In the midst of January transfers talks, potential targets and the spending power of club owners, the game itself has retained the capacity to amaze and bemuse even the most hardened Premier League fan.. The transition between 2011 and 2012 has been hailed as one of the most unpredictable footballing spells of recent times. So, to rouse you from your January slumber we thought we’d take a look back at some of the wackiest results from the festive calendar and remember just what we’d be missing out on if we behaved like the rest of the world and took a Christmas break.
First to Manchester. United gave their fans an early gift with a comprehensive and routine win over Wigan, while rivals Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal could only secure home draws against war-torn Blackburn, Fulham and Wolves. But it was the game on New Year’s Eve which wiped out the Reds fans’ festive cheer. Suffering from injuries to the squad, and with Ferguson playing a severely weakened team, the reigning champions were unable to see off a spirited Blackburn Rovers. With Yakubu deadly as ever from the penalty spot, and a rare show of defiance from their defence, Blackburn overcame the giants. However, Rovers fans only basked in the glow for all of week – seven days later action groups were urging fans to boycott Blackburn’s FA cup tie in favour of watching non-league Chorley FC.
Crowd favourite Bobby Zamora provided the winner in the 92nd minute…
But, much to the delight (and relief) of the red half of Manchester, their blue adversaries were adopting an equally Scrooge like approach to seasonal gifts for their fans. On New Year’s day, with most fans nursing sore heads and the noisy crowds naturally subdued, Manchester City’s unbeaten run was abruptly ended. In the 93rd minute, the Sunderland sub, Jing Dong-Won rounded Joe Hart to fire in a last-minute winner. With cries of offside ignored, he ran to celebrate with the fans, leaving City in tatters and ruing their missed opportunities.
Down in London things were only marginally better. Chelsea capitulated, and indeed were totally outplayed by an Aston Villa side who had shown no semblance of form for much of the season. And on 2 January, Arsenal’s feint title hopes seemed to meet a grizzly end. Two late goals from a determined Fulham side marked a heroic comeback. Crowd favourite Bobby Zamora provided the winner in the 92nd minute and Craven Cottage (and a sizeable chunk of North London) erupted.
…to be bottom at Christmas and avoid the drop in May.
So after all the fever, elation and trepidation of the past few weeks, how is the table looking now? Tottenham Hotspur seem to have come through this period relatively unscathed: they are now level on points with Manchester United and just three points adrift of league leaders City. Arsenal and Chelsea look to have forfeited their title challenges, while United’s conquerers, Blackburn, must overcome the odds to become only the second team in a decade to be bottom at Christmas and avoid the drop in May.
The chorus of voices calling for a winter break continues but for many football fans, they are a major part of the festive season. Furthermore, with top players now receiving such exorbitant salaries, a little extra effort over Christmas seems a small price to pay…