The Twelve Points of Christmas

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A special festive double edition of the six pointer.

 

1. The most important player in Liverpool’s title challenge is Steven Gerrard, but then perhaps we knew that already. Rafa’s 4-2-3-1 formation with him in behind the main striker has allowed him to not worry about defensive responsibilities and Hollywood balls so much and instead concentrate on getting into the box and scoring. He is in his best run of form of the season and has five in his last five plus a few assists thrown in for good measure. Such was Liverpool’s superiority over Bolton and Newcastle, he even got a twenty minute breather in each game. Gerrard has ensured the absence of Torres has not been missed (too much) and means his team heads into 2009 with a three point lead at the top. 

Going out tonight?

Going out tonight?

 

2. How many goals must Arsenal be winning a match by before you can say the three points are safely theirs? The game against Aston Villa showed that like against Tottenham at home, a two goal lead is not enough. Having soaked up a torrent of Villa pressure in the first half, they went on to grab two good goals out of nothing. But, despite playing an experienced back five including Toure, Gallas and Silvestre they still could not hold on. This was because despite the guys at the back, what was really lacking was the experienced defensive midfielder who would have noticed that Zat Knight had gone up front and dropped back to mark him. After the heady days of three clean sheets in their opening four games, the one against Portsmouth on Sunday was just the third in the sixteen games since.

 

3. Talking of Portsmouth, is Tony Adams cut out for management? Given how often he talks about the Arsenal job being his ultimate aim I sure hope so. But, having just sold his best player to Real Madrid and with four straight defeats, he faces a battle to avoid a relegation scrap – though seeing as Portsmouth are only three points off 18th maybe he already is. Jermaine Defoe seems to be on his way in the transfer window, and the elder statesmen that have served Pompey so well look to be done (I’m looking at you Sol). Given the lack of money at Fratton Park , could Portsmouth afford to get rid of Adams and bring someone else in? If results continue the way are, could they afford not to? 

The lower his arms, the less success he has

The lower his arms, the less success he has...

 

 

4. Wigan win three in a row and climb to seventh. Such is the congested nature of this season’s Premier League.

 

5. Middlesbrough lose three in a row and drop to seventeenth. Such is the congested nature of this season’s Premier League.

 

6. Harry Redknapp’s self-proclaimed wheeling-dealing skills will have to be out in full force in January. After the initial buzz following his appointment, Spurs’ recent form has been poor and only goal difference keeps them out of the bottom three. A striker is obviously a priority, although Defoe is seemingly off somewhere else, and Bellamy seems overpriced. A left back would also do nicely. That said I’m certain Spurs are always in need of a left back. Even if they signed Evra, Cole and Clichy they would probably find a way to still be in need of one.

I'm not insinuating anything...

I'm not insinuating anything...

 

7. Gerrard is on fire for Liverpool, Lampard is scoring again for Chelsea but what of Ronaldo and Man Utd? Whilst they are grinding out tight 1-0 wins, he has not scored since November 15th despite five games against bottom six clubs. Is his motivation there? Is he injured and /or exhausted after playing non-stop for a year and a half? Or is he just biding his time till the business end of the season. Fergie will hope it’s the latter.

 

8. Here’s a good stat. Remember West Brom’s great escape three seasons ago where they became the first club to avoid the drop when bottom at Christmas? It started off with homes wins against Man City and Spurs. Their last two victories after being well adrift a few weeks ago? Home wins against Man City and Spurs.

 

9. Why does Abou Diaby get booked for celebrating his goal with the Arsenal fans against Villa whereas Robbie Keane does not for running the length of the pitch with his hand to his ear when scoring against the Gunners? Remind me which of these two events is more likely to incite the so called crowd trouble which is always given as the reason for these silly bookings.

It's ok, I won't get booked as I'm already on a yellow.

It's ok, I won't get booked as I'm already on a yellow.

 

10. The Drog is back. Expect more impressive goals over the coming weeks.

 

11. It always happens at Christmas, someone has a bit too much to drink and gets into an argument.

 

12. So with half the season gone, the Premier League takes a break for a couple of weeks and makes way for the FA Cup third round. Expect weakened teams for the big boys as they rest some of the stars that have made this the most open season in many a year. We have a genuine three team title race with two more not far behind. For the first time in four seasons someone new looks likely to break into the monopoly of the Champions League spots while there is a very good chance a big club could go down. Man City, Spurs and Newcastle should all be very worried as the promoted teams (Hull mainly) have showed it’s possible to be ambitious and go for wins against established sides. This has resulted in a level playing field where ten points separate Wigan and West Brom. As always, the transfer window will be vitally important and it will be a case of whose signings can adapt the quickest. Bring on the second half!

 

T.

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