The Christmas football programme.
The most crucial 10 days of the season that actually doesn’t win you any trophies, get you relegated or generally decide a great deal about how your season will finish.
Much is made of the Christmas season having a large impact on where you ultimately finish. That’s up for debate, but it’s something people like to say and if anything, it’s happening more this term.
With the Premier League table having an unfamiliar look to it and the go-to-cliches seemingly less reliable, people have been pointing towards the Christmas programme of matches as if they will provide that moment of Nirvana we’re all desperately fumbling around for – the instant of enlightenment where you realise, ‘Oh shit, looks like Arsenal might actually be a decent team and may not collapse like an X Factor winner’s record sales one month after the competition ends’.
Whether it’s as crucial as it is sometimes made out is moot, but it’s an oddly intense part of the season and one that some teams are better at navigating than others. Both the depth of your squad and your squad’s ability to lay off the turkey, ham and booze will be tested over Christmas and the New Year period and some teams clearly handle it better than others.
The Paddy Power Blog has been busy sticking our heads in the history books to analyse how Premier League teams have generally got on over the Christmas period.
The time frame for what counts as a festive game is loose, but it generally starts with the games played on Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day) and ends with the last league game before the third round of the FA Cup in January. On some occasions that can be four league games, on others it’s one or even none (thanks to the stone age days of no undersoil heating). We’ve totted up the tallies since the start of the Premier League era (1992-93 season) to see who has the best win rate over Christmas.
Christmas League win rates
Manchester United are kings of Christmas
It’s not especially surprising considering the amount of Premier League titles Manchester United have racked up over the years. They are by far and away the most successful team over Christmas, winning around 65 per cent of their games and losing less than 10 per cent. It’s impressive if a little predictable. The size of their squad and the lingering threat of a bollocking from Fergie combined to make them knuckle down at this time of year. David Moyes‘ version of the team still isn’t totally convincing, but history tells us United are the most reliable of the bunch over the years.
Liverpool have form on their side
The presence of Arsenal towards the top isn’t especially surprising, but the presence of Liverpool is. Despite mounting few genuine title challenges over the years, they’ve done well over Christmas, winning around 55 per cent of their Yuletide games. With trips to Manchester City and Chelsea, they’ve got a tough schedule this year, but they’ve also got form on their side. If they were to emerge from those games relatively unscathed, their title challenge might have to be taken a bit more seriously.
Careful now, Spurs fans
Tottenham are also up there, but with the club in turmoil, the value of the previous form is as dubious as spending £26m on Roberto Soldado. Everton have been impressive under Roberto Martinez, but a note of caution is advised. Their Christmas win rate is plainly mid-table, but the loss rate is decidedly relegation standard, ranking in the bottom three.
Newcastle are shocking
Swansea and Crystal Palace featured surprisingly highly on the list, but their figures are boosted by long spells outside the top flight. That said, Newcastle also have a couple of seasons in the Championship/First Division within their record and it’s still appalling. Over the years, they’ve lost over half of their Christmas league games, making them the losingest Yuletide team in the division. Could the various generations of players have been tempted to toast the festivities by the city’s raucous nightlife? It wouldn’t be the first time it’s been suggested. Alan Pardew’s team are in great form, but history tells us Christmas normally isn’t a good time for them. Southampton have also had plenty of time in the lower leagues to enhance their record, but they’re failed to do it, winning just over 25 per cent of their Christmas games.