The view at the top of the Premier League table means that no fewer than five teams will have designs on top spot in Thursday’s traditional Boxing Day fixtures.
For the first time in the post-1992 Premier League era, just two points separate the top five teams on Christmas Day, and the erosion of Arsenal’s seven-point lead has also given hope to seventh-place Tottenham Hotspur and eighth-place Manchester United.
Arsenal’s bruising 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea on Monday left Liverpool top at Christmas for the first time since 2008.
However, the new leaders face a stern test on Thursday when they visit a Manchester City side who have won all eight of their home games to date this season, scoring 35 goals.
City, 4-2 victors at Fulham in their last outing, will leapfrog Liverpool if they prevail at the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers remains without Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique due to injury, but in 19-goal top scorer Luis Suarez he can call upon the outstanding player of the season so far.
City’s own leading man, Sergio Aguero, is currently sidelined with a calf complaint, and having seen Liverpool rout Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 in their last away game, manager Manuel Pellegrini predicts a “very difficult” encounter. Second-place Arsenal, behind Liverpool on goal difference, will hope to capitalise on any slip-ups by Rodgers’s side when they visit London rivals West Ham United.
Fourth-place Chelsea, meanwhile, host Swansea City, with fifth-place Everton hosting bottom club Sunderland.
Chelsea have failed to sparkle during the first half of the season, but with Liverpool only two points ahead of them, captain John Terry knows that Jose Mourinho’s side remain very much in contention.
Tottenham, four points below the top five, host West Bromwich Albion, with Tim Sherwood set to experience life as a full-time Premier League manager for the first time after being appointed as the permanent successor to Andre Villas-Boas on Monday.
Narrowing the gap
Defending champions United, meanwhile, will look to close the eight-point gap that separates them from arch rivals Liverpool when they visit Hull City.
United have won four consecutive games in all competitions since the shock of successive home defeats by Everton and Newcastle United, and manager David Moyes hopes it will stand his side in good stead against a Hull team who have only lost once at home all season.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Malky Mackay will take charge of Cardiff City against Southampton for the first time since being granted a stay of execution by owner Vincent Tan.
Mackay looked destined for the sack after being told by Tan to either resign or face dismissal, but chairman Mehmet Dalman revealed on Monday that the club are working to resolve the situation through talks.