Any calls for a winter break in the Premier League should be rubbished after what has been one of the most entertaining periods of festive football in many years. We have witnessed the stuggles of title contenders, the resurenge of relegation-battlers, touchine tiffs and most importantly some top quality goals.
Where else can we start but with the rise and rise of Manchester City? Six consecutive League victories over the Christmas period gave Manuel Pellegrini the manager of the month award for December, though he will surely be more satisfied with his side’s impressive home victories over rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. These wins showed the two sides of City – their free-scoring attacking force was clearly evident when they put six past the Gunners but it was their dogged and determined defensive display against Liverpool that shows their true title-winning capability. Grinding out similar results against Tottenham and Chelsea in the coming weeks would certainly please Pellegrini. Indeed, with by far the best goal difference in the league and with the Sky Blues now aiming for four trophies, the Chilean has a lot to be optimistic about. However, he must ensure that the upcoming European tie with Barcelona does not distract his players from consolidating their position near the top of the League.
City fans have also been delighted by the misfortune of their cross-town rivals. Manchester United have faced serious public scrutiny following three consecutive losses and pressure has mounted on David Moyes to spend big in the January transfer window and to drop the underperforming Smalling, Rafael and Kagawa. Change is needed at Old Trafford if they are to push for a top four spot this season. Also in the mix for a Champion’s League place are Spurs who have improved markedly following the departure of André Villas-Boas. Wins against Stoke, Southampton, United and Crystal Palace have seen Tim Sherwood’s men climb progressively up the table. The re-introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor to the side has been key to this revival but perhaps the departure of Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC highlights the need for Tottenham to bolster their squad with a couple of January additions.
“Where else can we start but with the rise and rise of Manchester City? Six consecutive League victories over the Christmas period gave Manuel Pellegrini the manager of the month award for December, though he will surely be more satisfied with his side’s impressive home victories over rivals Arsenal and Liverpool.”
Spurs face a challenging trip to Goodison Park next month in what could be a decisive tie in the battle for fourth place. Everton have continued to improve under the guidance of Roberto Martinez but the recent injury of the impressive Ross Barkely and the departure of Nikica Jelavic to Hull could dent the Toffees’ attacking prowess. Hull City, in spite of the ongoing saga of their propsed name change to “Hull Tigers”, have punched above their weight so far this season, but struggled over the festive peiod with only one win in seven games. Newcatle too have been on the wrong end of results (and refereeing decisions!) in recent weeks. Losses to Arsenal, West Brom and City have dampened Alan Pardew’s New Year celebrations, which was quite evident in the Londoner’s foul mouthed touchline attack on Manuel Pellegrini. Newcastle need to channel this frustration in their upcoming fixture list, which sees the visit of their north-east neighbours Sunderland.
Gus Poyet’s side have picked up points on the road at Everton, Cardiff and Fulham in recent weeks, giving them a shot at Premier League survival that did not seem possible a few months ago. In a truly extraordinary season so far, only six points separate bottom from 10th spot, making relegation predictions impossible at this stage of the campaign. However, if current form is anything to go by, then West Ham, Fulham and Cardiff have much to worry about. The Hammers’ poor run of results over Christmas has raised speculation on Sam Allardyce’s position. If the manager is depending on the return of Andy Carroll from injury to lead the club into recovery, he may need to think again and spend big in the transfer window. In South Wales, no matter how shameful the sacking of Malky Mackay, one cannot deny that the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his replacement was a shrewd one. The United legend has impressed in his managerial career with Norwegian side Molde and could be the linchpin for a Cardiff revival. Towards the top, Arsenal continue to impress but were dealt a huge blow with the injury to Theo Walcott. If the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Giroud can continue to produce goals there shouldn’t be any need for investment in new players this month. Chelsea too have shown their worth with a resilient festive win over Liverpool and convincing victories at Hull and Southampton, hepled by a resurrengent Fernando Torres. However, Mourinho’s treatment of Juan Mata has drawn criticism so don’t be surprised to see a transfer request handed in by summer time. Hot on Chelsea’s heels are Liverpool who recovered from a disappointing festive season with a highly entertaining win at Stoke. The return of Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard from injury spells danger for opposition teams as the highly acclaimed (and painfully named) SAS strike partnership is restored. Indeed it has been an eventful winter period in the Premier League. The coming weeks should give us a clearer picture of how the rest of the season will develop as the title race intensifies and the relegation battle comes to the fore. You’ll be forgiven for choosing Match of the Day over a night in the library!