Christmas is now just a matter of days away and as many eagerly anticipate the festivities, Premier League managers are busy prepping their sides ahead of the relentless festive football calendar.
As we enter the busiest of periods, and following on from yesterday’s part one, here is what every Premier League manager will be hoping for this Christmas:
Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
No. More. Injuries.
Despite Jose Mourinho’s best attempt at mind games, Liverpool’s treatment room could have been mistaken for a scene off Holby City given the number of patients queuing at the door this season, with the champions having been ravaged by injury problems.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota remain on the long-medium term injury list, whilst summer signing Thiago Alcantara has featured just twice since arriving from Bayern Munich and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only made his first appearance of the season last weekend.
James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Kostas Tsimikas also remain sidelined, though the Reds’ stocks are beginning to increase and Klopp will hope the worst of their problems are now behind them.
Liverpool win 7-0 and are six points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Not bad for a club that had an 'injury crisis' 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/J0mKAuBOOR
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 19, 2020
Currently four points clear at the summit, Liverpool face West Brom and Newcastle before the New Year and will be hoping to put more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.
Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Pep Guardiola will be unwrapping his gifts and hoping for some shiny new shooting boots for his side, who have uncharacteristically been goal-shy over the opening weeks of the campaign.
City racked up over a century of goals last season and have finished as the Premier League’s leading scorers in each of the past three campaigns, though have managed just 19 from their 13 fixtures – a little more than half the tally managed by league leaders Liverpool.
Their lack of goals has coincided with a huge improvement defensively with City boasting the best defensive record in the division, though balance is needed if they are to challenge for the title once again.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
It’s unlikely that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mino Raiola will be swapping Christmas cards this festive season, but the Manchester United boss will surely be hoping the antagonistic agent enjoys a quiet winter.
Meddling Mino is rarely far from the headlines and caused outrage with a recent interview declaring Paul Pogba’s future at the club was ‘over‘, a hugely unwelcome distraction for the Red Devils.
To his credit, Pogba’s form has improved since the comments and Solskjaer will hope it is the on-field performances of the midfielder that remain headline news, as his side bid to continue their recent momentum that has delivered six wins in their past seven Premier League fixtures.
Steve Bruce – Newcastle
For Newcastle – see Burnley.
Takeover talks have dominated the headlines over the past year with a Saudi-backed consortium seeing their bid collapse, amid concerns raised through the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
There has been little progress since or talk of new interest, leaving Newcastle with an unpopular owner keen to sell and unlikely to invest significantly.
Bruce will be desperate for fresh blood in his side and the funds that new investors would bring, though the Magpies manager must be careful what he wishes for, with new owners potentially wanting their own man in charge.
Chris Wilder – Sheffield United
Is three points really too much to ask for this Christmas for Chris Wilder?
The bubble has well and truly burst for the Blades following their overachievement in finishing ninth last season, sitting rock bottom of the division after making the worst ever start to a Premier League campaign.
Wilder’s side have scored just eight league goals despite an xG figure of 14.81, the biggest underperformance in the Premier League and a major reason behind their woeful start.
→ Two points from 14 games
→ No clean sheet all season
⚔️ Do Sheffield United have any chance of staying up this season? pic.twitter.com/jIkJxiZcK4
— oddschecker (@oddschecker) December 20, 2020
Without a win or clean sheet this season questions must also be asked over their recruitment, the club-record £23.5m spent on Rhian Brewster having failed to return with the unproven youngster yet to score a top-flight goal in 10 appearances.
Ralph Hasenhuttl – Southampton
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s shopping this Christmas is likely to include a truck-load of cotton wool, enough to wrap up star striker Danny Ings following his injury scares this season.
Ings’ injury history is well documented with the forward having battled back from two serious knee injuries, enjoying the best season of his career last term to finish as runner-up for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
The 28-year-old has begun the new season brilliantly once more with nine goal involvements in 10 starts, though is on the treatment table once more with a hamstring problem after missing three games last month with a knee injury.
Southampton’s season has started brightly but without Ings they lack the cutting edge required to sustain a push for Europe.
Jose Mourinho – Tottenham
Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham during the summer was greeted with much fanfare, the two-time PFA Player of the Year returning to north London after seven seasons of success at Real Madrid.
Once the world’s most expensive footballer, Bale’s latter time in the Spanish capital saw him fall out-of-favour and spend more time on the golf course than the Bernabeu pitch, though his fortunes have failed to significantly improve at Spurs.
The Welsh international has started just once in the Premier League so far this season, a hugely underwhelming return for a player who was once one of the division’s brightest talents.
The Gareth Bale Tottenham thought they re-signed vs the one they actually got pic.twitter.com/tdPWgUBWDV
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) December 20, 2020
Mourinho’s side have relied upon diligent defending and the clinical edge of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min so far this season and a renaissance for Bale would add another much-needed avenue to goal for the north Londoners.
Sam Allardyce – West Brom
West Brom’s home humbling by Aston Villa will have clearly demonstrated the task facing Sam Allardyce at The Hawthorns, a largely Championship-level squad bidding to secure survival this season.
Allardyce is the Premier League’s most notorious firefighter for good reason and will no doubt revert to what he knows best, handing the board a list of transfer targets next month as he bids to implement deep defensive lines, a direct approach and making sure West Brom win the second balls.
A 38-year-old Kevin Nolan will be waiting by the phone.
David Moyes – West Ham
David Moyes may just bump trolleys with the aforementioned Hasenhuttl as he also seeks medical supplies this Christmas, with the fitness of Michail Antonio a major concern for West Ham.
Antonio almost singlehandedly dragged the Hammers away from relegation worries last season and has carved himself a niche as the club’s all-action powerhouse forward, occupying entire backlines and providing a much-needed outlet.
Club-record signing Sebastien Haller’s lack of mobility completely transforms the way West Ham attack and Moyes will be hoping Antonio can recover quickly – or a much-maligned board can provide him with a stylistically similar alternative next month.
Nuno Espirito Santo – Wolves
It’s been a strange season for Wolves so far with the club having looked some way short of their very best, though Nuno Espirito Santo will tuck into his Christmas dinner safe in the knowledge his side remain just six points adrift of the Champions League places.
Wolves remain organised and difficult to beat, but the sale of Diogo Jota to Liverpool and fractured skull injury to Raul Jimenez has left the club short of firepower, with summer signing Fabio Silva just 18-years-old and adapting to the Premier League.
Nuno will no doubt be hoping to find a centre-forward shaped package under his Christmas tree over the next few days, with super-agent Jorge Mendes having not been shy in sending gifts to Molineux in recent seasons.