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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Wise old heads help Arsenal deliver defensive improvement

Chelsea limited to only one major chance

Shkodran Mustafi put the ball in the net for Arsenal but was ruled offside
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Five things we learned this weekend

1 Gunners able to shut up shop
It is now 12 Premier League matches since Arsenal won when they were rated as underdogs but their performance at Stamford Bridge was so much better than their shoddy show at Liverpool last month.

Arsene Wenger selecting more experienced players and using them in their preferred roles certainly helped, but Arsenal deserved their 0-0 draw against Chelsea with Petr Cech seriously troubled on only one occasion when Pedro broke through.

There was more discipline in midfield but they also provided a threat on the counter-attack and it could be that the minor injury which ruled Mesut Ozil out of the trip was actually a blessing.

Ozil is a lovely playmaker when in full flow but is sometimes a passenger in important away matches and a big defensive effort from Arsenal - led by those at the front - saw Chelsea fail to score in a home match for the first time under Antonio Conte.

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2 Squad depth is a huge positive for United

The final 4-0 scoreline was harsh on Everton but Manchester United's squad depth was highlighted at Old Trafford.

There was a period in the second half when United looked vulnerable but the options available to Jose Mourinho changed the game and substitute Jesse Lingard had a major impact on proceedings.

After that Ander Herrera arrived to help them gain more control of midfield and finally Anthony Martial continued his impressive super-sub role with his third Premier League goal off the bench this season. 

3 No need for City to worry about defence
Manchester City's much-maligned defence have kept three clean sheets in a row but who cares about that because if Pep Guardiola's team continue to impress in attack the title favourites will be lifting the trophy.

Sergio Aguero helped himself to a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Watford and Gabriel Jesus has notched in his last four appearances in what could turn out to be one of the most devastating Premier League forward partnerships ever seen.

City have forced 28 shots on target in their last three games and three of their next four league matches are at home to Crystal Palace, Stoke and Burnley where there is the potential for the Manchester men to run riot.

4 Rowett can't improve Derby's travel sickness
Derby have won three Sky Bet Championship away matches since Christmas and boss Gary Rowett, a man who prides himself on defensive discipline, must have been embarrassed by Saturday's 4-1 capitulation at Bristol City.

The Rams have conceded ten goals in their last three away outings and Rowett said after the Ashton Gate mauling: "We have got to develop an underdog mentality away from home."

The battering in Bristol was the tenth successive time that Derby had failed to win as underdogs and they seem a bit too easy to play against on their travels.

5 Preston flying under the radar
Harry Redknapp's departure from Birmingham grabbed the headlines, which was harsh on Preston, who deservedly beat the Blues 3-1 to continue their fine start under Alex Neil.

Preston have lost once in the league this season - 1-0 at Derby to a penalty - but have taken a number of notable scalps with wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff, who were outplayed at Deepdale on Tuesday.

Neil's North End also drew at Leeds with ten men and had the better of a goalless stalemate at Middlesbrough.

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Arsenal's performance at Stamford Bridge was so much better than their shoddy show at Liverpool last month
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