As we approach the busy festive period in The Premier League there is no better time to start assessing the season so far.
It is a time for the soccer fan to rejoice, that’s for sure. There will be a full slate of fixtures on Saturday 22nd, 29th December as well as the traditional games on British Public Holidays Boxing Day (Wednesday 26th December) and New Years Day.
But it’s crunch time on the field. These four games can make or break a team’s season, with over 50 per cent of teams who have been bottom of the league at Christmas since 2007 have finished last at the end of the season. Swansea (2017/18) Aston Villa (2015/16), West Ham (2010/11), Portsmouth (2009/10), West Brom (2008/09) and Derby (2007/08) failed to climb off the foot of the table by May. This fact doesn’t make good reading for Fulham fans. They play in form Newcastle, High-flying Wolves and London Neighbors, Arsenal. Their leaky defense again shipped 2 goals this weekend against West Ham this weekend, it would seem that Leicester City’s miracle worker of 2015/16 Claudio Ranieri’s appointment as boss has not changed the misfortune of the newly promoted Cottagers. It may be that their home tilt against fellow strugglers Huddersfield could prove to be a proverbial 6 pointer. Burnley are the other team that make up the bottom three and I can see 16th place Cardiff City getting sucked into a relegation battle.
Things should get interesting at the top of the table too. Liverpool and Man City fans will be acutely aware that 8 out of the past 11 teams top of the Premier League at Christmas have gone on to win the title. Man City have scored 48 goals so far this season, 11 more than anyone else. But Liverpool have kept 10 clean sheets, 2 more than The Citizens. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool also play Wolves, Newcastle and Arsenal (freaky Coincidence) while Pep Guardiola’s men seem to have the easier schedule of Crystal Palace, Leicester and Southampton. The game between the two teams at The Etihad on January 3rd could be a title decider and is undoubtedly the biggest game of the festive period.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on the rest of the league too, as battles for Champions League and Europa League places heat up. What is happening at Old Trafford, Manchester United are only in 6th place and have had a below par start to the season by their high standards. Is Jose Mourinho on borrowed time? Is Pogba a dressing room cancer? I for one am pleased to see a manager with the guts to bench the most expensive player in the world and not give in to “Player Power”. Jose’s post-match interviews alone are always worth tuning in for. Newly promoted Wolves sit 1 spot behind them in 7th place and are playing some great soccer under Nuno Espírito Santo, their classy midfielder Joao Moutinho should be in the conversation for deal of the season so far, having only cost £5.04 million from Monaco in the summer (I think Thierry Henry might like him back!)
And to think, after all that soccer we will then have the January Transfer Window. The only question is, can Harry ‘King of the Jungle’ Redknap find a job before then?
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