With every team having played two Premiership fixtures between Thursday and Sunday, all the clubs have now played 19 of their 38 matches, making this the half-way point of the season. To review last week’s action and preview the New Year’s Day games, for this post I am going to go through the teams in the order in which they currently stand in the Premiership table.
1. Arsenal – 42 points
On Boxing Day, Arsenal made the short trip to east London to face West Ham and recovered from a goal down early in the second-half to come away with a 3-1 victory, with two goals from Theo Walcott and another from Lukas Podolski, returning to the fray after an injury had kept him out since the end of August. On Sunday, the Gunners maintained their position at the top of the table with a 1-0 away win against Newcastle, with Oliver Giroud netting his 11th goal of the season, but the French striker is expected to miss the New Year’s Day visit of Cardiff due to injury, as are Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs.
2. Manchester City – 41 points
With two home fixtures over the festive period, it was somewhat inevitable that City would pick up six points and maintain their 100% Premiership record at the Etihad this season, though both of their wins were far from easy. Against Liverpool, they fell behind to a Phillipe Coutinho goal, but were ahead by half-time thanks to Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo, then managed to hold on for the victory despite substantial pressure from the visitors. Last Saturday in their match with Crystal Palace, Manuel Pelligirini’s men were kept at bay until Edin Dzeko broke the deadlock in the 66th minute for the only goal of the game, the first time all season that City have scored less than twice at home. They were also somewhat fortunate to stop Palace from scoring in that match, since Cameron Jerome collided with Joe Hart in the first half, leaving the England keeper with restricted vision due to a cut around his eye, but he managed to see well enough to stop Tony Pulis’ men from getting past him. On January 1st, City will leave the comforts of Manchester to head to south Wales for a match with Swansea, a fixture in which they were held to a draw last season.
3. Chelsea – 40 points
Chelsea were far from their best in both their Boxing Day encounter with Swansea, and their match with Liverpool three days later, yet on both occasions they did enough to pick up the three points and are now just two points off the leaders in the Premiership. Eden Hazard scored the only goal of the game against the Welsh club, then it was his brilliant strike on Sunday that wiped out Liverpool’s early lead, with Samuel Eto’o getting the winner in the 34th minute. Chelsea will see in 2014 with a trip to Southampton, a fixture they lost 2-1 last season.
4. Everton – 37 points
There is a danger for the clubs from Everton on down that the title race could soon become a three-horse race, as a three-point gap now exists between the Toffees and third place Chelsea. The reason for that deficit is that on Boxing Day, Everton lost at home for the first time in 2013 as they were beaten 1-0 by the bottom club, Sunderland. There were mitigating circumstances to the loss however, as goalkeeper Tim Howard was sent off in the 22nd minute for a professional foul on Ki, who converted the penalty, and the Black Cats were able to hold onto their slim lead against 10 men for the remainder of the match. Normal order at Goodison Park was restored on Sunday, as Everton beat Southampton 2-1 thanks to a 74th minute winner by Romelu Lukaku, which moved them up into the Champions League qualification places. Roberto Martinez’s men, who travel to Stoke on New Year’s Day, look like contenders for a top four finish, though they probably do not have a strong enough squad to maintain a challenge for the Premiership crown. Continue reading