After the afternoon naps and over-indulgence of Christmas Day, the real fun and excitement was released on Boxing day as nine Premier League fixtures were contested. Drama continues at either end of the table as the goals rained in on a soggy Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a look at five things we learned from the action.
City desperately missing Fernandinho
The Champions continue to damage their chances of retaining their title. While it’s far too early to dismiss them, this current blip in form could be very costly indeed. Another defeat, this time to Leicester City, saw them slip to third in table and fall seven points behind Liverpool. They are lacking confidence for sure, but they are also clearly missing the work of their key defensive midfielder; Fernandinho.
A thigh problem has seen the Brazilian miss City’s last four league games. His side have lost three of those matches. Tellingly, they have also looked far more exposed and vulnerable on the counter without the proper marshaling work done by their number twenty-five.
Albrighton’s equalizer came from a run he made, right through the heart of City’s ranks, with nobody picking him up at all. You’d bet on their stalwart midfielder to snuff that kind of danger out if he’s on the pitch. Man City will need their man back as their last two stand-ins; Stones and Delph, have been spectacular failures, with Delph now suspended. It’s concerning times for Pep and his men at the half-way stage.
Spurs march on with intent
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said it was just one of those days for his side, following their 5-0 drubbing at Wembley. While it’s true that Howe’s men had their chances early on, they were ultimately blown away by the superiority of Spurs fire power and confidence.
Son has come in to form now for Tottenham and added that extra kick that his side were missing at the start of the campaign. They now looking hungry and sharp in the final third as opposition defences struggle to contain what effectively becomes a front five in attack. Eleven goals in two games and eight wins in their last nine, has seen Pochettino’s men leapfrog City into second and look excellent value for the title race. Whether or not their squad is strong enough, remains to be seen, but they have momentum and confidence at the moment.
Cardiff continue to punch above their weight
In the all the chaos at the bottom of the league this season, Neil Warnock’s work at Cardiff has been somewhat overlooked. Outside the Welsh Capital, few have paid much notice to the form of the Bluebirds, but if you’d offered their supporter’s fifteen points and 17th place at this stage of the season, they have bitten your hand off for it.
While their style and quality is reminiscent of a different era, Warnock has got his men well enough in tune, to be able to scrap away for crucial points. Their away draw at Palace, whilst being a dead cert for last on Match of the Day, is worth it’s weight in gold to Cardiff.
Warnock has been around the block more times than anyone, and will know just crucial these results can be. Their home form has confounded expectation, and they’ve gotten some great results, beating Southampton, Brighton and Wolves in recent weeks. The 70-year-old manager has got his side performing way above expectation, given their quality and if he can keep his un-fancied side in the Premier League it will be, by far and away, his best achievement in the game.
Burnley rout leaves them with some real questions to ponder in January
Until recent weeks, some things looked nailed on certainties this season. Burnley’s survival in the Premier League, despite their poor start, was one. Sean Dyche was more than capable of clipping the stabilizers on and restoring their solid defence of 17/18. However, that poor start has descended into a terrible run of form leaving them locked in the bottom three and shipping goals all over the park.
Dyche has been a revelation at the proud Lancashire club and few will be calling for his head, but their form and some of the decisions made going into this season do beg some real questions that will need answering if the club is to survive. Dyche needs to find an urgent solution for a defence which has shipped a staggering forty-one goals in nineteen games. They conceded just thirty-nine times last season. Sobering stuff for Burnley fans, who will be getting more than just a little worried after yet another woeful display, this time at home to a rampant Everton. They have a crucial month ahead of them and will need to use this coming transfer window a lot better than they used the last one.
United give the home fans some festive cheer, but issues remain
A routine 3-1 home win against Huddersfield looked beyond Manchester United’s capabilities in recent weeks. However, as the dense, toxic clouds around the club, have blown over, the supporters have been treated to some goals and good football over Christmas. Solksjaer will be delighted with his home debut and has a favourable run of games to build confidence and momentum, but, the Norwegian will be under no illusions, the fault lines remain at his beloved club.
Huddersfield Town were left to rue missed chances, as the bottom club were afforded plenty of openings by a Manchester United defence which continues to look vulnerable. Better forwards take at least one of the chances spurned by the Terriers and OGS will need to focus some of his attention on that department for the remainder of the season, if they are to truly turn a corner. He should be encouraged by the displays of Rashford and Pogba though, as the fans breathe an air of excitement at Old Trafford after months of stagnation.