Can they win the title? Yes they can, writes Matt Stanger, who puts Tottenham in the Winners section but still gives them a kicking. Top of the losers? You know who...
It was a frustrating night for Chelsea, but a 1-1 draw away from home in the knock-out stage is not to be sniffed at. Plus, more misery for Moyes and Manchester United...
Context is everything. Had this been a routine win over a West Ham side struggling in 19th place, Arsenal would have enjoyed their return to the top of the Premier League but discovered little about their qualities in maintaining a title challenge. Instead, they were dragged into a battle that became another demonstration of their impressive resilience this season.
As Arsene Wenger said after the victory, Arsenal would have been rightly criticised if they had failed to win at Upton Park, but that doesn't mean they should be denied praise for their persistence. After failing to win any of their last four matches in all competitions and suffering a chastening defeat to Manchester City, it was vital that the Gunners eventually found a way through.
Seasons can turn on such results. In the Class Of 92, the Manchester United players on which the film is focused recall a crucial FA Cup win over Liverpool in January 1999 that defined the second half of the campaign. United had been forced to come from behind after conceding an early goal to Michael Owen, but scored twice in the last two minutes to engender the belief that was pivotal in winning the treble.
Arsenal's victory may lack the same gravity, but it also came at a time when they needed it most. Last year it was the win at Bayern Munich that followed embarrassing defeats to Tottenham (given the defensive display) and Blackburn in the FA Cup; this year, the Gunners' season could hinge on a brilliant fight-back at West Ham - with Olivier Giroud's profligacy possibly persuading Wenger to buy the extra striker he requires in January.
Perhaps the significance of the result will be lost in forthcoming weeks and months, or perhaps, come May, we might remember Boxing Day as a turning point in Arsenal's season.
That City survived their toughest test yet at the Etihad to climb into second reinforces the view that the title is theirs to lose. It may have seemed a feeble attempt at mind-games when Brendan Rodgers made that claim in the buildup to the Boxing Day clash, but no-one was arguing with the Liverpool manager. If a team can cope without their best player to defeat an opponent sitting in first after 17 games, little needs to be said about their strength in depth.
Indeed, City should win the league with the options available to Manuel Pellegrini, but that doesn't negate the credit that is due to the manager for the style he has impressed upon his players. Under Roberto Mancini, the Blues often delivered dour performances despite their obvious quality. Pellegrini, on the other hand, has proven his reputation as a innovator, effecting the breathtaking attacking displays that he promised in the summer.
The move for the winning goal was illustrative of the change in City this season. The speed at which they broke from their own half and the movement of Alvaro Negredo emphasised an understanding in the final third that has only been rivalled by Liverpool and Arsenal. However, while City's rivals produce such form on occasion, they have been more consistently ruthless, as Thursday's result and a goal difference of +32 underlines.
You have to fear for Crystal Palace on Saturday. However...
The biggest victors of the winning bottom three, having climbed out of the relegation zone and hauled themselves to within three points of Aston Villa. Palace are eighth in the form table for the last eight games, following the four points they picked up under caretaker manager Keith Millen with a further three wins (all to nil) under Tony Pulis.
The remarkable improvement in Palace's performances since Ian Holloway's departure is certain to raise questions at Villa and Norwich over whether they too should seek to make changes before the rot sets in, if it hasn't already.
What's this? A loser in the winners section? It's madness! This column shouldn't preoccupy itself with nuance; we want to see a list of the teams who won and a list of those who lost. (Here you are, then)
We could dwell on a first defeat in five matches and the numerous spurned chances that saw a positive result slip away. We could dwell on Simon Mignolet's costly mistake and the ongoing problems at defending set-pieces. We could even dwell on Brendan Rodgers' bizarre rant that is certain to earn him a fine as well as a possible touchline ban. But it would all feel forced after that display. There should be no discussion of the negatives here - Liverpool were simply superb against City and will be near enough guaranteed a place in the top four if they can maintain that level of performance.
We have already discussed the importance of context in Arsenal's victory over West Ham and the same applies to Liverpool's showing at the Etihad. We know how strong City are at home and it was always apparent that they would be in the title race this season. Liverpool, on the other hand, have been a welcome addition at the top, surprising City on Boxing Day and everyone with their form in the first half of the campaign.
Anyone who previously accused the Reds of being a one-man team will surely have been silenced by a fine team performance led by the attacking trio of Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, who ran out of steam after the break. There may have been mistakes in defence, but it was clear from the start that Liverpool were not going to suffer a shellacking of the sort City inflicted upon Arsenal, United and Spurs. The Reds were a clear match for their rivals, created as many clearcut chances and came close to causing City to drop their first points at home.
The most enjoyable aspect of Liverpool's display was that they played to win. They believed in their quality, buoyed by the comprehensive victory over Spurs at White Hart Lane, and showed no fear against the title favourites. That confidence was also founded in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last year but, whereas that felt like a one-off demonstration of the team's capabilities, Thursday's match hinted at more longevity amid an enormously impressive season to date.
With Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge working their way back to fitness and the possibility of new arrivals in January - combined with the improvement of those already among the squad - this is Liverpool's best opportunity to return to the Champions League places. A title challenge is still beyond them in the short-term, but Rodgers has proven he is capable of leading the Reds into the bigger battles and Jose Mourinho should be fearful of the test that awaits Chelsea on Sunday.
Another victory by a one-goal margin to climb ahead of Liverpool into third. And we thought Arsenal were supposed to be boring.
Winners after equalling the total number of goals Hull had conceded at home to secure victory against the Tigers, but still some way short of the quality displayed by the current top four. Results may have improved in recent weeks, but performances are still wanting.
Sarah Winterburn received plenty of stick for her views on the champions' victory here, but surely anyone who supports United should be able to understand the point being made. There has been a drastic decline in the team's performances this year and Champions League football next season is far from guaranteed. Will United have the opportunity to sign the players they need in January, or will those players ask to wait until the summer in order to gain a better perspective on how David Moyes intends to shape the club's future?
While the argument that United haven't been at full strength recently may carry some weight, let us not forget that Liverpool produced a display better than anything we have seen from the champions this season without two of their three most important players at the Etihad. The moment you pile praise on the champions for a plucky fight-back against Hull is the moment you begin to accept mediocrity, but it seems some are quite welcome to that idea in this new era under Moyes.
The introduction of the youngster's ingenuity changed the complexion of the match. Yes, United shouldn't need to rely on Januzaj, but few teams in the Premier League wouldn't be improved by the talented 18-year-old.
Beneficiaries of Stoke's implosion to win their seventh game in nine and close the gap to Liverpool to just three points. Talk about revival.
The 24-year-old has now scored five goals in seven appearances since his disappointing England debut against Chile. If he can keep up that sort of goalscoring form, it won't take long for Rodriguez to earn a second chance.
An unlikely victory that could galvanise the Black Cats' fight for survival. The next two - against Cardiff and Villa - are both massive.
They probably didn't expect Sunderland and Palace to win as well.
A foolish outburst that should result in strong sanction. Perhaps it was a carefully devised response to attribute Liverpool's defeat to an external factor rather than their own profligacy and mistakes, or maybe Rodgers merely lost his cool. The off-side decision against Sterling was certainly deplorable, but accusations of bias were far-fetched. Suarez should have had a penalty after being grappled in the box, but what of Martin Skrtel's offences of the same?
The striker has now scored in only one of his last 12 Arsenal appearances. Now that's a regression to the mean.
The longer he stays, the more his reputation is likely to be harmed. Mackay should cut his losses and look for new employment rather than see this out to an end that is destined to be even more bitter.
Tottenham and Daniel Levy
There is no such thing as 'the Tottenham way' and there is seemingly no shred of a plan at White Hart Lane. For Levy to have appointed a manager who readily admits he is a 'gamble' is a dereliction of duty. It is in essence a resignation letter: 'I cannot do my job to the standards required as evidenced by my decision to appoint Tim Sherwood'.
That Spurs managed to hit the target with just three of their 20 attempts against West Brom (who managed four), reinforces the fact that there is no quick-fix to the team's attacking issues, no matter how many strikers and No 10s Sherwood crams into his starting line-up.
It is difficult not to think that Spurs are in a mess following recent developments and the race for the top four is the least of their worries at the moment.
A second defeat of the season that will leave a bad taste in the mouth. It won't be easy to return to winning ways against a resurgent Southampton, either.
Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton
It's unlikely that both will still be in a job come the end of the festive schedule. The break for the FA Cup at the start of January is the perfect opportunity to look for a new manager.
Another hilarious touchline hissy fit. The Premier League is a duller place without Hughes' tantrums.
For a moment it looked as though Boxing Day could be the turning point in the Hammers' season. And then came Joey O'Brien's miss.
"We had three golden chances after we scored - Matt Jarvis in the box, one-on-one, Joey O'Brien's free header in the six-yard box and Carlton Cole's side-foot tap," said a despondent Sam Allardyce.
"We've let it slip through our fingers, haven't we?"
The 13th highest paid manager in the world has some work to do if he's to hold on to that paycheck.
Matthew Stanger - he's on the Twitter
As long as the Glazers are prepared to stump up the cash, players will still want to join Manchester United. If United don't make the Champions League that would put a dent in the ability to attract players but as Liverpool have shown with Suarez, it's still possible to attract players with great potential (which United have always tried to sign anyway, rather than the finished article) even without Champions League football, to a club with prestige, as United are. As for Dortmund/Atletico being bigger clubs than United, don't be stupid, there are only two clubs in the world bigger than United, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and really only because they've benefited from a grossly unfair TV deal in Spain which is designed to maintain the status quo, whereas United have always voted to distribute the TV money in a fair way, despite baseless criticism to the contrary.- solskjaer99