate to still make changes to his 26-man selection should there be any late injuries ahead of the first World Cup game with Iran in Qatar. While that would be the most unfortunate of events for any player, if it happens to a forward, there is no doubt Toney would be ready for the call.

Everton fans get shirty

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and manager Frank Lampard (centre) react to fans following the Premier League match at Bournemouth
Everton manager Frank Lampard (centre) and his players had another afternoon to forget (Steven Paston/PA)

Having taken the same round trip of some 524 miles twice in a week only to see their team well beaten at Bournemouth each time, you could forgive the travel-weary Everton fans for being less than impressed. After Saturday’s 3-0 defeat – which followed a 4-1 Carabao Cup exit there on Tuesday night – disgruntled Toffees supporters threw Alex Iwobi’s shirt back when it had been offered up by the midfielder. Frank Lampard and his squad will have certainly got the message that such abject displays are not good enough – and there is plenty of time to think how to put things right against fellow strugglers Wolves at Goodison Park on Boxing Day.

Potter has the blues

While Newcastle head into the World Cup break in high spirits after a 1-0 win over Chelsea at St James’ Park left them in third, Blues boss Graham Potter faces more questions about the direction of his side following three successive league defeats and five without a win. Having also been knocked out of the Carabao Cup at Manchester City, the positivity following his appointment in early September has ebbed away. All is not yet lost, though, and perhaps the break will be just what Potter needs to start working his magic once again.

Emery revival just the tonic

The new manager bounce has continued at Aston Villa as Unai Emery’s men came from behind to win at Brighton on Sunday. It was a second straight Premier League victory for the Spaniard, whose much-changed side had been knocked out of the Carabao Cup at Manchester United on Thursday night. The feelgood factor is certainly back at Villa Park – and it will be tested to the limit when Liverpool visit on Boxing Day.