Walcott wins big as Arsenal and Chelsea shine over Christmas
Christmas football round-up: United extend lead as Villa and QPR go belly up
IT'S PRETTY much as you were at the top of the Premier League table after a frenetic Christmas week, with no change in the top seven places despite three games.
Manchester United, who led local rivals City by six points going into the festive season, have extended the gap to seven points. They won two and drew one of their games, while City secured two wins but were beaten by Sunderland on Boxing Day.
Chelsea have done what they can to keep in touch with the leaders, and after three wins over Christmas are closing in on City, but are still 11 points behind United.
At the other end of the Premier League, QPR are rooted to the bottom of the table after losing all three of their games over the holiday season.
If the festive programme passed in a blur, here's a guide to the Christmas winners and losers:
Arsenal only played two games over Christmas but two wins helped keep them above Everton and West Brom in fifth spot and the Gunners are now only three points behind Spurs in fourth place with a game in hand.
Arsene Wenger's team only scraped past Wigan on the Saturday before Christmas but, after enjoying Boxing Day in front of the TV, the benefits of a Christmas break were there for all to see on Saturday as they beat Newcastle 7-3 at the Emirates.
To be fair to Newcastle they went toe-to-toe with Arsenal for much of the match, but the Gunners raced away in the final stages and scored four goals in the last 17 minutes, including three in the final seven.
Centre stage was contract rebel Theo Walcott, who scored a brilliant hat-trick and set up another two of Arsenal's goals. Arsenal must surely now offer him the deal he wants as the prospect of him leaving the Emirates in the summer on a free transfer is too ghastly to even contemplate.
Arsenal weren't the only London club to do well. Rafa Benitez's Chelsea continue to impress and were the only team in the division to win all three of their Christmas games. It began with the 8-0 thrashing of Villa before Christmas and continued with good away wins at Norwich and Everton.
In total Chelsea netted 11 times in their three games and the goals came from eight different players. Frank Lampard (who else?) was top scorer over the three games with three goals, including both against Everton. Like Walcott his contract is up at the end of the season and it is unclear if he will stay.
The biggest losers over Christmas must have been Aston Villa, who were beaten 15-0 on aggregate. The Villans began Christmas at the wrong end of an 8-0 thrashing at Chelsea and then followed it up by losing 4-0 in front of their furious fans against Spurs on Boxing Day. Things got even worse three days later as they were rolled over by relegation rivals Wigan at Villa Park, losing 3-0. There is now a very real chance that Villa will go down.
One team whose fate was surely sealed over Christmas was QPR. Losses to Newcastle, West Brom and finally Liverpool, in abject fashion, saw them sink back to the bottom of the table, and with just ten points from 20 games it is hard to see them garnering the 30-odd points they will need to avoid the drop over the next four months.
Spare a thought, too, for Norwich, who also lost all three of their festive fixtures, despite scoring three at home against Man City on Saturday. That 4-3 defeat came after losses to West Brom and Chelsea and means Chris Hughton's side have slipped out of the top half of the table.
Alan Pardew will also be licking his wounds. The Newcastle manager saw his team beat QPR but then lose to Man United and Arsenal despite scoring three goals against both teams. To make things worse he got involved in a row with Alex Ferguson after the 4-3 thriller. The Scot gave Pardew both barrels after the Newcastle man complained about the United veteran's treatment of the officials.
Fergie called Pardew a hypocrite, and added: "I am the manager of the most famous club in the world. I am not like Newcastle, a wee club in the north east." Ouch.