Saturday analysis: Nasri shows up Ozil, Essien shows he's still got it
Nasri shows Ozil how to be a constant threat
The lunchtime summit meeting between free-scoring Manchester City and leaders Arsenal was billed as a battle of the playmakers, but in the event, it was only City's who shone.
Santi Cazorla was an unused substitute, Jack Wilshere's only headline moment was an 'obscene gesture' supposedly aimed at the home fans, and Mesut Ozil struggled to stamp any authority on the game.
Conversely, the returning David Silva and former Gunner Samir Nasri were both somewhere near their best. Although the Spaniard may make more headlines by virtue of scoring in his first league match in six weeks, Nasri's imperious showing shouldn't go unnoticed.
The Frenchman attempted 10 take-ons and created no fewer than 7 goalscoring opportunities for team-mates - one of which ended with Fernandino finding the net for City's fifth goal. He also regularly burst into the box in hunt of a goal, and although he wasn't able to hit the target, his bustling play and clever movement afforded the beleaguered Gunners defence not a minute's rest.
City's defence had a few edgy moments of their own, but not too many were caused by Ozil, who was unable to torture them in the same way as Nasri did his teammates. Although he did provide one assist - squaring to Theo Walcott when in acres of space on the left - he did little else of note, other than over-hitting a pass which led to Fernandinho's first goal of the match. Much like on his previous trip to Manchester, Ozil flattered to deceive.
The German has been a superb addition to Arsenal's starting XI and the Premier League as a whole, but the Gunners will need him to start performing to a higher level in the biggest games if they're to win the championship.
Cardiff and Baggies aren't cross kings
The match between Cardiff and West Brom featured a total of 56 crosses, with only 8 finding a player in the same coloured shirt (14.3%).
Although Cardiff's goal came from a cross, these figures do perhaps suggest there are more effective ways to use the ball.
Michael Essien's not finished yet
There were a few puzzled looks when Jose Mourinho brought 31-year-old Michael Essien back into the first-team fray at Chelsea, and a few more smug ones when the Ghana midfielder struggled to keep up with the pace of the recent Premier League encounter with Southampton. But his showing against Crystal Palace suggests he still has plenty to offer the Stamford Bridge side.
Essien completed 81 of 87 passes - more than any other player in the match. He also made 2 successful tackles and 5 clearances, and won 2 of his 3 aerial duels.
But his contribution wasn't entirely defensive: 19 of his completed passes were in the attacking third, and he completed more successful take-ons than any other player on the pitch (5). Cynics may well say "it was only Palace", but the Eagles performed impressively, particularly in the middle of the pitch, where they looked to keep things congested and stop the Blues playing. Essien dictated the play and in part repaid the faith of the manager he calls 'Daddy'.
Everton benefit from removing the shackles
In recent weeks a lot has been said about the changes Roberto Martinez has made to Everton's playing style since replacing David Moyes at Goodison Park. But one area they have been having great success in over the last few weeks is also one they specialised in under the Scot.
Under Moyes, the Toffees' full-backs were given freedom to attack at will - with Leighton Baines and to a lesser extent Seamus Coleman building reputations as being threatening to opposition defences.
Coleman and Bryan Oviedo - continuing to fill in at left-back in the absence of Baines - were both prominent in attacking areas throughout the Toffees' win over Fulham. Both showed for the ball in the attacking third as often as they did in the defensive third. Oviedo got forward often enough to be able to attempt 6 crosses, while Coleman created 2 chances and also found the net himself.
Southampton still need Lallana's energy
With the festive fixture calendar about to put the fitness and sanity of the nation's footballers to the test, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino opted to make a few changes for the trip to Newcastle.
Morgan Schneiderlin and England international Adam Lallana were left on the bench, with the Argentine opting to pair Rickie Lambert and Pablo Osvaldo in attack.
The result of this was that Saints lacked the urgency and high-pressing that has become their trademark, with Osvaldo in particular not known for constantly hassling and harrying opposition players.
Sure enough, when Lallana replaced the Italian international at half-time, Southampton clicked back into gear, and were able to equalise and at times put Newcastle on the back foot.
Pochettino seems keen to find a way of getting both Lambert and Osvaldo into his team, but it seems he may have to keep experimenting.
It's time for Allardyce to trust in Carlton
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has previously come under some criticism for fielding a striker-less formation, with big-money summer signing Andy Carroll injured for the whole campaign thus far.
The system worked in the 3-0 win at Tottenham, when the Hammers were able to pack out the midfield, frustrate their hosts and strike from set-pieces and counter-attacks, but it has brought little joy since.
Allardyce may have felt justified in persisting with his 4-6-0, following another dismal showing from striker Modibo Maiga in Saturday afternoon's dour stalemate with Sunderland. The Malian - who has now not scored in 19 Premier League games - was deployed as the Irons' attacking focal point, but was successful in just 6 of his 16 competed aerial duels.
There's little doubt that Carroll - famed for his strength and dominance in the air - would have fared better, but there's also an argument that Carlton Cole would have done so too. Cole won 2 of his 3 aerial duels in his 15-minute cameo appearance.
Perhaps Cole - who, unlike Maiga, has actually scored a goal this season - is the man to fill Carroll's boots until the Geordie wrecking-ball returns to action.
Hull leaning heavily on Elmohamady
Saturday's evening fixture between Hull and Stoke was a painfully uneventful affair, but it did at least highlight the extent to which Hull look to right wingback Ahmed Elmohamady to carry the ball forward in comparison to Maynor Figueroa on the left.
The Egyptian received the ball 43 times, dwarfing the 26 occasions the ball was played to Figueroa.