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Man City juggernaut rolls on as United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal slip up

For supporters of all but one team, every week of the Premier League is now like reliving your worst ever school sports day. You remember: the one when you'd prepared properly, trained hard, visualised the race, got off to a great start and then watched in horror as one kid raced past you and off into the distance, barely breaking sweat as you desperately pounded your feet into the turf to no avail.

This week Manchester United slipped up, their players earning a public rebuke from Jose Mourinho. Chelsea slipped up, held by a resolute Everton. Liverpool and Arsenal slammed into each other at high speed and span off the track. And through it all Manchester City never even looked slightly concerned. The Premier League has reached the halfway point but the title race is all but over.

Performance of the weekend

Once again, it's Manchester City. It's all so effortless now. Poor Bournemouth. For all their efforts, they just couldn't keep the champions elect at bay and lost 4-0. It's almost unfair at this point. You watch one player, you watch another, you watch the third and then suddenly a fourth pops up out of nowhere and the ball is in your net. Even Danilo!

City just find so many ways to score. It is an astonishing achievement to get through half a season dropping only two points (in a draw with Everton). But when you watch this side, you wonder if the only astonishing part of their season so far is that someone actually stopped them once.

This why you're fighting for fourth

Game of the weekend? Arsenal vs. Liverpool. Game of the month? Arsenal vs. Liverpool. Game you would put on in front of visiting family members who didn't like football because you know, deep down, that no-one with a soul could fail to enjoy this? Arsenal vs. Liverpool.

Title contenders? Definitely not Arsenal. Definitely not Liverpool. This was a brilliantly chaotic, end-to-end, brutal melee of a football match that ended 3-3, but even the lucky people for whom this was their first experience of the Premier League could tell you that neither of these teams are going to win serious silverware.

He's a lucky boy

Dele Alli could easily have seen red against Manchester City seven days ago and he was fortunate again to avoid an early dismissal in the 3-0 win against Burnley this weekend. The England international is in poor form and has failed to meet his own high standards this season. It isn't entirely surprising for a young footballer who has risen so swiftly, but he really has to be more careful. It's one thing to say that there's an edge to his game and that without it he'd be half the player, but for the second time in seven days, he's nearly seriously injured someone.

Cheeky move of the weekend

The blood must surge when you launch a counter-attack against Manchester United. You must be able to feel your own pulse in your forehead as you run, galloping into the sort of space that hardly ever gets left open by a Jose Mourinho team. Imagine the giddying excitement! So you have to salute the sort of self control that Riyad Mahrez showed when he allowed Wilfrid Ndidi's long ball to bounce over his head before he trapped it, held it and then slipped it through to Jamie Vardy for the opening goal in Leicester's 2-2 draw with United. Do not play poker against this man. He'll have you.

We needed that: Part 1

It has been fascinating to watch Newcastle United in their slump. For most clubs, a run of one win in 13 games would be enough to turn the fans against their manager, but while there has been disappointment at the Magpies' form, there has been very little anger directed at Rafa Benitez. And that patience, that alliance between manager and supporters, has been rewarded.

Newcastle's 3-2 win at West Ham lifts them out of the drop zone and it might just offer enough hope to encourage whoever is in control of the boardroom in January. There's a decent football team in here somewhere, desperately trying to get out.

We needed that: Part 2

You'd never have guessed that this was make or break for Mark Hughes. The Stoke City manager referred to "a little bit of relief" after the 3-1 win over West Brom, which was a bit of an understatement given that he'd almost certainly have been sacked if he'd lost. Four and a half years is a long tenure these days and it's true that familiarity breeds contempt. But so too do sustained bad results. Stoke, however, took the points and Hughes has some breathing space. Now it's time to worry about Alan Pardew...

Can anyone stop Manchester City? Not likely.

Best job interview

We can all agree that Swansea City need to get back to playing the Swansea Way, can't we? That free-flowing, effervescent style of football they brought up from the lower leagues. The football they played largely with Leon Britton at the base of midfield. So who better than Britton himself to rescue them from another relegation battle as manager?

And even though he didn't win in a 1-1 draw vs. Crystal Palace on Saturday, it was as well as Swansea have played all season. It was certainly the first time this season they'd gone behind and come out with anything other than a defeat. Who wouldn't want to see Britton have a crack at the job full time?

That sinking feeling

It wasn't long ago that Watford looked like possible contenders for a European place. Now, after only two wins in 10 and Saturday's disappointing 1-0 defeat to Brighton, they find themselves just six points above the drop zone and sliding. It's not crisis point yet, they are still 10th, but you do worry about this sort of form. Marco Silva didn't exactly strain himself in rejecting Everton's overtures last month. Is this a factor in Watford's sudden loss of form? Or is it something else? Either way, they have two home games left in 2017 and they need to win at least one of them.

Match to watch on Boxing Day

Newcastle might just have a chance against Manchester City on Dec. 27. Think about it: You've got a City side flush with confidence, 13 points clear and right in the middle of the festive period. They could get complacent here. And you've got a Newcastle team, backed by 52,000 partisan fans, with nothing to lose. If I'm right, you heard it here first. If I'm wrong, well... look on the bright side. You won't hear from me again.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.


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