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, here is what every Premier League manager will be hoping for this Christmas:
Mikel Arteta – Arsenal
Mikel Arteta’s list may just be a little longer than most of his contemporaries, given the struggles Arsenal have faced during a nightmarish start to the Premier League season – their worst in the history of the division.
The encouraging signs of Arteta’s early months in charge have all but disappeared with the north London side having played some truly uninspiring football, their struggling side lacking any form of creativity or invention.
The summer signing of Willian has failed to prove the bargain many had hoped with the winger having looked more lost than Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2 since moving to the Emirates, and Arteta is likely to be wishing for some extra funds from the Arsenal hierarchy ahead of next months’s window.
Houssem Aouar has been mooted as a potential target, but even Lyon’s talented technician can not drag Arsenal away from a relegation dogfight singlehandedly.
Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Aston Villa have shown significant signs of progress this season after narrowly avoiding the drop last time around, their summer recruitment drive having strengthened Dean Smith’s side who remain firmly in the hunt for a top 10 finish at the very least.
Key, as ever, to that success has been Jack Grealish who continues to enhance his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest talents, the club captain having provided 11 goal involvements in just 12 league appearances for his boyhood side this season.
Jack Grealish is dominating the Premier League this season:
⬢ Most successful final ⅓ passes
⬢ Most duels won
⬢ Most touches in the opp. box
⬢ Most fouls won
⬢ Most chances created
⬡ 6 assists
⬡ 5 goals
Low socks, high output. 🧦 pic.twitter.com/4lY19g4s8U
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 22, 2020
Smith’s greatest wish will be that his board can remain strong amid predictable interest from bigger clubs in the New Year, though the Villa boss may be best served unplugging the phones and putting an out-of-office on for his side’s negotiators with big bids anticipated in the near future.
Graham Potter – Brighton
Additional firepower will be top of Graham Potter’s wish-list ahead of the festive season, with Brighton’s lack of a clinical edge having left the Seagulls hovering just above the relegation places.
Brighton have scored more goals than any other side in the bottom six, but the underlying statistics show the club have struggled to convert chances and Potter’s side have netted more than one goal in just one of their past 10 league fixtures.
Brighton have underperformed in terms of expected goals (xG) by a huge 5.01, with only Sheffield United having squandered more opportunities they were reasonably expected to score, whilst only Neil Maupay has scored more than two league goals for the club and the Frenchman is currently on an eight-game barren run.
Potter will remain confident of survival this season, but their lack of a cutting edge is one problem he should be looking to address this winter.
Sean Dyche – Burnley
Burnley’s consolidation in the Premier League is in danger of being undone as takeover talks regarding the club’s ownership appear no closer to a conclusion, the result a lack of finances for Sean Dyche to strengthen his threadbare squad.
Dyche has largely worked wonders on a shoe-string budget with the Clarets and has secured two top half finishes in the past three seasons, but the continued uncertainty has led to limited investment and it is a situation that has hindered their hopes of progress.
Dyche will be crossing his fingers for clarity on the club’s ownership if Turf Moor is to remain his happy place, or Burnley could face the prospect of losing a manager who will be keen to test himself with greater resources.
Frank Lampard – Chelsea
Frank Lampard may just be wandering around Chelsea’s Cobham training ground shouting ‘Frohe Weihnachten’, such will be his desire to speed up the settling in period of the Blues’ German contingent.
Owner Roman Abramovich rolled back the years with a lavish summer spend at Stamford Bridge during the summer, investing more than £220m in new talent to hand Lampard a side capable of challenging for silverware.
The arrivals were headlined by Germany internationals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, though each have underwhelmed so far with club-record signing Havertz having scored just once in 12 Premier League appearances.
Timo Werner is struggling with the physicality of the Premier League 😓 pic.twitter.com/Osxagg40yy
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 21, 2020
Werner has impressed in bursts but is currently without a goal in his past nine appearances, and Lampard will hope the duo can improve in the New Year following a period of adaptation.
Roy Hodgson – Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace will be joining Aston Villa in fighting off the vultures this winter, with Roy Hodgson’s side likely to once more place a huge valuation on Wilfried Zaha in a bid to dissuade potential suitors.
The Ivorian international has been in scintillating form this season with seven goals and two assists in 12 league appearances, and may just tickle the fancy of a leading side looking to treat themselves this Christmas.
Hodgson will hope his side stay firm despite Zaha’s desire to play European football and the star remains paramount to the Eagles hopes of success, the 28-year-old one player unlikely to be discounted in the January sales.
Carlo Ancelotti – Everton
There will be few sides heading into Christmas in as positive a mood as Everton, with successive victories over Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal lifting the Toffees into the Champions League places.
It’s been an encouraging start for Everton under Carlo Ancelotti and the Italian will be hoping to add some extra touches to an emerging side, an additional midfielder, extra pace and cover for Dominic Calvert-Lewin likely to be at the forefront of his thoughts.
Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Daniel James and Demarai Gray are just some of the players to have been linked with moves to Goodison Park in recent weeks, as Ancelotti fine-tunes his side ahead of a top four challenge.
Scott Parker – Fulham
Just a matter of weeks ago and it looked like Scott Parker may be wishing for a Christmas miracle given just how bad his side had been over their opening fixtures, but Fulham’s late window flurry of recruitment bolstered their ranks and has turned the Cottagers into a competitive outfit.
The loan signings of Joachim Andersen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ademola Lookman have added quality at either end of the pitch, but Aleksandr Mitrovic’s indifferent start to the season has raised the need for a differing forward option.
The Serbian has been a talismanic figure for Fulham in recent years but is very much a player whose strengths are suited to certain contests, with Ivan Cavaleiro’s mobility having been preferred for clashes when Parker’s side are looking to break quickly.
A winger by trade, securing an upgrade on Cavaleiro could prove the difference between Premier League survival and an instant return to the second tier for Fulham.
Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds
If Marcelo Bielsa was swapping gifts this Christmas, he’d likely exchange the wealth of praise lavished on Leeds in return for consistent results.
Leeds’ style has seen the newly-promoted side become a neutral’s favourite for their fearless approach and they have undoubtedly been a welcome addition to the Premier League this season, though the entertainment-factor has come alongside some glaring defensive deficiencies.
Leeds received plenty of praise despite being dismantled 6-2 by Manchester United last week, a strange scenario of glorious failure unlikely to be bestowed upon any other side in the division.
There is plenty to like about Leeds and their Bielsa-ball style has been a breathe of fresh air at times, but it will count for little if the club find themselves dragged into a relegation battle this season.
Brendan Rodgers – Leicester
Brendan Rodgers will be asking for some home comforts over the festive period, with Leicester having been uncharacteristically unconvincing at the King Power Stadium so far this season.
Only Manchester United have picked up more points on the road than the Foxes, though their home record ranks 10th in the division with just three wins from seven fixtures, including disappointing defeat to West Ham, Fulham and Everton.
Reporter: "If you replicate your away form at home you can win the league"
Brendan Rodgers: "😂"
The Leicester boss is not getting carried away… pic.twitter.com/JvejjJVUEb
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 21, 2020
Leicester sit second at Christmas and will hope to improve on last season’s fifth-placed finish, Champions League football a strong possibility for Rodgers and his side if they can address their home stutters.