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Snap Judgments: Title contenders cruise on Premier League Saturday

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It was par for the course today in England, with title contenders playing out comfortable wins at City of Manchester Stadium, Stamford Bridge, and Upton Park. Elsewhere, two early season darlings needed comebacks to salvage a point, while Queens Park Rangers remains the league’s worst team.

We’re not done watching all the games yet, but now that the day’s last match is done, here are our snap judgments:

Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland: Aleksandr Kolarov made the most of a rare start by putting City up on five minutes, making the case that his skill from a dead ball might offset the open play difference between him and Gaël Clichy (not that I buy the argument). Sergio Agüero doubled City’s lead on the hour (after coming in for a sad Mario). One minute from time, Man of the Match James Milner made the most of his own rare start. Though City made seven changes from the team that started mid-week against Borussia Dortmund, it was still a strong rebound from their Champions League blah.

Wigan Athletic 2-2 Everton: They weren’t terrible, but this isn’t the Everton we’d seen most of the season. They’re either changing or we’re starting to see them for what they are. Now they’re the person you meet a little too late at the party. The next time you see them, you’re just not that into them. Everton, I think we’re better off as friends.

On Saturday, the Toffees needed a late penalty on Maynor Figueroa, the Honduras international’s foul on Kevin Mirallas setting up Leighton Baines’ game-winner.

West Bromwich Albion 3-2 Queens Park Rangers: A late Esteban Granero goal made this one closer than it played. The Baggies scored twice in the first 22 minutes and never relinquished the lead. Adel Taarabt (another member of Saturday’s Rare Start Club) pulled QPR within one in the 35th minute, but when Youssuf Mulumbu restored West Brom’s lead in the 85th minute, this match was over. West Brom sits fourth. QPR? Last. Ineptly so.

Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City: Grant Holt’s 11th minute goal went only angered Chelsea. They scored in the 14th (Torres), 22nd (Lampard) and 31st (Hazard) minutes, effectively putting the match away. The Blues outshot the Canaries 9-2 (on target) and had 69 percent of the Opta possession.

Norwich sits 19th in the table and has looked very bad in a number of matches. You want to say they’re in trouble, but given how many teams look bad coming out of Stamford Bridge, there will be better times to pile on the Canaries.

Swansea City 2-2 Reading: Yet another reminder that the great start that saw Swans begin the season with two lopsided wins was nothing more than that: a great start. They’ve faded badly since, and on Saturday they found themselves own 2-0 at halftime to Reading, a team that has yet to look the part since promotion. Second half goals from Michu and Wayne Routledge salvaged a point for Michael Laudrup’s team (who are winless in five).

West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal: A good three points for Arsenal from a tricky fixture, West Ham tougher than your normal promoted team. The Hammers carried a 1-1 score into the last 15 minutes when Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla (who had another stellar match) added winning and insurance goals. Olivier Giroud also got on the scoresheet, his first goal since moving to Arsenal this summer.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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