Three-horse race for the EPL title, says Gary Lim
Arsenal look better equipped to pip Leicester and Man City to the title
From the puzzling Premiership so far, three teams dusted away some inconsistency to emerge in the leading pack.
Leicester City aren't your usual suspects.
They are the poor man's torch-bearers. Yet, on the back of an incredible run, they are at the top.
Arsenal and Manchester City stay in their slipstream, snapping at their heels.
Further down are Spurs (fourth), Manchester United (fifth) and Crystal Palace (sixth) - all nine points away from the leaders - who may be better off focusing on a fight for a Champions League spot instead of the throne.
A season that beggars belief has developed into a three-horse race.
But only one team have the look of champions.
Arsenal's ears are perked up. A Premiership drought since 2004 has heightened their senses.
Manager Arsene Wenger can just about detect the silhouette of glory in the sunset.
They edged out Man City 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time) in a battle of will and wits.
It may not be a title-decider this early in the season, but the resulting psychological boost may play a decisive part.
With the win, they move to within two points of leaders Leicester, and at the same time pull four adrift of Man City.
The Christmas and New Year period has a knack of being a make-or-break period for title contenders.
The fixture list is kind to the Gunners, who play Southampton away on Boxing Day, followed by Bournemouth (home) and Newcastle (home).
It also presents them an excellent opportunity to overtake Leicester and enter the new year as the leaders of the pack.
The Foxes have tough tests coming up.
They must travel to Liverpool, then play Man City (home) and Bournemouth (home).
For all the football romance that they embody, the finish line could prove a few steps too far.
They appear ahead of their time, too ill-equipped to last the distance.
Their reliance on star performers Jamie Vardy (15 goals) and Riyad Mahrez (13 goals) may prove to be their downfall.
An injury or a loss of form to either of them during the hectic festive period will cripple Claudio Ranieri's side.
And when they hit the wall, will they have the necessary resources to turn things around?
Despite their gallant displays, a sense of vulnerability still hangs over the club.
Of Man City's next three matches - Sunderland (home), Leicester (away) and Watford (away) - it is the clash with the Foxes that is most crucial.
However, the Citizens have to deal with plenty of distractions.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini doesn't look likely to stay in charge beyond this season, whether or not he delivers the goods.
His job, judging by the intense media speculation, is going to Pep Guardiola when he leaves Bayern Munich at the end of this campaign.
A potential fixture pile-up is also heading their way, if they overcome Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League Round of 16 as expected.
Arsenal have similar European commitments.
But, with buoyant Barcelona their knock-out stage opponents, they aren't fancied to last beyond the next round.
It may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as they can then focus on the domestic league.
Unlike in previous seasons, the Gunners have entered the Premiership battlefield better prepared than ever.
They have stopped the talent drain in recent years, and recruited shrewdly from the top drawer.
They now have the depth to cope with the rigours of a gruelling season.
They now have the stars to make the difference.
In German playmaker Mesut Oezil, the Gunners have Europe's assist-king, who has set up 15 goals for his teammates this term.
Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez should be back by mid-January and when he does, he will lift the team's game up another notch.
The form of French striker Olivier Giroud, who netted his 10th goal of the season against Man City, has injected genuine hopes of a first league crown for Arsenal since 2004.
This has to be Arsenal's time.
OEZIL: ARSENAL CAN WIN LEAGUE
Arsenal now have the self belief to win the Premier League title this season, midfielder Mesut Oezil said.
The Gunners are second in the table and two points behind leaders Leicester City after 17 games.
"We believe in ourselves. If you see the games against the big clubs, we won against them so we know our quality, if we play our game we can win the league," Oezil said after the game.
"We will give our best all the season for the title. We have had a lot of difficult games, we are happy to win against Manchester City and we take the three points.
"I'm happy to help the team. You see on the pitch that my teammates help me to play my game. I just help them in return so today was another important game for us."- Reuters.
KOMPANY KEY TO CITY TITLE FIGHT
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is praying for the return of injured captain Vincent Kompany to shore up his team's defence.
Their 2-1 loss to Arsenal was their fifth league defeat of the season.
Pellegrini, whose side have only kept two clean sheets in their last 12 league games, said: "We must improve because we are conceding too many goals.
"We hope that Vincent will return soon. If we have Vincent, David (Silva) and Sergio (Aguero) playing normally every week, then I suppose that we are going to continue being an important team for the fight for the title."
Central defender Kompany has been out with a calf injury since September. In the nine matches without him, City have conceded 18 goals. In the eight games they have played with him, they conceded just one. - Reuters.
FOXES LOVE THE FEEL
Doubters keep writing off surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City's title chances but it has proved as a source of encouragement for the players.
The club's on-loan winger Nathan Dyer said: "We are underdogs at the moment and people are waiting for us to fail. They are waiting for us to drop off and that keeps helping us to push and battle for every point in every match."
He added: "At the moment we are on cloud nine and, hopefully, we can stay there. It feels great to be top. The boys are playing really well at this moment.
"Everyone is together which helps massively. When you have confidence the sky is the limit really.
"This is a little bit crazy but, at the same time, it is keeping the buzz going and every day in training the lads are playing with a smile on their faces."
Leicester travel to Liverpool on Saturday, before taking on third-placed Manchester City on Dec 29. - Reuters.