Monday Night Takeaways: Arsenal go top, while Manchester United show signs of improvement

It's a festive Bank Holiday edition of of our post-Premier League talking points.

The Bank Holiday Monday was brimming with Premier League fixtures, and plenty of talking points to focus on. 

Neither Manchester United nor Chelsea seem to be themselves this season, and they met in a huge clash on Monday night. With the title in their sights, Arsenal looked to recover from an embarrassing slip up against Southampton, and Tottenham needed to pick up points to stay in Champions League contention. Here are some of the points to take away from a day packed with footballing action. 

Aston Villa's time in the Premier League is surely up

Even a point wouldn't have been enough to help Aston Villa out today as they faced Norwich, a promoted side who had kept just one clean sheet all season, there was a chance to finally get a win and start to try and turn things around. 

What they did instead was not only lose, but give Norwich little to worry about at the back as they got their second clean sheet in a 2-0 victory. With only eight points to their name, rock bottom of the league and 11 points from safety, it's a bad time to be an Aston Villa fan.

Image: Adam Davy / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The most daring of great escapes would be needed to save the team here, and with their relegation all but confirmed, there's unlikely to be any investment in the team in January. The only target they'll have in their sights now is beating the record for the fewest points ever (11) in a Premier League season, set by Derby County in 2007/08. 

Tottenham get a big win

Spurs have shown an atypical resilience so far this season: they've only lost two games, and with such chaos elsewhere in the league, they look a good bet to clinch a top four berth this season. 

Watford have claimed some big scalps recently, beating Liverpool and drawing with Chelsea, and had Leicester not been doing so well, Quique Sanchez Flores would be getting a lot more plaudits for the job he's doing there. They've been difficult to beat, keeping eight clean sheets and drawing five games too, and would have been looking at the visit of Mauricio Pochettino's side without any fear. 

Image: Nick Potts / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The three points claimed at Vicarage Road move them into third in the table, with Manchester City yet to play on Tuesday, but four points ahead of Crystal Palace in fifth. Europe's top table may be back on the menu for fans at White Hart Lane once again.

Everton's attacking prowess covering over cracks at the back 

Lukaku scored again today to take him to the top of the scoring charts alongside Jamie Vardy with 15 goals this term. While there's no doubt that they're good going forward, Everton's leaky defence has slowly been becoming a big problem. At first it was costing them two points, as they gave away winning margins from set pieces, but this afternoon it became a big problem as they lost all three points in a seven goal thriller. 

The penalty at the end was perhaps unlucky, but if there's money to be spent in the January window for the Merseyside club, the priority should be at the back, particularly if teams come back looking to lure John Stones away again. 

Arsenal bounce back from heavy defeat to go top

After their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Southampton on St Stephen's Day, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Arsenal have suffered a lack of confidence.

Their 2-0 win today against Bournemouth showed that they are finally gathering that mental strength and attitude to bounce back from such results. Today, they were clinical and professional. In a game they were largely expected to win, they did and convincingly so.

Arsene Wenger's side go top of the pile, if only for the day, but the win signifies something more important. In a season where teams are prone to slips, Arsenal need to add stability and this was reflected in the achievement of Petr Cech.

The goalkeeper has now 170 clean sheets in the Premier League, more than any other keeper in history. If Arsenal want to win the title, they must come through games like this with wins, with clean sheets and with dominant displays.

Image: John Walton / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Promising signs, however, and just what Wenger needs to put the Southampton defeat behind them. The pressure and attention now shifts to Leicester.

Manchester United's improved performance may buy van Gaal time

On the face of it, another scoreless for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United isn't a sign of improvement. It's not even a sign of progress, but of continued stagnation.

Today's performance, however, was a world away from the team we have seen so far this season. Intensity, desire, pace and high tempo were all present at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial encapsulated the performance in his constant torturing of Branislav Ivanovic, cutting in from the wing and putting the ball into the box.

With another striker United could well have won that match, Rooney's volley blazed over the bar was a fair reflection of his season so far. No confidence to trust himself in the final third.

There are goals in that midfield, Schneiderlin, Herrera and Mata all have the ability to chip in. Memphis hasn't been convincing as of late, which was why it was strange to see him replace Mata, arguably United's most creative player today.

Image: Martin Rickett / PA Wire/Press Association Images

But the draw with Chelsea showed all the signs of a team who are able to compete at the top level. They lack the players on the bench who can come on and change a game, a Javier Hernandez-type that had done so for the club in the past.

Should van Gaal make it through to the New Year, he'll need to go into the transfer market (yet again) and buy another striker to take some of the pressure off Rooney.

Another poor performance or defeat, however, could spell the end for the Dutchman. But for now, it appears he's safe.

 

Additional reporting from Cian Roche (@cian_roche)