Premier League recap – December
EADF presents another installment of the Premier League monthly recap. Here is your one-stop review of all 20 teams for the month of December.
Liverpool – Can they actually do it?
22 goals scored. 7 wins from 7 games. 3 goals conceded. Top of the Premier League table. December was pure perfection for the Reds. Home wins against Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal along with rather more routine wins against the likes of Newcastle, Wolves, Bournemouth, and Burnley saw Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City to claim the summit of the Premier League table.
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Heading Into the new year, Liverpool sat seven points clear of City with a chance to make it 10 when they visited the Etihad in their first match of 2019. Their momentum towards a historic first Premier League triumph was halted by a 2-1 defeat. The lead now just four points, a figure that favors Manchester City much more.
Liverpool cannot afford any more slip-ups as the second half of the season gets underway. Klopp and his men will know better than to rest on their laurels at the moment, with City hot on their heels from here on. Whether they can sustain or indeed widen the gap will be key to finding out whether the Premier League trophy will adorn red or blue ribbons come May.
Manchester City – Down But Never Out
Manchester City began December still with an outside chance at repeating history and becoming only the second team to finish a season undefeated. Back to back wins against Bournemouth and Watford meant the gap at the top was slowly growing.
Reality then hit for the Citizens, and it hit hard. A 2-0 defeat away to Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea meant the dreams of invincibility were gone. That result was by far the least shocking of the month, where after a return to winning ways against Everton in mid-December; City lost back to back games for the first time under Pep Guardiola.
Their first defeat at home came at the unlikely hands (or feet of Andros Townsend with THAT goal) of Crystal Palace. This was followed by a 2-1 defeat away to Leicester, during which time Liverpool had caught up and surpassed City in the table.
Of course, Manchester City are never down and out completely, and Liverpool were chased back to just four points in that potential season-defining clash.
Playing catch up is not what Pep expected at this stage, but confidence will remain that his side can defend their Premier League crown this season.
Tottenham Hotspur – A shroud of uncertainty
Tottenham had a mixed December that included a derby defeat and scoring 11 goals in two matches. Third place looks comfortable for Spurs this season.
Distractions off the field may have certainly played a part, with manager Mauricio Pochettino being labeled as the number one choice to take over at Manchester United in the summer, who happen to be their next opponents.
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A 6-2 demolition at Everton, followed by a 5-0 rout against Bournemouth helped to forget the uncertainty surrounding the club at the moment. Having yet to move into their brand new home, Spurs ended their final home game for 2018 at Wembley with a 3-1 defeat by Wolves.
Tottenham will play a vital role in shaping the Premier League on and off the pitch this second half.
Chelsea – Out of the Race Already?
Chelsea seem all but out of the title race this season, after home defeats against Wolves and Leicester saw the Blues fall to fourth in the table heading into the new year.
The 2-0 win to end Manchester City’s unbeaten run was certainly the highlight of the month, but Chelsea have been relatively quiet up front in terms of goals. A nervy 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in their final game of 2018 was followed by a disappointing scoreless draw at home to Southampton.
Chelsea are still evolving and transforming under Sarri this season, and a Top 4 finish would be respectable. Next season will see new signing Christian Pulisic join the club, after being bought and immediately loaned back to German league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal – Inconsistent Gunners
December saw the Gunners defeat rivals Tottenham 4-2 at home, lose at Southampton 3-2, draw with Manchester United 2-2 at Old Trafford, and finally end the month with a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool.
The first half of the season saw the Gunners go on a 20 plus unbeaten run in all competitions, but the second half already looks different in terms of results and form.
Arsenal conceded five without reply after leading early on at Anfield but began 2019 in winning ways with a 4-1 victory over bottom strugglers Fulham.
Unai Emery will be hoping for more consistency from his players in the coming months, in order to keep up with the current Top 4 in the table.
Manchester United – Ole Ole Ole Ole
December saw Manchester United sack their manager Jose Mourinho after a poor first half of the campaign, and replace him with a true legend of the club’s illustrious past.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in as interim manager for the remainder of the season. A man who won the treble for United, scoring the winner in extra-time, made an immediate impact on the fans and players.
Optimism, character, and identity suddenly reappeared at a club that seemed lost under Mourinho. While it must be said Solskjaer has not performed any sort of miracle yet at the club in the short time he has been there, but 4 wins from 4 with 14 goals scored and just three conceded is reason enough to smile about for fans at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer has also made it clear that he wants to be in contention for the permanent job on offer in the summer, and with the likes of Pogba and Lukaku rediscovering their goalscoring abilities, it is hard not to consider him a strong candidate if results continue as they are in the second half of the campaign.
Solskjaer and Pochettino remain the two names so far on the list, and both managers will have their say when Spurs host Manchester United tomorrow.
Leicester City – Unpredictable
Leicester City had an unpredictable December, to say the least. They began December with a win, draw, and defeat in their first three games against Watford, Fulham, and Spurs respectively.
The final four games of December saw the Foxes lose 1-0 away to Crystal Palace, before winning back to back games against Chelsea and Manchester City. Their final home game for the year was a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff. Leicester bounced back again with a 1-0 win away to Everton in their first game of 2019.
Leicester could continue their form of unpredictability in the coming months, with games against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham to come.
Watford – No platform after a great start
Watford began the season in a blistering fashion, winning their first four matches. Since then, however, the Hornets have only managed another four wins since the beginning of September.
December ended with two wins against Cardiff and West Ham but draws against the likes of Everton, Newcastle and Bournemouth meant that Javi Garcia’s men have been unable to grow from their promising start this season.
Wolves – Finding their form once more
December saw Wolverhampton Wanderers beat both Chelsea and Tottenham, along with wins against Newcastle and Bournemouth to leave them in the top half of the table heading into 2019.
Wolves look set to be safe this season, but home fortunes will need to be improved to ensure Premier League survival. With matches against Leicester City, West Ham, and Newcastle all to come at home, making Molineux a fortress once more will be a priority in the second half.
West Ham United – Moving in the right direction at last
After a terrible start to the season under Manuel Pellegrini, December saw West Ham pick up four wins to finish in the middle come 2019. 10th place at the moment will feel like a move upwards for the club, whose attacking flair and ability have propelled the club to relative safety halfway through the season.
Loses to Watford and Burnley ended the year before a home draw with Brighton at the London Stadium rounded off a good festive period for the Hammers.
Everton – A Month to Forget
Everton had an abysmal December, starting with a 1-0 derby defeat to Liverpool in the dying moments of the game after a crucial error by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford gave Liverpool all three points in a drama-filled encounter.
This was followed by two home draws with Newcastle and Watford, before losing 3-1 to Manchester City and 6-2 to Tottenham. Their only respite came in a 5-1 win at Burnley, but that result meant little with the Toffees losing consecutive games 1-0 to Brighton and Leicester.
Marco Silva will look to the January transfer window to fix the problem, but a mid-table finish outside the Top 6 will be a failure for a club and manager with high ambitions and expectations.
AFC Bournemouth – A Dip in Form
Bournemouth have won just two in their last 11 games stretching back to November, with both wins coming in December at home against Huddersfield and Brighton.
December was challenging for the Cherries, with matches against Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United all resulting in heavy losses; with 16 goals conceded in these fixtures.
Manager Eddie Howe will be hoping for a return to form in the new year when they visit Everton tomorrow.
Brighton and Hove Albion – Seagulls throw caution to the wind
December saw Brighton pick up three wins from seven games, defeating Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, and Everton.
While Brighton will feel they have done enough to avoid the drop so far this season, complacency will be far from the mind of manager Chris Hughton. Upcoming games against teams just below them like Fulham and Burnley will be key six pointers that Brighton will see as opportunities to further cement their Premier League status.
Crystal Palace – Looking over their shoulder
Three wins, three defeats, and a goalless draw with Cardiff ended a decent month for Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.
The standout result of their campaign is, of course, the 3-2 upset over Manchester City at the Etihad, but failure to win points off teams in and around them on the table will leave Palace in a nervous position starting the second half of the season.
Palace started the new year brightly, with a 2-0 away win at Wolves.
Newcastle United – A Lack of quality in the squad
Rafa Benitez may look elsewhere for reinforcements this January with Newcastle sitting just two points above the relegation zone.
December ended with just one win for the Magpies in a crucial six-pointer clash with relegation threatened Huddersfield.
With their last home win coming in early November, fans at St. James Park will demand much better from their players in the second half, to avoid relegation back to the Championship since 2016.
Burnley – How much difference a year can make
From almost making it through qualification for European football last season, Burnley now find themselves at the other end of the table.
A 7th place finish last season suggested manager Sean Dyche had got the club punching well above its weight, but just halfway through the season, this time around sees Burnley sitting two points above the relegation zone as well.
A tough fixture list in December saw the Clarets face Liverpool, Arsenal, and Spurs. Wins against Brighton, West Ham, and Huddersfield helped push the club out of the relegation zone to where they stand now.
Cardiff City – Out of danger… just.
Cardiff managed three of their five wins so far this season in December, picking up points against Wolves, Southampton, and Leicester to finish just above the relegation zone in 17th as 2018 ended.
Cardiff remain amongst the heavy favourites to be relegated this season and make an immediate return to the Championship.
Southampton – Too late for Hasenhüttl?
December saw the arrival of a new manager on the south coast, with Ralph Hasenhüttl taking charge at Southampton.
The former RB Leipzig manager has been tasked with keeping the Saints alive this season, a task that began for the Austrian with a 3-2 win in his first home league match against Arsenal.
Another three points at Huddersfield followed by consecutive home defeats to West Ham and Manchester City ended their December. The new year began with an impressive goalless draw at Chelsea.
Fulham – What can Claudio Ranieri do?
Fulham hoped the arrival of former Premier League winning manager Claudio Ranieri would bring about an instant change of fortunes for the bottom dwelling club.
Just one win in December came in a crucial clash against Huddersfield at Craven Cottage at the end of the month. After having spent over £100 million in the summer under previous management, Ranieri will likely have to find the answer with what he has in front of him.
Positive results will need to come thick and fast if Fulham hope to stay in the Premier League and avoid an immediate drop back into the Championship in May.
Huddersfield – Missed Opportunities
Eight consecutive defeats meant Huddersfield picked up zero points in December. What will hurt the club more, is that those points were against fellow strugglers at the bottom of the table such as Fulham, Southampton, and Burnley.
Often in the Premier League when things are tough, they only seem to get tougher and Huddersfield will experience that first hand with fixtures against Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea, and Arsenal to come.
Chances of survival look slim for David Wagner and his men, who have enjoyed Premier league football for the first time in the club’s history since last season.
With the festive period behind us, it is now down to the business end of the Premier League season. Races for the title and to avoid relegation begin to heat up in what promises to be yet another spectacular year of English top flight football.