Top of the Christmas Tree

 

The Premiership Christmas Tree

We now know that Manchester City will be the Premier League leaders at Christmas, but does that accolade give them any significant advantage in the race to be crowned champions come May?

In order to find out, I have put together the following table. For each of the 19 completed Premier League seasons it shows both where the Christmas leaders have gone on to finish and where the eventual champions were positioned on December 25th.

Champions Xmas Position Xmas Leaders Final Position Match
1992/93 Manchester United 4th Norwich City 3rd No
1993/94 Manchester United 1st Manchester United 1st Yes
1994/95 Blackburn Rovers 1st Blackburn Rovers 1st Yes
1995/96 Manchester United 2nd Newcastle United 2nd No
1996/97 Manchester United 5th Liverpool 4th No
1997/98 Arsenal 6th Manchester United 2nd No
1998/99 Manchester United 3rd Aston Villa 6th No
1999/00 Manchester United 2nd Leeds United 3rd No
2000/01 Manchester United 1st Manchester United 1st Yes
2001/02 Arsenal 2nd Newcastle United 4th No
2002/03 Manchester United 3rd Arsenal 2nd No
2003/04 Arsenal 2nd Manchester United 3rd No
2004/05 Chelsea 1st Chelsea 1st Yes
2005/06 Chelsea 1st Chelsea 1st Yes
2006/07 Manchester United 1st Manchester United 1st Yes
2007/08 Manchester United 2nd Arsenal 3rd No
2008/09 Manchester United 4th Liverpool 2nd No
2009/10 Chelsea 1st Chelsea 1st Yes
2010/11 Manchester United 1st Manchester United 1st Yes

1992/93

Norwich City were the surprise leaders at Christmas, despite having an even goal difference, boasting a four-point advantage over their closest challengers Aston Villa. The Canaries eventually finished a creditable third, whilst a Manchester United side that had been five points off the pace on December 25th eventually secured the title by a whopping ten-point margin.

1993/94

Manchester United did all the leg work early as they successfully defended their title, racing into a 12-point Christmas lead over second-placed Leeds. The Red Devils' winning margin was eventually cut to eight points, with Blackburn finishing as runners-up, but Sir Alex Ferguson's men were never unduly troubled.

1994/95

There was little to choose between Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in this most keenly-fought of campaigns, with the men from Ewood Park holding sway by just a couple of points at Christmas. That smallest of gaps had been halved by the time that Kenny Dalglish's men claimed the title on the final day of the season, but one point was ultimately enough.

1995/96

This was the season that proved beyond any reasonable doubt that being top at Christmas doesn't guarantee the Premier League crown. Newcastle were playing a brand of swashbuckling football that saw them open up a ten-point advantage over Manchester United by December 25th, but it was Sir Alex Ferguson's men that finished four points clear of them come the final reckoning.

1996/97

The Christmas table bore little or no relation to its final counterpart in this most unusual of campaigns, with eventual champions Manchester United languishing seven points off the pace in fifth place on December 25th. The Red Devils hit back to win the league by the same margin, with Christmas leaders Liverpool ending up in fourth.

1997/98

This has been the only Premier League season to date in which a team sitting outside of the top-five at Christmas has gone on to claim the title. That team was Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger's sixth-placed side overturning a 13-point deficit to festive table-toppers Manchester United as they eventually edged out the Red Devils by a single point.

1998/99

Few people expected John Gregory's Aston Villa to maintain their Christmas advantage, with their eventual sixth-place finish representing the worst final position of any festive table-toppers in Premier League history. Manchester United had been five points off the pace on December 25th, but they eventually saw off the challenge of Arsenal by a single point.

1999/00

Manchester United won the league by an incredible 18-point margin, though it was Leeds that were the surprise leaders at Christmas. The Elland Road-outfit held a two-point advantage over their cross-pennine rivals on December 25th, but they eventually finished 22 points behind them in third place.

2000/01

Manchester United were the dominant force from start to finish in this campaign, save for a 13-day spell in October when Leicester City shocked the football world by topping the table, opening up an eight-point advantage by Christmas. That lead had sneaked into double figures by May, but the work had been done early in the season.

2001/02

Newcastle led the way at Christmas for a second time in Premier League history, albeit by just three points on this occasion, but once again they fell away in the New Year. The Magpies eventually finished a distant fourth, some 16 points off the pace, whilst Arsenal triumphed by seven points having been second on December 25th.

2002/03

Arsenal found themselves two points clear of London rivals Chelsea at Christmas, but it was third-placed Manchester United that would go on to claim the Premier League title. The Red Devils were four points adrift of the Gunners on December 25th, but they eventually finished five points clear of Arsene Wenger's men come May.

2003/04

Just a single point covered the top three teams at Christmas, with Manchester United narrowly ahead of both Arsenal and Chelsea. It was Arsene Wenger's men that dominated the second half of the season, however, pulling 11 points clear of second-placed Chelsea and a further four ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson's festive table-toppers.

2004/05

New Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho took little time to adjust to life in the Premier League, leading his charges to a five-point Christmas advantage over defending champions Arsenal. That was an ominous sign of things to come, with the Stamford Bridge-outfit stretching their legs in the second half of the campaign to win the league by a clear 12 points.

2005/06

Chelsea continued where they had left off in the previous campaign, establishing a nine-point Christmas advantage at the top of the Premier League table. The destination of the silverware remained in little doubt from this point on, though closest challengers Manchester United did at least reduce the gap to eight points by the end of the season.

2006/07

For the third season in succession, the team on top of the table at Christmas went on to claim the Premier League title. It was Manchester United that triumphed on this occasion, however, extending their two-point festive advantage over Chelsea to a more comfortable six points by the end of a campaign in which the top-two were streets ahead of the rest.

2007/08

Manchester United were crowned champions, but it was Arsenal that held a single-point advantage over Sir Alex Ferguson's charges on Christmas Day. The Gunners eventually slipped to third, just four points off the title-winning total, whilst second-placed Chelsea were only able to claw back 60% of their festive deficit to the Red Devils.

2008/09

Liverpool fans were dreaming of a long-overdue title when they topped the table at Christmas, but it was their most bitter of rivals Manchester United that eventually pipped them to the post. Sir Alex Ferguson's charges had found themselves seven points adrift, albeit with two games in hand, on December 25th, but they recovered to finish four points clear of the Merseysiders come May.

2009/10

Chelsea converted a Christmas lead into Premier League title success for the third time, thus maintaining their faultless record in this regard. Carlo Ancelotti's charges found themselves four points clear of Manchester United on December 25th, eventually holding off the challenge of Sir Alex Ferguson's men by just a single point.

2010/11

Despite playing fewer matches than anyone else in the top-nine, an unbeaten Manchester United side held a two-point advantage at the Premier League summit on December 25th. This lead had been stretched to a comfortable nine points by the end of the campaign, with only goal difference preventing Manchester City from making it an all-Mancunian top-two.

General

  • Only eight of the 19 Premier League leaders at Christmas have gone on to win the title, though this has been the case in five of the last seven seasons
  • Manchester City are the tenth different team to top the Premier League table at Christmas, though only four different clubs have lifted the title come May
  • None of the three Premier League-winning Arsenal teams were top at Christmas
  • Chelsea have been top at Christmas in each of their three Premier League title-winning campaigns
  • Manchester United have led the way at Christmas in just four of their 12 Premier League title-winning campaigns

Conclusion

Premier League history would suggest that it is better not to occupy top-spot at Christmas if you want to win the title. Recent history flies in the face of that statement, however, indicating a trend towards festive leaders pressing home their advantage. Nobody outside of the top-six on December 25th has ever claimed the crown, so Newcastle and all beneath them can officially be ruled out!

 

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One Comment

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