Cleat Geeks

Five things we learned from the Premier League this Christmas

Goalless Christmas for United lvg

It was an awful December for Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, compounded by a 2-0 defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day.

Pressure on the Dutchman intensified going into the Festive period following a run of four league games without a win and their Champions League exit.

There was little for United fans to cheer at the Britannia Stadium as the Potters eased to victory but the home game to Chelsea offered some promise of a return to form.

The Red Devils looked slicker and faster going forward but still failed to break down a resolute Chelsea defence on the 28th, but a point against the post-Mourinho Blues wasn’t a bad result.

It was a similar story to the rest of the month however, with United enjoying 67% possession against the reigning champions but only managing just two shots on target during the entire 90 minutes.

Van Gaal remains under fire in the Old Trafford hot seat and it will be interesting to see whether he is given the chequebook in the January transfer window.

Stoke heading for Europe marko-arnautovic-goal-celebration-stoke-city_3384943

Mark Hughes is doing an excellent job at Stoke and has to be a front runner for the December Manager of the Month award.

League victories over the two Manchester clubs at home was rounded off with a superb 4-3 win away at Everton on the 28th.

The Potters got off to a slow start this season but have now moved into the top half of the table with their excellent end of year form.

Marko Arnautovic has been something of a revelation this campaign, and his combination with Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri has caused many a defence problems as Hughes oversees a change in style for his side.

Gone are the ‘long-ball Stoke’ days of old and they will only go from strength to strength in 2016, a top six finish is definitely within the grasp of the Potters this season.

Villa and Sunderland doomed  _86437094_allardyce

Christmas joy has been in short supply at Villa Park and the Stadium of Light this year with both sides managing just one point between them over the Festive period.

Villa find themselves 11 points from safety while Sunderland are seven points adrift of 17th place at the halfway stage in the season.

Remi Garde is still searching for his first win at Villa and the club are without a Premier League win since the opening day.

Performances have improved slightly under the new boss, but it’s hard to see where the goals are going to come from to keep the club in the top flight, although Loic Remy has been touted as a possible loan signing in January.

Sunderland are used to flirting with danger and have put together winning runs at the end of the last two campaigns to survive, but defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool over Christmas rounded off a December in which they lost all five games they played.

In truth Sam Allardyce’s men were a little unfortunate against Liverpool, but never really looked like scoring themselves after they fell behind.

The Black Cats have the worst defence in the league too, but have moved to strengthen by signing centre back Lamine Kone from French side Lorient.

Sunderland host Villa at the Stadium of Light on January 2nd in what can only be described as a six-pointer, although both look doomed on their recent results.

Inconsistent Arsenal end the year on top    Per-Mertesacker-Arsenal-1_3225783

A 4-0 hammering at previously out of sorts Southampton on Boxing Day was followed up with a routine 2-0 win over Bournemouth two days later as the Gunners ended 2015 on top of the Premier League table.

The rout at Saints underlined Arsenal’s defensive frailties, Per Mertesacker was singled out as performing poorly and failing to deal with the pace of Southampton’s Shane Long, who netted twice.

Gabriel came into the back four against the Cherries, but Mertesacker kept his place and again Bournemouth created chances.

In what has been the most unpredictable Premier League season in years, Arsene Wenger’s side have their best chance to win the title since 2004, but defensively they still make their fans nervous.

With Barcelona to come in the Champions League, the Premier League may become the priority in 2016 and they will definitely be in the mix come May, but another Premier League quality defender and holding midfielder are essential if the Gunners are to end their long Premier League drought.

Foxes still in the hunt foxes

Boxing Day’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool was the first time Leicester City had failed to score in a Premier League game this season. That was followed by another blank against Manchester City three days later.

They did keep a clean sheet against City to earn a point however, a point that keeps Claudio Ranieri’s men level with Arsenal at the summit of the Premier League.

The Foxes were among the favourites to be relegated this season and were bottom of the table at the end of 2014, as a result many people believed that the Foxes’ bubble would burst and they would soon descend down the table.

Christmas was only the second time this season Leicester have gone two games in the league without a win and they are definite title contenders despite their latest setback.

They can bounce back from this setback against Bournemouth on January 2nd and have to be considered serious title contenders, along with Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.

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