Romelu Lukaku's club future has been thrown into the spotlight after an explosive interview.

The Belgian striker revealed his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea in August.

Lukaku was subsequently dropped by coach Thomas Tuchel for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU COULD MAKE STUNNING SWITCH TO SPURS

La Gazzetta Dello Sport claims that unsettled Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku could make a cross-city switch to Tottenham to re-unite with Antonio Conte.

Lukaku and Conte worked together at Inter where they won the Serie A title last term.

The striker revealed his frustrations at Chelsea over the weekend, with Tuchel offering no guarantees about his future.

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland will not leave Borussia Dortmund during the January transfer window, reports Fabrizio Romano. Haaland has not decided his next destination yet, despite rumours of a pre-agreement with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

- Ara claims Barcelona will offer Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United as part of a swap deal for want-away forward Anthony Martial.

- Tottenham and West Ham United  are both keen to sign Wolves' Adama Traore, claims the Telegraph. Wolves want £20million for the Spanish forward.

- Olympiakos' Guinea international midfielder Aguibou Camara is attracting interest from Milan and Liverpool, claims Calciomercato.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future is unclear having become frozen out.

The Gabon striker was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy last month and dropped by the club for disciplinary reasons and has not played since.

Aubameyang's future is a hot topic as the January transfer window opens.

TOP STORY - NEWCASTLE IN FOR JANUARY AUBA MOVE

Big-spending Newcastle have got in touch with Arsenal about a loan deal for outcast striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claims The Mirror.

The Magpies want to sign 32-year-old Aubameyang on loan for the remainder of the season.

Newcastle would also look to sign Aubameyang, who is away at the African Cup of Nations, on a £20million off-season permanent deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Teenage US international Ricardo Pepi is on the verge of joining Bundesliga club Augsburg claims Fabrizio Di Romano. The 18-year-old netted 13 goals for Dallas in the 2021 MLS season and is set for a medical on Sunday.

- Eddie Nketiah is being pursued by Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer from Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of this season, reports The Sun.

- Sport reports that Brazilian giants Palmeiras are not interested in signing forward Philippe Coutinho as Barcelona try to shop him around in January.

- Axel Tuanzebe will join Napoli on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season, claims the Manchester Evening News. Tuanzebe is currently on loan at Aston Villa.

- The Sun claims that Manchester United's pursuit of Declan Rice has been boosted by West Ham's recent slide outside the Premier League top four.

Manchester City picked up from where they left off in 2021 by battling to a late 2-1 win over Arsenal, extending their lead at the Premier League summit.

A Riyad Mahrez penalty and a last-gasp strike from Rodri cancelled out Bukayo Saka's first-half opener after Gabriel Magalhaes received a needless red card for the Gunners in an action-packed game – the first top-flight match of 2022.

City's 11th league win in a row means they end New Year's Day with an 11-point advantage at the top, a tally bettered by only two clubs in the competition's history on January 1 – Manchester United in 1993-94 and City themselves in 2017-18 (both 12 points).

There were also victories for Tottenham and West Ham, the London pair seeing off Watford and Crystal Palace respectively to remain in firm contention for a top-four finish.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of Opta data from Saturday's action. 

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City: Leaders recover to stretch winning run against Gunners

Saka's opening goal against City was only the second the Citizens have conceded in the first half of a Premier League game this season, and the first such goal they have shipped on their travels since May.

That was the England international's sixth league goal of the season and was the 36th goal scored by a player aged 21 or under for Arsenal in the English top flight since Mikel Arteta's first game on Boxing Day 2019 – eight more than any other team.

Mahrez converted a contentiously awarded penalty shortly before the hour mark at Emirates Stadium, the Algeria international scoring for a fifth game running in all competitions, and Gabriel's second yellow card – 78 seconds after his first – swung the game in City's favour.

That was Arsenal's 100th red card in the Premier League era, making them the first side to reach that milestone, with Everton (99), Newcastle United (90) and Chelsea (82) next on the list.

Rodri completed the turnaround with City's latest winning goal in a league game since May 2018 (92:28) as the Citizens made it 10 successive top-flight victories over the Gunners, an opponent Pep Guardiola has yet to lose against in the league in 12 encounters.

Watford 0-1 Tottenham: Sanchez stings Hornets in late Spurs win

Tottenham also left it late to overcome Watford and make it eight Premier League games without defeat under Antonio Conte, extending the longest unbeaten start by a Spurs boss in league competition.

Davinson Sanchez made the breakthrough with 95 minutes and 45 seconds played, with that the latest winning goal Spurs have scored in the top flight since Opta started recording such data from 2006-07.

Watford dug deep but could not quite hold on for a valuable point, meaning they have now lost more Premier League matches (nine) since Claudio Ranieri took charge in October than any other side in the division.

Sanchez's goal was his second in five Premier League matches for Spurs, which is more than he had netted in his first 108 in the competition (one), with the defender heading in from a Son Heung-min free-kick.

Watford boss Ranieri has now lost each of his last five Premier League games against Italian managers, whereas compatriot Conte has never lost against a fellow Italian in the competition in six meetings, winning all but one of those.

Crystal Palace 2-3 West Ham: Hammers survive Olise-inspired scare

Palace fell just short of pulling off a remarkable comeback as they lost a home league match on New Year's Day for the first time in their history, with this their 14th such match.

Michail Antonio's close-range finish and a Manuel Lanzini double gave West Ham a commanding three-goal lead, the latter having now scored 52 per cent of his 25 Premier League goals in London derbies (13) – the highest percentage of any player to have scored at least 20 times in the competition.

Michael Olise made a huge difference from the bench by setting up Odsonne Edouard and then scoring a second for Palace late on, making him the first Eagles player to score and assist as a substitute in the Premier League.

But the visitors held on to ensure boss David Moyes made it six straight away league wins against Palace as a manager, defeating a different coach on each occasion during that perfect run (Alan Smith, Iain Dowie, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson and now Patrick Vieira).

The Premier League has confirmed three of the fixtures postponed over the festive period will now be played in January.

Rising coronavirus cases at clubs across the league has led to large-scale disruption of the top-flight schedule in recent weeks.

In total, 18 games have been postponed since Brighton and Hove Albion's match with Tottenham was called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Spurs' camp in mid-December.

Three of those fixtures have now been rearranged, with the games to be played midway through next month.

Southampton were due to host Brentford on December 18, but the Bees will now travel to St Mary's for a 19:45 GMT kick-off on Tuesday, January 11.

Everton, who last played on December 16, will welcome Leicester City to Goodison Park at 20:00 GMT on the same day.

January 12 sees West Ham and Norwich City face off, with that game also rescheduled from December 18.

The latter match clashes with the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Tottenham and Chelsea, though the Premier League have had little choice but to attempt to slot fixtures into any free weeks in the calendar.

West Ham striker Michail Antonio was eager to represent Jamaica’s national team almost a decade ago but was overlooked for players in England football’s lower leagues.

Earlier this year, the England-born player was approached by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), regarding the prospect of representing the Caribbean nation, and agreed to switch nationalities.  Antonio qualifies to represent Jamaica, as both his parents were born on the island.

The striker, now 31, has confirmed, however, that it was not the country’s first attempt to recruit him and that he had in fact been contacted by the JFF while playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 2012.

“When I was 22, the manager of the Reggae Boyz, I can’t remember the name of him, came to Sheffield Wednesday to speak to players saying, ‘would you want to play for Jamaica?’ I said yes, I will come and play 100 percent,” Antonio said during an interview with Sport Bible.

“He said ok, I’ll give you a call, give you some information, bla, bla, bla.  He came and watched me play against Leeds that weekend.  I’m a very honest person, I had a stinker and I’m not going to lie, but I was an established Championship player.  I played in the Championship from 19 through to 25.  The next international break they were calling up players from League One and League 2, wingers, over me, which I didn’t understand,” he added.

In 2012, then president of the JFF captain Horace Burrell travelled to England along with head coach Theodore Whitmore and assistant coach Alfredo Montesso on a scouting mission to recruit players of Jamaican heritage.  Interestingly, Antonio played under Whitmore earlier this year, before the coach was fired in November.  

The player also dismissed reports that he was approached by the federation three years later while playing for Nottingham Forrest.  Insisting that neither he nor his agent ever received an offer at that point, despite claims to the contrary.

Antonio has been an instant hit since donning the country’s national colours, scoring twice in three games, which includes a 30-yard belter against the United States.  Despite the move coming late on in his career and leaving the England national team selection pool, he insists there are no regrets.

“It got to a stage where I just thought, ‘I'm not going to get called up’. I didn’t believe I was going to get the call.  There's loads of quality young strikers out there, he’s trying to build a team for the future. And that Tammy Abraham is young, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is young and Harry Kane is still quite young,” he added.

 “My mum was born in Jamaica and my dad was born in Jamaica. I went to Jamaica all the time when I was younger.  Why not try and see if we can get Jamaica to a World Cup after they’ve not been there for 20 years.

“No regrets whatsoever, I'm enjoying my football with them. And the difference with Jamaica, with England they got to the Euros final and stuff like that but with Jamaica, every achievement is a massive achievement.”  

Liverpool suffered a major blow to their title hopes when they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman scored, netting in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career, having grabbed a goal in the 6-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.

The former Everton player's contribution, after a rare penalty miss from Mohamed Salah, means City's lead in the title race stands at six points at the halfway stage in the season.

West Ham and Crystal Palace also won on Tuesday, while Southampton battled for a point against Tottenham.

After a big result in the context of the title race, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of Tuesday's Opta data.

Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Salah miss hurts as ex-Everton man Lookman sinks Reds

After converting 15 consecutive Premier League penalties, Salah missed at Leicester, and it was that kind of frustrating game for Liverpool.

It was just Salah's second ever miss from the spot in the English top flight and his first since October 2017 against Huddersfield Town. From then on, he had been immaculate, so when Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a save at the King Power Stadium it was a major surprise. Having said that, since the start of 2020, Schmeichel has saved more penalties in the Premier League than any other goalkeeper, with the latest stop his third in this period.

The result was also a major turn up, Leicester winning consecutive league matches against Liverpool for the first time since April 1999, thanks to Lookman's second-half strike.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games and for the first time in 28 away fixtures across all competitions, as Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated a big win against one of his former clubs.

The Reds had been unbeaten in 35 December games since a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in 2016, but their year ends on a negative note.

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham: Kane scores again but Spurs denied a winner

Tottenham's Harry Kane has made a habit of getting the better of Southampton's defence during his stellar career, but this time he had to settle for a penalty equaliser at St Mary's Stadium. By firing past Fraser Forster to level up after James Ward-Prowse's opener, Kane ensured Antonio Conte became the first Tottenham manager to go unbeaten in the first seven league games of a Spurs career.

Kane has now been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League starts against Southampton (11 goals, six assists), and he was only denied a winner by a controversial VAR offside call.

A fine early strike from Ward-Prowse gave the Saints midfielder a goal for a third successive game. The last time he scored in three straight matches was back in March 2019, and the third goal in that run also came against Spurs.

Perhaps Southampton fans were not expecting their team to hold on. After all, the last time they won their final game of a calendar year was all the way back in 2010, when they beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 in a League One fixture.

The dismissal of Mohammed Salisu, who fouled Son Heung-min to give away the penalty that Kane tucked away, certainly hurt Southampton. Indeed, since Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first Premier League game in charge of Southampton in December 2018, only Arsenal (13) have been shown more red cards in the competition than Saints (11).

Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich: No Zaha, no Gallagher, no problem for Eagles

Wilfried Zaha was suspended and Conor Gallagher was also absent, but Palace were three goals to the good by half-time against bottom side Norwich.

It was Odsonne Edouard who stepped up to shine, scoring the home side's opening goal from the penalty spot before claiming assists as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp boosted the lead.

His three goal involvements followed the former Celtic striker having just four (three goals, one assist) across his previous 15 games in the Premier League.

Palace finished the day in 10th place and have impressed many under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira, losing just once and scoring 18 goals in their 10 Premier League home games since the Frenchman came in, taking 17 points from those fixtures.

This was just Palace's fourth win in their last 25 games without star man Zaha (D3, L18), but they have not lost in their last five when he has been absent.

Norwich have conceded a league-high six penalties this season and have only scored eight goals in 19 games – the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after as many matches, alongside Leicester in 1977-78.

Watford 1-4 West Ham: Worrying times for Ranieri

Despite impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United early in Claudio Ranieri's reign, the Italian's Watford team are in trouble now after a fifth consecutive defeat.

An early opener here from Emmanuel Dennis was a red herring. Watford were mauled as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic scored for the Hammers.

The result means West Ham won 22 Premier League games in 2021, and only in 1959 (23) have they enjoyed more top-flight league wins in a calendar year.

West Ham have also clawed back 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side.

Captain Noble netted the Hammers' third from the penalty spot, his first Premier League goal for 706 days since he scored in January 2020 against Leicester.

It was Noble's fifth successful penalty against Watford in the competition, with only the Premier League's record scorer Alan Shearer having put away more spot-kicks against a team in the competition, netting seven against Everton.

Even numerous coronavirus-enforced cancellations could not stop the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule from delivering a mountain of goals.

Leaders Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0 earlier in December before a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and followed that up with a nine-goal thriller against Leicester City.

Mikel Arteta's in-form Arsenal maintained their pursuit of a Champions League spot by smashing five past struggling Norwich City, while the reinvigorated Tottenham cruised past London rivals Crystal Palace.

Staying in the capital, West Ham's poor run of form continued in a 3-2 home loss to Southampton before Chelsea came from behind to defeat Aston Villa on the road.

After plenty of festive cheer across Sunday's top-flight action, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data.

Tottenham 3-0 Crystal Palace: Conte's deadly trio down sorry Eagles

Spurs had lost just one of their last 12 top-flight home games against Palace and continued that impressive run of form as Harry Kane equalled another record in a dominant 3-0 win.

Kane opened the scoring in the first half after Lucas Moura's set him up, netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas.

Lucas added a second as he scored and assisted in the same top-flight game for the first time, with the Brazilian registering five goal involvements in his last five league games, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Wilfried Zaha's first-half dismissal for two bookable offences compounded Palace's misery, the winger's fifth red card for the Eagles in all competitions - three more than any other player for the club since his debut in 2010.

Son Heung-min then scored his sixth goal in six home top-flight games against Palace, as Antonio Conte became just the third Spurs boss to go unbeaten in their first six league games after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

Manchester City 6-3 Leicester City: Citizens defeat Foxes in Boxing Day record thriller

City went down 5-2 in this fixture last season but triumphed in a 6-3 classic this time around, despite a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, in the first Premier League game on Boxing Day to see as many as nine goals.

Kevin de Bruyne netted first and has now scored in five of his last six league starts at the Etihad Stadium, before Riyad Mahrez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance for the first time since he moved to England in 2014 as he converted from the spot.

Raheem Sterling, who has won the most penalties by any player in Premier League history (22), rolled another spot-kick in, while Ilkay Gundogan was on target as Leicester went 4-0 down inside 25 minutes for the first time in the top flight since Watford did so against City in 2019.

Leicester reduced the deficit after the interval as James Maddison found the net for the fourth time in his last five top-flight appearances before loanee Ademola Lookman finished past Ederson.

Those two earlier goals were teed up by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted twice in a top-flight match for the first time before adding a goal of his own to make it 4-3.

However, Pep Guardiola's side confirmed victory with an Aymeric Laporte header and Sterling's second – City's 112th league goal in 2021, the most a team has netted in a year since Arsenal also scored 112 in 1963.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal: Saka at the double as Gunners equal away record

Bukayo Saka registered a brace as high-flying Arsenal ran riott in a 5-0 victory over Norwich, who have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (eight).

Saka struck his first after just six minutes before his second arrived after the hour mark. At 20 years and 112 days, he is the second-youngest player to score 10-plus Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19y 225d).

Kieran Tierney doubled the Gunners' lead in between Saka's pair of goals, with Martin Odegaard providing his second assist of the game – the Norway international has been involved in six goals in his last six league games, two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexandre Lacazette added a fourth, while Emile Smith Rowe scored after coming off the bench once again – his league-leading third goal as a substitute. No top-flight team have bettered Arsenal's five goals from substitutes this season.

Norwich were unable to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale as the Gunners registered their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, while scoring four-plus goals in consecutive away league games for the first time since 2009.

Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Jorginho penalty brace seals Blues comeback triumph

Chelsea have stuttered in recent weeks but returned to winning ways as a Jorginho brace ensured they came from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1.

Reece James inadvertently flicked into his own net as Villa were gifted an own goal by Chelsea in the Premier League for only the second time, after Frank Sinclair also turned past his own goalkeeper back in December 1994.

Jorginho soon restored parity from the spot after Matthew Cash had felled Callum Hudson-Odoi before substitute Romelu Lukaku headed the Blues into the lead with his ninth top-flight goal in 10 appearances against Villa.

Jorginho wrapped things up as he rolled in again from 12 yards, with his 17th Premier League strike from the spot. In fact, 89 per cent of his 19 goals have come from penalties, the highest such ratio of anyone with 10-plus goals in the competition’s history.

Since Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge in January, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other club in England's premier competition (12), with Jorginho netting 10 of these himself - more than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

Matthijs de Ligt's future at Juventus is unclear following comments from his agent Mino Raiola.

The Netherlands international has been with the Bianconeri since July 2019 but could be set to move on.

Juventus are off the pace in the Serie A title race this season and Raiola said his client was "ready for a new step".

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONSIDER DE LIGT MOVE

Barcelona are considering making a move for Juventus defender De Ligt, reports Gerard Romero.

The Blaugrana would need to offload the salaries of Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho to enable the transfer.

De Ligt has been linked with a switch away from Juventus, with Chelsea also interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham and Manchester United will rival Newcastle United in pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier, claims 90min. Trippier is keen to return to England after two and a half years in Spain.

- Real Madrid are interested in Lille forward Jonathan David at the end of this season, claims Marca. Arsenal and West Ham are also monitoring the Canadian.

- Gerard Romero is reporting that Bayern Munich are considering a move for Barcelona's USA international full-back Sergino Dest.

- ESPN claims Arsenal are ready to listen to offers for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he was stripped of the Gunners captaincy last week.

Antonio Conte is looking forward to taking on former club Chelsea in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup but accepts he faces a big challenge in winning silverware with Tottenham.

Spurs battled to a 2-1 win over West Ham in Wednesday's quarter-final and will now face fellow London side Chelsea over two legs in early 2022.

Conte's men are through to the last four of the competition for a 17th time, a tally bettered only by Liverpool (18), who will take on Arsenal in the other semi-final tie.

It means a reunion with Chelsea for Conte three and a half years after ending a two-season stay at Stamford Bridge, during which time he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

But while his side are potentially just 180 minutes from a shot at redemption after last season's final defeat to Manchester City, Conte knows there is plenty of work to be done.

"It will be nice to play against Chelsea," Conte said. "I spent two amazing seasons there but now I'm the manager for Tottenham and I'm ready to give everything for this club. 

"But in England to lift a trophy is very, very difficult. We find Chelsea, then Liverpool or Arsenal. In England the level is very, very high."

Tottenham advanced to the semis thanks to goals from Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, either side of Jarrod Bowen's temporary leveller in the space of five pulsating minutes.

The second half was a case of Spurs holding on to what they had, and the hosts survived a late scare when the lively Tomas Soucek's deflected cross hit the frame of the goal.

Spurs finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.2 compared to West Ham's 1.8, evidence of the Hammers posing greater threat in attack, with Conte putting his side's cautious second-half display down to fitness reasons.

"Their overall performance was good," he said. "I think we tried to control the game to begin with and then scored, before conceding an unfortunate equaliser.

"Then we scored again and I liked the way we moved the ball around. 

"In the second half we tried to manage the COVID situation. Many players who had COVID played today and the levels dropped. I had to make lots of substitutions.

"We have to manage this situation. This period is going to be very tough for us.

"I see the positive aspect for us. I'm giving the possibility to the players to play and show that they deserve to stay here at Tottenham."

One of those who made the most of a rare start on Wednesday was Netherlands international Bergwijn, who scored the opener and created Lucas' winning goal.

Bergwijn led the way for shots (four) and touches in the opposition box (eight) before being replaced on the hour mark, the Dutchman catching the eye with his attacking display.

"I've had two weeks with Steven to know very much what I want," Conte said at his post-match news conference.

"We had training sessions with only 11 or 12 players and on one hand it was very difficult but on the other we exploited the situation to improve the players.

"Now Steven is a player totally involved in what I want and what I ask of our players, because don't forget, I like to have a plan and give options to my players."

 

Conte has made clear that he aims to win a trophy during his time at Tottenham, whose last major success came in the 2007-08 EFL Cup.
 
Lucas, who has two goals in his last three appearances, feels Spurs are better placed to lift the trophy than they were last season.

"It meant a lot to win today," he told Sky Sports. "It was a big game, a derby. It's a competition we can win, so let's fight for this.

"We started very well, conceded a goal by our mistake but controlled the game in the first half. In the second half they tried to score but we were solid and suffered together.

"Last season we had the chance to get this trophy but in the final we didn't play very well. 

"Now is another opportunity, another season, another manager, another squad and I think we're better now.

"A trophy is my objective. I think we deserve it, but we need to show it on the pitch."

Tottenham edged past London rivals West Ham 2-1 to book their place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup for a record-equalling 17th time.

West Ham eliminated Manchester United and holders Manchester City to reach this stage but came out second best in an entertaining tie at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura scored either side of Jarrod Bowen's equaliser in a frantic five-minute spell to give Spurs a slender lead at the midway stage.

Antonio Conte's side kept their opponents at arm's length in a quieter, albeit equally as tense, second half to remain on course for back-to-back finals in this competition.

West Ham shut out United and City in the previous two rounds but fell behind on Wednesday when Bergwijn exchanged passes with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and finished from close range.

Hugo Lloris twice denied Tomas Soucek as West Ham produced a strong response that saw them level matters through Bowen, who showed great footwork to find space and pick out the far corner after Eric Dier had given away possession.

That was a deserved goal for the visitors, but they were behind once again two minutes later as Bergwijn dribbled through the opposition defence and squared the ball for Lucas to convert from six yards.

Without COVID-positive forward Michail Antonio, the Hammers were relying on Bowen to lead their attack and the versatile forward would have been in again if not for Lloris' quick instincts to come off his line.

Spurs introduced Son Heung-min to partner Harry Kane in an attempt to kill off the contest, but had to survive a scare at the other end when the lively Soucek's cross looped up and hit the top of the crossbar in the closing moments.

Mikel Arteta hailed the influence of captain Alexandre Lacazette as he expressed his delight with his senior players after Arsenal's 2-0 win over West Ham.

Lacazette, who saw a second-half penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski, wore the captain's armband on Wednesday after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of his captaincy the previous day following a "disciplinary breach".

Arteta's side dominated throughout and Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock after the interval with his seventh Premier League strike, Gabriel Jesus (16) the only Brazilian to score more times in the competition before his 21st birthday.

Substitute Emile Smith Rowe sealed the victory late on with Arsenal's 10th English top-flight goal scored by a player aged 21 or under in the 2021-22 campaign, which is more than any other side this season.

While the Gunners' young guns downed West Ham to move into the Champions League spots, Arteta praised his senior leadership group following Arsenal's 11th win in 12 league games against the Hammers.

"I think they were good all of them and the senior players led by example," Arteta told reporters. "We shared the goals. It's important for Gabi [Martinelli] to score a goal like today. Everybody, I'm really pleased.

"The players play for the club and the pride that we expect from them. I was really happy from the beginning, because we knew that we had to play really good today to beat West Ham."

Asked on the performance of Lacazette, Arteta added: "Well he's the next in line and he's taken [the captaincy], the way everybody played today with such pride and commitment. I'm really proud of it.

"Laca has always been like that in the dressing room. You see the way he acts with the young players, how willing he is to help. It's in his nature. He's not a selfish player. He's happy when he makes the rest better, and he's like that in the dressing room as well."

David Moyes has never won at Arsenal in 18 Premier League attempts, extending the record for the longest such managerial run in the competition without an away win against a single side.

Alongside Moyes' personal poor record, West Ham were also displaced in the top four by Arsenal, but Arteta insisted his side boasting a Champions League spot is irrelevant at this point of the campaign.

"No, because the league finishes in May," Arteta added when asked whether he was satisfied with Arsenal's top-four spot. "But it's much better than where we were, and we want to be higher.

"We need to find that consistency - we know the level of this league. This league is absolutely ruthless and tomorrow is always different to today, so let's prepare for the next game.

"When we went to Old Trafford, I think we played much better than last year but we lost the game - and that's where we have to come away from those grounds when we get the performance with the points. That's the next challenge."

Lacazette can be expected to lead the line, and perhaps team, once again at Leeds United on Saturday after Arteta said he had no news on the Aubameyang situation.

The carnage of the Premier League festive schedule is well and truly upon us.

Arsenal, who stripped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of his captaincy on Tuesday, snatched West Ham's Champions League spot with a comfortable victory in Wednesday's headline clash.

Just 11 miles away in London, Crystal Palace hosted Southampton following a 3-1 defeat of Everton but they could only muster a draw against Ralph Hasenhuttl's side.

Brighton and Hove Albion succumbed to yet another defeat against Wolves in the other clash of the day, after Watford's visit to Burnley was postponed due to COVID-19 cases within the Hornets' squad.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of Opta data from the top-flight action.

Arsenal 2-0 West Ham: Youth shines again for Arteta's top-four chasers

West Ham have a woeful record at Emirates Stadium and extended that poor run as they lost their 11th league match in 12 games at Arsenal's ground, trading fourth spot with Mikel Arteta's side, who were inspired by two of their young stars.

Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock in the second half with his seventh Premier League strike, Gabriel Jesus (16) the only Brazilian with more goals in the competition before their 21st birthday.

Vladimir Coufal then became the 15th Czech Republic player to receive his marching orders in the Premier League when he received a contentious second caution for bringing down Alexandre Lacazette, who saw his penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

Lacazette's miss may have been Arsenal's third consecutive failed penalty in the league – doing so for the first time since 1992 – but substitute Emile Smith Rowe sealed the victory with the Gunners' 10th goal scored by an under-21 in the competition this season, which is more than any other side.

David Moyes, who became the fourth manager to 600 games in the Premier League, has never won at Arsenal in 18 top-flight attempts, extending the record for the most times a manager has played away against a side in the competition without winning.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-1 Wolves: Saiss scores as Seagulls grounded once more 

Wolves headed to the South Coast without a win or a goal in four top-flight games, facing five consecutive blanks for the first time since 2003, but held on in a marathon slog against Graham Potter's timid Brighton.

Roman Saiss nodded in what proved to be the winner for Bruno Lage's side on the stroke of half-time, as Wolves scored their first top-flight goal before the interval in seven matches – dating back to when they netted twice in the first half against Everton in early November.

The Morocco international now has five league goals to his name since the start of last season – only Raul Jimenez (nine) and Ruben Neves (six) have managed more for Wolves in that period.

Wolves, though, had to wait for their win as they battled for 106 minutes and 29 seconds of action in total in the longest English top-flight game since Manchester City and Liverpool in September 2017 (108 minutes and 35 seconds).

In contrasting fortunes, struggling Brighton are still without a win in all competitions since beating Swansea in the EFL Cup in September, while the Seagulls have not tasted top-flight victory in a club record 11 games.

Crystal Palace 2-2 Southampton: Broja form continues as Ayew breaks duck

The Premier League's most fragile away defence in 2021 travelled to Selhurst Park having conceded 50 times on the road, but were unlucky to not walk away with all three points against Patrick Vieira's side.

Wilfried Zaha struck first after just 119 seconds as he fired another away goal past Ralph Hasenhuttl's team, with what was Palace's fastest Premier League goal since May, which also came against Southampton.

However, James Ward-Prowse restored parity with his 11th direct free-kick goal in the league – only David Beckham (18), Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola (both 12) have scored more in the competition.

Armando Broja deservedly nudged the visitors ahead with his fourth finish in six league starts, with Mason Greenwood (also four) the only played aged 20 or younger to have scored as many times in the competition this season.

Jordan Ayew then ensured the sides shared the spoils with his first goal in 43 Premier League games, his last coming against Leeds United in November 2020, while the Saints claimed an unwanted record as the first top-flight side to ship more than 50 away goals in a single year since West Brom in 1985 (52).

Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe struck in the second half to earn Arsenal a 2-0 win over West Ham at the Emirates Stadium to move the Gunners into the Premier League's top four.

Following a keenly contested first half in which Kieran Tierney struck the bar, Martinelli raced into the box in the 48th minute to slot a classy finish into the bottom corner.

The Gunners continued to assert their dominance in the second half as Alexandre Lacazette won a penalty, with Vladimir Coufal receiving a second yellow and a red for the challenge, but the France international's spot-kick was saved by former Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

However, substitute Smith Rowe lashed home late on to secure an important result that sees Arsenal leapfrog the Hammers into fourth place, one point clear of their London rivals after 17 games.

The Gunners went close before the interval, Tierney racing onto a loose ball and blasting towards the top-left corner, only for Fabianski to get the slightest of touches to turn it onto the crossbar.

Martinelli scored the decisive goal shortly after the restart, latching onto Lacazette's sublime throughball to curl firmly into the bottom-right corner.

Lacazette was involved again in the 66th minute as Coufal slid in to win the ball from him in the box, fouling the striker and being sent off for a second bookable offence, but the Arsenal forward's penalty was kept out in the bottom-right corner by Fabianski.

With only 10 men, West Ham were caught out as they pushed for an equaliser, with Smith Rowe coming off the bench to drive towards the edge of the box and steer a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner to seal an important win.

Mikel Arteta provided few assurances Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a future at Arsenal after he was stripped of the club's captaincy.

Arteta left Aubameyang out of the squad for the 3-0 weekend defeat of Southampton, confirming afterwards that the Gabon international was dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Aubameyang was reported to have returned to the club late after being granted a trip abroad, though Arteta did not elaborate on what the striker was being punished for.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Aubameyang has had the armband taken from him and he will not be in the squad to face West Ham on Wednesday, despite Arteta appearing to indicate at the weekend that he could be involved against the Hammers.

A few hours after Arsenal's announcement, Arteta addressed the media ahead of Wednesday's match and he gave no indication that the club and Aubameyang retain a healthy working relationship.

Arteta was asked several times if Aubameyang had a future at the club or if he had played his last Arsenal game, but his responses were devoid of optimism.

"We need a bit of time," he said. "It needs a bit of time to heal. For now he's not involved in the squad."

Pressed on whether Aubameyang, who is contracted until 2023, could be sold in January, he added: "All I can say right now is we have made this decision, which is a tough one.

"I wouldn't like to be sitting here talking about [this]. For now, he's not involved. What I can say as for now, it's been a lot to digest. It's a difficult decision to make, it will take a bit of time.

"What I can tell you now, we made this because we are hurting. It needs a time to heal and he's not involved.

"Since I've been here, the relationship has been really good. That's why it's painful."

Arteta has not appointed a new captain yet and does not look likely to do so for a while, suggesting the existing leadership group will take it in turns to have the armband.

"We have the leadership group and we think that we have different players that are nominated to be captain. In the last game it was Laca [Alexandre Lacazette] and we have Granit [Xhaka] as well, who has been captain so we will follow that.

"Obviously, it is a really unpleasant situation and it is not the moment to make any rash decision.

"That leadership group is really strong, it is the one that communicates with myself and the coaching staff and then with the club in a really clear and strong way.

"We are going to continue like that and that is one of the decisions that we made, to make that group a little bit better and try to educate them and try and get the right feedback all the time and build that trust and the strong culture around the club. It is working really well so we will continue to do that.

"It is really important, but for me having the leadership group is something that has been tremendously helpful because then you get different voices. It is a really multicultural dressing room that needs a lot of attention and different feelings and different languages.

"They all have to be involved and I am really comfortable with that."

Manchester United's search for a permanent new manager continues to roll on.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's axing.

Several big names have been linked with the vacant post.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TOP OF MAN UTD'S LIST

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag has moved to the head of the queue to be Manchester United's new manager, claims The Mirror.

Ten Hag guided Ajax through a record-breaking Champions League group campaign where they won all six games.

United have now made appointing him their priority as he ticks all the boxes for the 20-time English champions.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United have reached out to Manchester United about the prospect of a January move for Jesse Lingard, claims The Sun.

- Tottenham are tracking Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, joining Manchester City and Manchester United in pursuit of him, reports the Daily Star.

- Liverpool have set a £10million asking price for West Ham target Nat Phillips, according to The Sun.

- The Reds are also interested in signing Real Madrid winger Rodrygo and are willing to pay £68m (€80m), reports El Nacional.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Inter have not held any talks with Stefan dr Vrij amid links with Tottenham and Newcastle United.

- Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians have enquired about Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani, claims Globo Esporte.

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