Frank Lampard (Manchester City): Still sounds strange, doesn't it? Nothing unusual, though, about the ex-Chelsea star's continuing ability to score crucial goals. The latest, in a 1-0 win at Leicester, was his 175th Premier League strike equalling Thierry Henry. Outstanding.
Remember those days when Manchester United fans loved the ‘dodgy David De Gea’ about as much as Stevie Gerrard? They wanted him out quicker than David Moyes. Now goalkeeper De Gea is United’s most influential player! Without him those six wins in a row would never have happened. He was excellent again in yesterday’s 3-0 victory over Liverpool.
I enjoyed the class and cheekiness of Santa Cazorla’s double in Arsenal’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle, but Olivier Giroud’s brace for the Gunners was even more important. Following a long absence through injury Giroud has hit form which is great news for Arsene Wenger, cheered rather than jeered by Arsenal fans on Saturday. Fickle or what?
We'll get to some of the less desirable aspects of Chelsea’s play below, but it’s only right the class of Eden Hazard is recognised too. What a player he is turning into with his dribbling skills, vision and breathtaking balance on the ball. Fantastic with his feet, he’s not too shabby with his head either as he showed nodding home in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Hull.
At Liverpool, Stewart Downing ran down blind alleys. These days at West Ham his runs actually lead to goals, as on Saturday when he scored in a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. In-form Downing has netted or assisted five goals in his last six league appearances. Good going.
Chelsea's Diego Costa and Willian were rightly cautioned for diving against Hull. The worst fall, though, came from Woeful One Gary Cahill, who got away with what should have been a second yellow. Come on Chelsea, you’re good enough to win without cheating!
West Brom had suffered four Premier League defeats in a row. With every loss the pressure increased on manager Alan Irvine.
The Baggies were dropping alarmingly down the table and there were growing fears amongst their fans that Albion were on their way to the Championship.
Then Irvine, short of central defenders, put out of favour Gareth McAuley back in the starting line up and two clean sheets and four points later suddenly WBA’s prospects don’t look so bleak.
On Saturday, McAuley produced the type of battling display we have become used to from him as West Brom beat Aston Villa 1-0, moving them up to 14th.
If Irvine has any sense, big G, a strong personality on and off the field at the Hawthorns, will stay in the team even when others return from injury.
McAuley celebrated his 35th birthday earlier this month. He can go on for a while yet.
Spurs are the new kings of late, late shows on the road. At Swansea, a last gasp Christian Eriksen effort gave them a 2-1 win. They triumphed at Villa and Hull last month the same way. Spirit. Not always associated with Tottenham teams.
After his hat-trick in Cliftonville’s 4-0 home win over Institute in the Irish League on Saturday, the superb Joe Gormley has now scored 105 times in 162 games for the Reds. Michael O’Neill is here for Christmas. Joe ‘the Goal’ can expect a visit from the Northern Ireland boss, keen to assess the prolific striker.