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SportsJanuary 15, 2016

Premier League Week: How the Christmas cookie crumbled for every Premier League club

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The Premier League schedule returns to some semblance of normality this weekend, after a typically hectic holiday period. Here’s how each side fared over the break, in the order they sit on the table.

Arsene Wenger's trademark jacket gets a good workout in the snow at Anfield.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Arsene Wenger’s trademark jacket gets a good workout in the snow at Anfield. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

1. Arsenal (43 points)

Won v Man City 2-1

Lost v Southampton 0-4

Won v Bournemouth 2-0

Won v Newcastle 1-0

Drew v Liverpool 3-3

10 points from a possible 15 has proven just enough to keep Arsenal afloat at the top of the Premier League table over the holidays. The Gunners’ pre-Christmas win over fellow title contenders Man City was huge, but in a move which can only be described as ‘Classic Arsenal’ they followed it up by slumping to a 4-0 Boxing Day defeat at the hands of unthreatening Southampton.

2. Leicester City (43 points)

Won v Everton 3-2

Lost v Liverpool 0-1

Drew v Man City 0-0

Drew v Bournemouth 0-0

Won v Tottenham 1-0

The holiday period always loomed as a grave test of Leicester’s credentials as genuine premiership title contenders, the games coming like a series of rapid blinks to make sure we weren’t all dreaming their first half of the season. After wins over Everton and Spurs and a draw with Man City, it is now mid-January and Leicester City remain, but for goal difference, top of the league.

3. Manchester City (40 points)

Lost v Arsenal 1-2

Won v Sunderland 4-1

Drew v Leicester 0-0

Won v Watford 2-1

Drew v Everton 0-0

Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain the bookies’ favourites to win the league, narrowly ahead of Arsenal in most markets. Despite a loss and a draw to their two biggest rivals over the holidays they’re still only three points off the pace, and could peg them back in a weekend. Arguably robbed of two points against Everton when alleged Barcelona transfer target John Stones looked to have brought down Raheem Sterling in the box deep into injury time. A season-deciding moment?

4. Tottenham Hotspur (36 points)

Won v Southampton 2-0

Won v Norwich 3-0

Won v Watford 2-1

Drew v Everton 1-1

Lost v Leicester 0-1

Spurs feel like a genuine dark horse for the title this season, and close to a sure-thing to securing a return to the Champions League. Before their loss to Leicester, sunk by a late Robert Huth header, Spurs had probably the most consistent run of form through the holiday stretch, picking up 10 of the available 15. Maybe need to work on their man-marking, though:

5. West Ham United (35 points)

Drew v Swansea 0-0

Drew v Aston Villa 1-1

Won v Southampton 2-1

Won v Liverpool 2-0

Won v Bournemouth 3-1

West Ham went undefeated over the holiday period, claiming 11 points from a possible 15 – the best in the league. Slaven Bilic has his side playing some tidy football and with dangerous Dmitri Payet back from injury they are likely going to make the rest of the season very uncomfortable for those teams above them on the ladder.

6. Manchester United (34 points)

Lost v Norwich 1-2

Lost v Stoke 0-2

Drew v Chelsea 0-0

Won v Swansea 2-1

Drew v Newcastle 3-3

There’s nothing actually wrong with Manchester United, is there? They’re only two points off fourth place, but all anyone seems to be talking about is what a terrible time they’re having. Sure Louis Van Gaal’s approach is often desperately boring and Wayne Rooney is struggling and they’ve only managed 5 points from their last five games with losses to Norwich and Stoke, but… OK maybe there is something wrong with Manchester United.

7. Stoke City (32 points)

Lost v Crystal Palace 1-2

Won v Man United 2-0

Won v Everton 4-3

Lost v West Brom 1-2

Won v Norwich 3-1

Stoke are the low-key coolest team in the league at the moment, and they only strengthened that unlikely claim over the holidays with a powerful win over Manchester United and a seven-goal-thriller against Everton. They had a hideous start to the season (3 points from their first six games) but in the last couple of months the talented likes of Shaqiri, Arnautovic and Bojan have started to gel in some glorious ways.

8. Crystal Palace (31 points)

Won v Stoke 2-1

Drew v Bournemouth 0-0

Drew v Swansea 0-0

Lost v Chelsea 0-3

Lost v Aston Villa 0-1

Palace have high aspirations this season and Alan Pardew will be spewing over only managing to secure five points from the last five games. The loss to bottom-placed Villa was particularly galling, with the single goal they conceded coming from a spectacular fumble by goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, in which a seemingly benign balled slipped right through his hands and bobbled playfully between his legs before trickling gently over the line, clearing the paint by little more than a centimetre. Great goal.

9. Liverpool (31 points)

Lost v Watford 0-3

Won v Leicester 1-0

Won v Sunderland 1-0

Lost v West Ham 0-2

Drew v Arsenal 3-3

The cool thing about Liverpool this season is that no one has a clue what the hell is going to happen each time they take the pitch. In a way that’s also the bad thing about them. The ideal outcome is a match like their breathless 3-3 thriller with Arsenal, in which they surrendered two leads in the first 25 minutes in what the commentator brilliantly described as “a craze of goals.” In the end forgotten man Joe Allen produced one of those classic Liverpool goals in front of the Kop in the final ten minutes to snatch a valuable point.

10. Watford (29 points)

Won v Liverpool 3-0

Drew v Chelsea 2-2

Lost v Tottenham 1-2

Lost v Man City 1-2

Lost v Southampton 0-2

While all eyes have been on Leicester City as the surprise package of this season, Watford have been quietly overachieving as well. They fell apart a bit over the holidays, registering just 4 of a possible 15 points, but look at who they played – tough draw. They’re still a side to watch over the back end of the season, and have one of the best mascots in the league.

11. Everton (28 points)

Lost v Leicester 2-3

Won v Newcastle 1-0

Lost v Stoke 4-3

Drew v Tottenham 1-1

Drew v Man City 0-0

It feels like it must be some kind of mistake that Everton are so low on the ladder. They’re below even Liverpool! They have a good squad – best striker in the league Romelu Lukaku, big English hopes Ross Barkley and John Stones, etc – and yet here they are in 11th. Their last two results are perhaps indicative of the role they seem destined to play this season, nicking vital points off title contenders in hard-fought draws.

With 15 goals so far this season Romelu Lukaku is level with Jamie Vardy as the league's top scorer.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
With 15 goals so far this season Romelu Lukaku is level with Jamie Vardy as the league’s top scorer. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

12. Southampton (27 points)

Lost v Tottenham 0-2

Won v Arsenal 4-0

Lost v West Ham 1-2

Lost v Norwich 0-1

Won v Watford 2-0

The Saints are all over the show this season, which is probably just what happens when bigger clubs are continually pinching your best talent. Those left this season are a kind of Jekyll and Hyde outfit, drubbing Arsenal 4-0 one week, losing to Norwich the next. They will almost certainly destroy some big club’s season in April or May, and it will briefly feel as good as winning the league.

13. West Bromwich Albion (27 points)

Lost v Bournemouth 1-2

Lost v Swansea 0-1

Won v Newcastle 1-0

Won v Stoke 2-1

Drew v Chelsea 2-2

West Brom are a classic ‘win against the good teams, lose against the bad teams’ Premier League club, a trait what rarely sees them finish higher than 10th. They fought hard to deny Chelsea their first back-to-back win of the season earlier in the week, and remain three points ahead of the London side on the table. Their goal for the rest of the season should be to maintain that lead.

14. Chelsea (24 points)

Won v Sunderland 3-1

Drew v Watford 2-2

Drew v Man Utd 0-0

Won v Crystal Palace 3-0

Drew v West Brom 2-2

Only two teams went undefeated in their last five Premier League matches: West Ham and Chelsea. Guus Hiddink’s side are starting to string together a run of form which if they can keep it up, who knows, could see them break into the top half of the table by the end of the season. Dare to dream.

15. Norwich City (23 points)

Won v Man Utd 2-1

Lost v Tottenham 0-3

Won v Aston Villa 2-0

Won v Southampton 1-0

Lost v Stoke 1-3

Norwich put together a nice little run of results over the holidays to give themselves some breathing room from the abyss of the relegation zone. The first half an hour or so at Stoke looked evenly poised, too, until Gary O’Neil bore down on Ibrahim Affelay from 25 metres away and torepdoed him with a bizarre and unnecessary two-footed tackle. Reduced to ten men, Stoke overran them with ease in the second half.

16. Bournemouth (21 points)

Won v West Brom 2-1

Drew v Crystal Palace 0-0

Lost v Arsenal 0-2

Drew v Leicester 0-0

Lost v West Ham 1-3

Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, with a capacity just short of 12,000, is by far the smallest stadium in the Premier League. Last season it was the smallest in the Championship too. They’re the biggest underdog club the Premier League has seen in years, maybe ever. If football fans can find one piece of common ground down the stretch, it should be to will these brave Cherries to continue to stay clear of the drop.

17. Swansea City (19 points)

Drew v West Ham 0-0

Won v West Brom 1-0

Drew v Crystal Palace 0-0

Lost v Man Utd 1-2

Lost v Sunderland 2-4

Swansea’s season is a write-off at this stage. Some gritty draws and a win over West Brom over the holiday period kept their heads just above the relegation waters, which is where they look like staying right down to the bitter end.

Swansea caretaker manager Alan Curtis (three stripe trackies and football boots) and Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce (suit pants and Hush Puppies).  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Swansea caretaker manager Alan Curtis (adidas trackies and ‘old school’ football boots) and Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce (nicely pressed trousers and shiny shoes). (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

18. Sunderland (18 points)

Lost v Chelsea 1-3

Lost v Man City 1-4

Lost v Liverpool 0-1

Won v Aston Villa 3-1

Won v Swansea 4-2

Sunderland’s surprisingly goal-laden 4-2 win over Swansea this week was the first time they’ve come from behind to win in the Premier League in 21 months. Cool, but that also probably shows why they sit in 18th on the table and seem like prime relegation candidates unless Big Sam can pull something out of his Big Hat.

19. Newcastle United (18 points)

Drew v Aston Villa 1-1

Lost v Everton 0-1

Lost v West Brom 0-1

Lost v Arsenal 0-1

Drew v Man Utd 3-3

Newcastle were good for Paul Dummett’s late equaliser, which secured a 3-3 draw with Manchester United this week. The point the draw earned them was only their second in five games, though. Steve McLaren’s lot were the only team without a win in the Premier League over the holiday period and now sit squarely in the relegation zone. On one hand that must suck for the fans; on the other it makes every game for the rest of the season a kind of do-or-die must-win gladiatorial battle, so that’s exciting.

20. Aston Villa (11 points)

Drew v Newcastle 1-1

Drew v West Ham 1-1

Lost v Norwich 0-2

Lost v Sunderland 1-3

Won v Crystal Palace 1-0

Aston Villa are going down, that much just seems like a sad inevitability now. To their credit they continue to at least try. They were rewarded against Palace with a truly magical goal, surely the result of some kind of primitive terrace witchcraft. At this stage that looks like their only hope.

Match of the Week: Liverpool vs Manchester United (3am Monday NZT LIVE on Premier League Pass) (Schedule)

Not exactly the glamour tie it once was, there’s still something exciting about this match-up between the league’s two most angst-ridden clubs – Liverpool ravaged by hamstring injuries, United slowly dying of boredom. Prediction: this will either end in an abysmal 0-0 stalemate or a weird and thrilling 5-5 draw, and will produce at least one moment of hilarity and/or a sublime moment of brilliance.


Finally some good Peter Crouch news to report: the great man has returned from hamstring injury and celebrated by scoring a goal in last weekend’s FA Cup tie at Doncaster Rovers. Crouch found the back of the net with a volley executed in his trademark style, an ungainly tangle of long limbs. He also missed an absolute sitter later in the game, but Stoke emerged on the right side of the 2-1 scoreline. He then made it a two-game week when he came on as a late substitute with Stoke leading 3-1 against Norwich, just his fourth Premier League appearance all season. He looked delighted to be on the pitch, laughing and joking and unsuccessfully attempting to recreate the wonder goal he scored all those years ago for Liverpool. A great week for Crouch fans everywhere.

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