Rival Watch: Back to back wins take Arsenal to the top of the Premier League

Koscielny celebrates his winner against Newcastle / ARSENAL.COM
Arsène Wenger’s side slip up against Southampton, but successive wins over Bournemouth and Newcastle leave them leaders after the festive fixtures in England

With Luis Enrique’s team playing two games in just four days either side of New Year, the fixture list has had more than a whiff of the Premier League about in La Liga this season. Indeed, Barça’s opponents in the last 16 of the Champions League, English side Arsenal, have gone one better during the festive period, playing three league games in the space of a week, recording wins against Bournemouth and Newcastle but going down to a heavy defeat against Southampton.

Arsenal came into their Boxing Day fixture away at Southampton 26 December in confident mood, having beaten title rivals Manchester City 2-1 at home just four days previously. However, they were swept away on the South Coast by the team coached by former Barça player Ronald Koeman, losing 4-0 in the first of their holiday period fixtures.

Back in action just two days later on 28 December, Arsène Wenger’s side bounced back to beat newly promoted Bournemouth 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Former Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Özil was in imperious form that day, supplying the corner for Gabriel’s header to open the scoring, then adding a well taken second himself after the break to secure all three points.

On Saturday the Gunners reclaimed top spot in the Premier League with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Newcastle at the Emirates. Laurent Koscielny’s 72nd winner was enough to make it two wins in a row for the London club and leave them on 42 points from 20 matches, two points ahead of this season’s surprise package Leicester City.