Analysts all over the world will be scratching their collective brainheads and wondering what has happened to Manchester City over the Christmas break.
I can save them the trouble.
Having lived in Spain for four years I can assure you of one thing. The Spanish don’t do Christmas and I believe the karma of not really getting festive has come back and bit Peppy G on the backside.
It’s either that or they’ve suddenly developed a real weakness when it comes to thunderbastards from distance.
Ricardo Pereira absolutely smashed home Leicester City’s winner at the King Power after City only half-cleared a corner. Sounds familiar, eh Andros? Except this time, Ricky P is a right-back. A right-back with one hell of a shot.
Clearly, Fabian Delph realised he was the most likely to be made the scapegoat for City’s second defeat in a row and rather than be dropped for the next couple of games and be made to sit on the bench in the freezing cold, he got himself sent off meaning he’ll be banned for the next few. It was that kind of game intelligence that Fabian could have done with earlier in the game.
All that attacking flair in the City squad and they fall apart when Fernandinho is out injured. It’s a good thing January is coming, you’d think. Except Peppy G has already said he won’t be buying anyone so he’ll just have to work it out with average players like Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Phil Foden, John Stones or, you know, Kevin de Bruyne.
As for Whispering Claude Puel, four days before Christmas there was talk that he’d done what many a Leicester manager had done before him and ‘lost the dressing room’. Since then? Chelsea and City put to bed and not a peep from Kasper Schmeichel. That is a good Christmas for the Frenchman.
Can Liverpool fans recall any recent Christmases feeling this good? They popped home to eat yesterday’s leftovers safe in the knowledge that they are now six points clear at the top of the Premier League, news that is hurting Manchester (and various parts of the Home Counties and Asia) massively.
After all, Manchester United managed to keep Liverpool from winning the title for the best part of three decades. Man City have been top dogs for five minutes and already look like they’ve let Liverpool back to the top table.
Liverpool were clinical in seeing off Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle, a result that makes Rafa’s claim that Newcastle will need a ‘miracle’ to stay up this season seem quite accurate. In the same press conference, Rafa refused to confirm he’d still be at St James’ Park come the end of the season. Worrying times, just for a change, for the Geordies.
You have to suspect it might be Liverpool’s year as they’ve even started getting penalties at Anfield again. The one awarded was the first Premier League spot-kick for Kloppo’s side at Anfield for 424 days. That said, the Newcastle defender must have slipped a lead weight into Mo Salah’s shorts given the way the Egyptian went down after minimal contact. Don’t worry though, the Liverpool fans turn a blind eye to that considering some of the penalties they’ve not been given in the last year.
City’s defeat opened the door for Tottenham Hotspur to move into second and boy, did they? Spurs followed up their 6-2 hammering of Everton with a Boxing Day Massacre of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. With the Poch being linked to Old Trafford next season there could well be a vacancy at the New White Hart Lane and Eddie Howe’s name has been heavily linked to the hypothetical role. This was far from the best interview.
In the first 30 minutes, Kyle Walker-Peters managed to assist more goals than David Silva, Dele Alli, Eden Hazard, Leo Messi, Pele and Raheem Sterling combined. OK, that may not be 100% accurate but Walker-Peters notched up a hat-trick of assists quicker than your Grandfather managed to say something borderline racist at Christmas lunch.
Son Heung-min has been incredible recently and he was at it again with another brace and generally being a menace. Spurs will miss him when he has to disappear for yet another international tournament.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spent the afternoon of Boxing Day putting some big ticks in boxes on the list he was given by Mr. Ed. Get Paul Pogba playing well. Tick. Give debuts to young talent. Tick. Sort out scoring goals from corners. Tick. Don’t play incredibly dull football and struggle to break out teams that play very defensive. Tick.
Granted, United still look a little shaky at the back (incredibly, Solskjaer hasn’t fixed this in seven days) but they picked up where they left off at Cardiff and were good value for their win. Of course, all they’ve actually done is beat two teams at the bottom of the table but it shows how utterly dire their football has been in recent times that fans don’t seem to care about this and are just enjoying seeing the ball being passed forward once in a while.
Arsenal made some decent signings in the summer, showing that not having Arsene holding on to the purse strings so tightly might be a bonus. One of the better signings was from Juventus in Stefan Lichtensteiner. That flick on he managed for the equaliser was very good. I mean, it’s not easy to pick out your strike partner with a little cushion header when the ball was drilled at him with such pace. Oh. I am sorry, I seem to be confused. What actually happened was the sixth time an Arsenal player has ballsed up this season and gifted an opponent a goal.
Emery’s response made sense. Sub Ozil! Anything that goes wrong at Arsenal is instantly Ozil’s fault and hell, it’s not as if Arsenal needed someone to unpick Brighton’s lock in the second half, was it?
If bringing on Alex Iwobi for the German seemed surprising, replacing Alexandre Lacazette with Aaron Ramsey meant that Arsenal ‘chased the game’ with arguably three defensive midfielders on the pitch.
Both Eden Hazard and David Luiz brought up centuries in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road. Hazard scored his 100th goal in a Chelsea shirt, becoming just the 10th player to do so. Luiz, on the other hand, turned his back on a shot from distance for the 100th time and ended up with the perfect view of Roberto Pereyra’s shot nestling in Kepa’s bottom corner. Personally, I would fine Luiz a month’s wages every time he did this; a move which would certainly reduce the annual wage bill at Chelsea. I mean, David. It’s not as if these balls are any heavier than air nowadays, even if they are travelling at 100km an hour towards you. Wear one. You’ll get respect.
Having lost 6-2 to Spurs, you’d have been a brave person to bet on Everton ending Boxing Day having clawed back the four-goal deficit. But then, they were playing Burnley. When will the penny drop for Sean Dyche? The man I am pointing the finger at even mentioned it himself in a pre-match chat with Sky. “There have not been any real changes so there is no reason we should be where we are,” said Joe Hart. Actually, Joe. There has been one change. You joined. And since the arrival of Jonah Hart, Burnley have been absolutely toilet.
Everton saw them off with ease, 5-1. Sean Dyche seemed to think a miss by James Tarkowski was ‘big’ and ‘and had that gone in the game could have been different.’ That’s right, Sean. A miss by your centre-half was the turning point, not the five that went in when he was meant to be doing that defending bit of business. I mean, Yerry Mina’s hardly a small guy, is he? So, it’s not exactly cool to leave him completely unmarked in the area considering the main reason Mina managed to get a move to a Premier League side was because he scored goals in the box for Colombia in the World Cup.
Marco Silva will be off to Barcelona again in January to see if they have any more players they might like to let him have given the combined success of Mina, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes.
If you were a Crystal Palace fan, you probably had a great Christmas Day and headed off to Selhurst Park full of hope given that you’d beaten ‘the greatest Premier League team ever’ just the other day. And knowing your opponents were only Cardiff City, there was every reason to dream of back-to-back victories.
The thing is, football just doesn’t work like that. All good moods were gone after about 20 minutes when it became clear that this was not going to be a Christmas cracker. 0-0. You can imagine just how bad they made it look as well*.
*disclaimer; I didn’t actually watch the game so it might have been a wonderful attackfest that just happened to end up goalless. Somehow, I doubt it.
Claudio Ranieri walked to Craven Cottage hoping that his Christmas wish of consecutive clean sheets could be granted. And, had it, Fulham would have been celebrating three points as they led Wolves 1-0. The problem for Fulham was that Wolves are better at attacking than Newcastle and the equaliser was inevitable.