Manchester City made history by putting Newcastle United to the sword and Arsenal also set a Premier League record in their thrashing of fragile Leeds United.
Rampant City ran riot at St James’ Park on Sunday, hammering the relegation-threatened Magpies 4-0 to ensure they will be top of the table at Christmas.
Pep Guardiola’s side took their tally of top-flight victories in 2021 to 34, bettering a record they had shared with Liverpool.
Depleted Leeds handed out far too many gifts in the season of goodwill, dishing out a 4-1 drubbing as Marcelo Bielsa’s side were blown away in the first half at Elland Road on Saturday.
Second-placed Liverpool had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Tottenham in an eventful game for Andy Robertson on Sunday.
The fixture list was hard hit due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but there was no shortage of quirky Opta facts from the matches that went ahead.
No presents from Pep for struggling Howe
City can celebrate Christmas at the top of the tree for the first time since 2018, with Liverpool having been at the summit in the last three seasons.
It has been another memorable year for the champions, who not only set a record for number of top-flight wins but have also scored the most goals in a year by a Premier League team.
Not forgetting that football was indeed played before 1992, City’s total of 106 goals in the top flight in 2021 sees them match a figure last set by Liverpool back in 1982. Aston Villa, however, hold the all-time top-flight record with a staggering 120 in 1930.
It has been a very different story for Newcastle, who conceded 79 times in the league this year, matching an unwanted record Ipswich Town set in 1994.
Eddie Howe will be glad to see the back of City, as the Newcastle head coach has lost all 11 matches against them – the worst 100 per cent losing record by any boss against one club in the history of the competition.
Ruthless Arsenal make Leeds suffer
Leeds were thumped 7-0 by City in midweek and they gift-wrapped Arsenal three points with a naive display, even if injuries must be taken into account (all nine of Bielsa’s substitutes were aged 21 or under, with 15-year-old Archie Gray among them).
The Gunners extended their winning run to three matches after dominating the first half, Gabriel Martinelli scoring twice and Bukayo Saka putting them 3-0 up at the break.
It could have been worse for the Whites, as Arsenal had 11 shots on target in the first half – the most on record (since 2003-04) by any side in the opening 45 minutes in a Premier League match.
With Emile Smith Rowe also on target, it was the first time Arsenal have had three players aged 21 or younger on the scoresheet in a Premier League game (excluding own goals).
Kalvin Phillips was once again sorely missed by Leeds. The Yorkshire club have lost 12 of their 15 Premier League games when the England midfielder has been absent.
11 – Arsenal’s 11 shots on target in the first half against Leeds is the most on record (since 2003-04) in the opening 45 minutes by any side in a single Premier League first half. Peppered. #LEEARS pic.twitter.com/zO8RjbcmAy
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 18, 2021
Robertson turns from hero to villain
Liverpool are three points behind City after they were held by Spurs, having come from behind to lead 2-1 in the capital.
It was an eventful match for Robertson, who was unable to complete the 90 minutes after being shown a red card for a tackle on Emerson Royal.
The Scotland captain was given his marching orders eight minutes after putting the Reds in front and he also set up Diogo Jota’s equaliser. Since Jota’s Liverpool debut in 2020, only Christian Benteke (a former Red) has scored more headed Premier League goals than the Portugal forward (six).
Robertson became the first player to score, provide an assist and be sent off in a Premier League game since Aleksandar Mitrovic for Newcastle in May 2016, also against Spurs.
Harry Kane got the opener in an enthralling encounter, netting just his second league goal of the season and his first one at home since May.
That means Kane’s last three home league goals for Spurs have all come under different managers – Jose Mourinho, Ryan Mason and Antonio Conte.
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