Arsenal and Liverpool showcase title credentials as Man United off to worst start since 1930

Liverpool forward Mo Slaaha (right) shots past Arsenal's defender Gabriel.[Liverpool]

Arsenal leads the English Premier League at Christmas for the second year in a row after drawing with Liverpool 1-1 at Anfield on Saturday.

The challenge for Mikel Arteta is to prove they can go the distance this time after a late collapse ended their title hopes last season.

“We have experience of being where we are today. We should be really happy because that shows a lot of consistency for this new group ... to lead two years in a row. But that’s it,” the Arsenal manager said. “We are where we want to be right now, both in the Premier League and the Champions League.”

Arsenal led for 248 days last season until April, when a 2-2 draw at Liverpool started a slump it didn’t recover from. The Gunners have drawn again at Anfield, but go into Christmas one point ahead of second-placed Liverpool and Aston Villa, third on goal difference.

Defending Manchester City will be happy after seeing its three main rivals drop points this weekend. Villa drew with Sheffield United 1-1 on Friday.

Pep Guardiola’s defending champion lifted the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia on Friday. Although City dropped to fifth after Tottenham went fourth by beating Everton 2-1, it was in sight of the leaders — just six points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.

City players return to action on Wednesday against Everton likely with a spring in their step, given none of their rivals have taken the opportunity to fully capitalize while they were away.

Guardiola, however, will note how Arsenal and Liverpool presented a real threat to his hopes of winning a record fourth Premier League in a row after both teams showcased their credentials in a game of high quality and intensity on Merseyside.

Gabriel headed Arsenal in front after four minutes and Mohamed Salah evened the score in the 29th when lashing a shot into the top corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold had the best chance to win the game when hitting the bar with only Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya to beat in the second half.

“Until the last second it was top intensity, everybody felt it, super intense. Tough game, good game, in moments spectacular,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “Absolutely we take confidence from the result. You have to take confidence from these results and performances against a top, top side.”

UNITED SLUMP

The losses just keep on coming for Manchester United, which is off to its worst start since 1930.

A 2-0 defeat at West Ham was United’s eighth in the Premier League and 13th in all competitions. In 1930, United lost 16 times before Christmas.

Goals from Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus in the 72nd and 78th minutes at London Stadium propelled West Ham while United’s run without a goal was extended to four games.

“That’s not good enough for our standards,” underfire manager Erik Ten Hag said.

Ten Hag has faced speculation about his position for weeks, and former Chelsea manager Graham Potter is reportedly a contender to replace him if he is fired. Ten Hag said recently he has the backing of the club hierarchy but that will surely diminish if the losses keep mounting.

United won the League Cup and qualified for the Champions League in Ten Hag’s first year in charge, but he has struggled to build on that success this term. His team was eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage and exited early from the League Cup.

Defeat at West Ham left United eight points off fourth-placed Tottenham.

Ten Hag pointed to an extensive injury list as a factor behind his team’s form.

“First of all, we need returning the players,” he said. “We are quite thin in this moment in the squad. But I have to say the players who were on the pitch, also young players, they had very good performances. But, yeah, it’s of course the experienced players (who) bring us to higher levels.”

TOTTENHAM RUN

Tottenham looks to be over its recent slump and heads into Christmas above defending champion Manchester City after beating Everton 2-1.

The early season leader tumbled on the table after a slew of injuries and a damaging run of four defeats in five, with only a draw at City breaking that losing sequence. But three straight wins have lifted Spurs up to fourth.

Goals from Richarlison and Son Heung-min gave them a 2-0 lead after 18 minutes. Andre Gomes scored for Everton in the 82nd, but the visitors’ recent run of four straight league wins came to an end.

LOCKYER TRIBUTES

Luton players and fans and visiting Newcastle paid tribute to Tom Lockyer as the captain recovers from an on-field cardiac arrest last weekend.

Lockyer had a defibrillator fitted and is recovering at home after being discharged from hospital following his collapse during a game against Bournemouth, which was abandoned.

In his absence, Luton boosted its chances of avoiding relegation by defeating Newcastle 1-0 at Kenilworth Road.

Andros Townsend scored and held up Lockyer’s shirt in celebration. Luton and Newcastle fans sung his name throughout the match.

“We’ve been playing really well. I don’t think it’s because of what’s happened that we’ve won the game today,” Luton manager Rob Edwards said. “We talked about it, we wanted to do it for Tom. But I don’t think there was any extra motivation there. Today we embodied everything that Tom Lockyer is.”

NUNO LOSES

New Nottingham Forest manager Nuno Espírito Santo suffered a cruel defeat in his first game in charge of the relegation-battling club.

A Dominic Solanke hat trick secured a 3-2 win for Bournemouth with the deciding goal coming in the fourth minute of added time.

Willy Boly’s red card in the 23rd minute reduced Forest to 10 men but Anthony Elanga gave them the opening goal two minutes into the second half. Solanke struck back twice in seven minutes to put Bournemouth ahead.

Chris Wood looked to have secured a point with his headed equalizer in the 74th but Solanke completed his hat trick in stoppage time.

BURNLEY RISE

Burnley moved off the bottom of the table with a 2-0 win at Fulham.

Goals from Wilson Odobert and Sander Berge saw Vincent Kompany’s team win for the third time and overtake Sheffield United, which earned an unexpected 1-1 draw at high-flying Aston Villa on Friday.

The Fulham-Burnley game was the first league game to be handled by a female referee, with Rebecca Welch officiating at Craven Cottage.

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