With the majority of the Premier League’s hectic Christmas programme now completed, the competition is set to take a back seat over the next week as the FA Cup third round takes place.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the winners and losers from the holiday period.
There is no doubting Manchester United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a good Christmas. Solskjaer was facing calls for the sack when United were dumped out of the Champions League early in December but the Norwegian turned that around with some good results on the domestic front. Fresh from reaching the Carabao Cup semi-finals and thrashing old rivals Leeds, United moved level on points with Liverpool at the top by extending their unbeaten Premier League run to 10 games. They were held to a draw by Leicester and needed a deflected injury-time winner to see off Wolves, but victory over Aston Villa on New Year’s Day gives them momentum heading into 2021.
The pressure on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was even greater than that on Solskjaer as the Gunners headed into the Christmas programme on the back of a loss to Everton and a heavy defeat by Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals. Some even feared the Londoners could get sucked into a relegation battle, having slumped to 15th place. But they turned it around with three successive wins, sparked by a brilliant – and unexpected – 3-1 victory over Chelsea. They then won at Brighton and thrashed West Brom 4-0.
The Clarets actually had an underwhelming Christmas on the field, losing 1-0 at Leeds and then narrowly beating bottom side Sheffield United. Sunday’s game against Fulham was then postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the west London club. But it was off the field the Lancashire outfit benefited following a takeover by American firm ALK Capital. After a difficult start to the season, with manager Sean Dyche making no secret of his frustration at a lack of investment last summer, the immediate future could be more promising.
Chelsea may not have considered themselves title contenders at the start of the season but, after some heavy spending and with Liverpool and Manchester City falling below their recent high standards, an opportunity may have been opening up. It is one the Blues have failed to seize, however. Defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City, along with a draw against Aston Villa, have seen Frank Lampard’s side lose ground. Coming after losses to Everton and Wolves earlier in December, Lampard is facing scrutiny.
Christmas failed to bring a change in fortune for the beleaguered Blades, who are rooted to the foot of the table with just two points from 17 games. They may have shown spirit in some of their performances, but defeats to Everton, Burnley and Crystal Palace have left them 12 points from safety. With games against Tottenham and both Manchester clubs to come in January, the prospects for Chris Wilder’s men – who impressed on their return to the top flight last season – look bleak.
The Baggies might have thought things were looking up after they brought in Sam Allardyce and ground out an impressive draw with champions Liverpool in his second match in charge. The gloom quickly descended, however. Back-to-back home hammerings by Leeds (5-0) and Arsenal (4-0) have left them very much scrapping for Premier League survival. With just over half the season remaining, they are six points off 17th place and have plenty of work to do.
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