Arsenal and Chelsea showed more great form ahead of Champions League matches with thrashings of Norwich and Cardiff that left the London clubs first and second, respectively, in the English Premier League yesterday.
Now unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions, Arsenal dismantled Norwich 4-1 at home, while Samuel Eto'o scored his first Chelsea goal and was involved in a controversial equaliser to spark a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal have not lost a game since their opening Premier League 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa in August that angered the Gunners fans and might have played a role in German playmaker Mesut Ozil's transfer to the club from Real Madrid. Ozil scored a brace against Norwich and has been key to Arsenal's resurgence.
"A few weeks ago, we lost our first home game here and it was a difficult time, but we responded well and since then we have been consistent," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said ahead of last Tuesday's Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund. "I like the solidarity in the team, of course we have quality, but it's how much we maintain that and sustain that, that will decide our future."
Gunners two points clear
The Gunners are two points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool after the Reds had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw against 10-man Newcastle.
Adam Lallana grabbed a late equaliser for Southampton in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United, adding to the defending champions' troubles in a lacklustre start to their title defence.
Also yesterday, Everton beat Hull 2-1, Stoke were held to a 0-0 draw by West Brom and Swansea defeated last-place Sunderland 4-0.
At St James' Park, Daniel Sturridge's header salvaged a point for Liverpool against 10-man Newcastle, but the England striker also missed a great opportunity to give the Reds the win in the closing stages when he completely misjudged his volley after being brilliantly picked out in the area by Steven Gerrard.
Yohan Cabaye's long-range strike had put the Magpies ahead before Gerrard scored his 100th league goal for Liverpool, equalising from the spot after defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off for a foul on Luis Suarez in the 40th minute.
Restoring the home lead
Substitute Paul Dummet restored the home side's lead in the 57th with a shot at the far post against the run of the play, but Sturridge headed home Suarez's precise cross in the 72nd.
"It's a chance missed for us today," Gerrard said. "I thought we did enough to win it, but credit to Newcastle for hanging in there. After the sending off the game changed. They started strongly, but we dominated the rest of game but couldn't get enough goals to win it."
Ahead of their Champions League trip to Schalke, Chelsea extended their unbeaten Premier League run at home to 13 matches after recovering from a goal down and equalising with a controversial goal which should have been disallowed.
Jordon Mutch had put the visitors in front before Eden Hazard levelled in the 33rd, being set up by Eto'o who caught out Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall while he was bouncing the ball, leading to Hazard scoring from close range. FIFA rules state the goalkeeper is still in possession at that point.
Eto'o made it 2-1 in the 66th, before Oscar put the match to bed and Hazard scored his second of the afternoon.
Manchester United's disappointing start to the season continued as Southampton scored a late equaliser at Old Trafford. United had taken the lead after 26 minutes when Robin Van Persie scored from the rebound after Wayne Rooney's shot was saved by Artur Boruc.
Rooney then hit the crossbar with a volley moments later and Van Persie headed against the bar in the second half before Southampton levelled in the 89th as Lallana bundled in a corner from James Ward-Prowse.
United are provisionally eighth in the standings, eight points behind Arsenal.