Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend
Published 03/01/2016 | 19:11
Sunderland claimed a crucial win in their battle against relegation, while Manchester United earned their manager some breathing space and Chelsea got back to winning ways.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at what was learned over the weekend in the Barclays Premier League.
1. Sunderland have a chance as long as they have Jermain Defoe
The table did not make pleasant reading for Sam Allardyce's men heading into their critical clash with bottom side Aston Villa, but former England striker Jermain Defoe fired them to a vital win. The 33-year-old may not be scoring in the numbers he was in the past but he is still a sharp operator and, with the right service and if fit, he can give the Black Cats a much-needed cutting edge in their relegation battle. His two goals against Villa were both well-taken and timely, and his experience is a big asset.
2. Bournemouth can scrap it out
Eddie Howe's men have earned plenty of plaudits for their stylish football but they needed to show some backbone after being reduced to 10 men against high-flying Leicester. They responded magnificently, blunting an attack boasting two of the competition's most impressive performers this term in Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. The Cherries remain above the dropzone and such fighting spirit might keep them there.
3. Louis van Gaal has a bit more time
The Manchester United manager has reportedly been on the brink of the sack over the past fortnight but there does not seem to be an appetite for change at the top level of the club. United want Van Gaal to succeed and his side's victory over Swansea, coming after an improved display in a goalless draw against Chelsea, should stave off any need for a rethink for a little longer yet. United are still fifth and a decent run of results could put them back into the title picture.
4. Chelsea can still get into the European shake-up
In this highly unpredictable season, none of the leading contenders appear able to find any consistency. Arsenal laboured to victory over Newcastle and Manchester City needed a late comeback against Watford, while Leicester and Tottenham dropped points. While they struggle to break away, the group behind them are also bunching up. If Chelsea play to their capabilities, and beat more of the sides above them as they did Crystal Palace, they could climb quickly.
5. Aguero is slowly coming back
History shows that Sergio Aguero always needs a good run of games after returning from any lay-off to get back up to speed. After two largely ineffectual performances, the Argentinian moved up a gear by heading a fine winner for Manchester City against Watford. He may still be some way short of the form that saw him score five against Newcastle in October but may get there. After a scoreless run on return from injury last season, he finished the campaign with nine in seven games.