Liverpool are Christmas kings with no December defeats in the Premier League since 2016… but it can be a perilous month for title rivals Man City and Chelsea while festive cheer is far from guaranteed for Man United, Arsenal and Spurs
- December is always hectic in the Premier League with the fixtures piled up
- This season is no exception with seven rounds crammed into the month
- Liverpool have an excellent record in December and are unbeaten since 2016
- But Chelsea and Man City will be wary of repeating slip-ups from past years
- Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been inconsistent in December
It’s a wonderful time of year for football fans, if not necessarily for the players they’re watching.
December typically sees the Premier League season accelerate with the fixtures coming thick and fast, squads stretched to breaking point and managers moaning about injustices in the scheduling.
This year promises to be no different. December has opened with a midweek round of top-flight games and there are six more full sets of matches before the month is out.
Liverpool can enter December full of confidence given their excellent record during the month
But it’s a month of trepidation for their title rivals, including Pep Guardiola and Man City
Chelsea lead the way in the Premier League as we enter December, with Man City and Liverpool breathing down their neck. Arsenal, Tottenham and Man United are further back
The festive period is certainly one where the big sides often come unstuck, suffering defeats to opponents they really shouldn’t be losing to.
But get on a roll around this time of year and rewards often follow in the second half of the season.
In recent years, Liverpool have repeatedly proven themselves the kings of Christmas. Their manager Jurgen Klopp enjoys complaining about the fixture pressure but his team seldom lose.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to December 4, 2016, when a howler from goalkeeper Loris Karius deep into stoppage time gifted Bournemouth a 4-3 win, for the last time Liverpool lost a match in the month of December.
Since then, they have won 23 and drawn seven of their matches played in December, a quite remarkable record.
A mistake by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Bournemouth a 4-3 win back in 2016
Jurgen Klopp hasn’t lost a Premier League match in December since then, winning 23 games
Big Six clubs’ record in December since 2016
Played 31 Won 23 Drawn 7 Lost 1
Played 31 Won 20 Drawn 3 Lost 8
Played 32 Won 21 Drawn 2 Lost 9
Played 32 Won 19 Drawn 10 Lost 3
Played 31 Won 11 Drawn 10 Lost 11
Played 29 Won 17 Drawn 4 Lost 8
Premier League games only
Twice they have won all of their games during the 12th month. In 2018-19, a 3-1 success over Manchester United and a 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal were among the highlights of a perfect seven from seven as they matched title rivals Manchester City stride for stride.
The following season saw the Reds impressively win all five of their games either side of a successful visit to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup.
With another packed December getting underway with a trip across Stanley Park to Everton for Wednesday night’s Merseyside derby, Liverpool could do with more of the same.
They are only two points behind current leaders Chelsea but the Africa Cup of Nations, which will see star players Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita away for several weeks, looms in January.
Given that Salah has 17 goals already this season, plus eight assists, and Mane has scored nine times, Klopp will want to ensure they get maximum points on the board before they fly off to Cameroon for the tournament.
The good news for Liverpool is that while they typically take December in their stride, their title rivals Man City and Chelsea often drop points.
In the last five seasons, Pep Guardiola’s City have lost eight of their 31 matches played during December and though they’ve also won 20 games, it is a month where they’re most vulnerable.
In 2019-20, for example, City’s losses to Man United and Wolves allowed Liverpool to pull clear in the race for the title.
And even the year before, when they went on to lift the trophy, City suffered defeats to Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester during the month.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (left) and Sadio Mane (right) will head to AFCON in January
Manchester City lost at Wolves in December 2019 as Liverpool stole a march in the title race
This time around, with a pretty gentle set of games to come, Guardiola will be hoping for something akin to 2017-18, when they won six in a row.
Chelsea have been equally susceptible to a December stumble, especially in the past two years which saw Frank Lampard feeling the pressure.
They have lost nine games during the month over the past five seasons, winning 21 and drawing two.
In 2019-20, a dreadful month saw defeat at Everton followed by surprise home losses to Bournemouth and then Southampton. Yet in between, they won at London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal.
But last season’s festive slump, which saw Everton, Wolves and Arsenal beat them, only hastened Lampard’s sacking, which finally came in late January.
Chelsea slipped up in December in the past two seasons and will hope for different this time
Three defeats during the month last year hastened Frank Lampard’s sacking as manager
This year’s December fixtures
December 1 – Watford (A); December 4 – West Ham (A); December 11 – Leeds United (H); December 16 – Everton (H); December 19 – Wolves (A); December 26 – Aston Villa (A); December 29 – Brighton (H)
December 1 – Aston Villa (A); December 4 – Watford (A); December 11 – Wolves (H); December 14 – Leeds (H); December 19 – Newcastle (A); December 26 – Leicester (H); December 29 – Brentford (A)
December 1 – Everton (A); December 4 – Wolves (A); December 11 – Aston Villa (H); December 16 – Newcastle (H); December 19 – Tottenham (A); December 26 – Leeds (H); December 28 – Leicester (A)
December 2 – Arsenal (H); December 5 – Crystal Palace (H); December 11 – Norwich (A); December 14 – Brentford (A); December 18 – Brighton (H); December 27 – Newcastle (A); December 30 – Burnley (H)
December 2 – Man United (A); December 6 – Everton (A); December 11 – Southampton (H); December 15 – West Ham (H); December 18 – Leeds (A); December 26 – Norwich (A); December 28 – Wolves (H)
December 2 – Brentford (H); December 5 – Norwich (H); December 12 – Brighton (A); December 16 – Leicester (A); December 19 – Liverpool (H); December 26 – Crystal Palace (H); December 28 – Southampton (A)
As Thomas Tuchel’s team try and cling on to top spot, they could do with a repeat of 2016-17, when six wins from six, including a 3-1 result at Man City, hastened Antonio Conte’s team to the title.
December can be a cruel month at Old Trafford, too. While the Man United teams of Sir Alex Ferguson’s vintage usually started motoring around Christmas time, his successors haven’t been so lucky.
2018 was the prime example, when defeat at Liverpool proved the end for Jose Mourinho.
A December defeat at Liverpool in 2018 proved the end for Jose Mourinho at Man United
It’s time for Cristiano Ronaldo and United to turn things around with a new manager coming in
But others haven’t been so bad. Mourinho’s United won five and drew one in 2016 yet somehow failed to move up the table from sixth.
They also went unbeaten last season, winning four games and claiming creditable draws with Man City and Leicester.
With Ralf Rangnick coming in as United’s interim manager, at least they have a relatively kind December fixture list after a sequence of tough games led to Solskjaer’s sacking.
After the mess of recent seasons, Arsenal will just be grateful to be on the fringes of the top four again with things slowly looking up for Mikel Arteta.
But a record of 11 wins, 10 draws and 11 defeats over the past five seasons just shows how things can go either way for the Gunners at this time of year.
Mikel Arteta has Arsenal moving upwards but December can be a cruel month for them
David Luiz and Joe Willock leave the field at Goodison Park after last year’s loss to Everton
Last season was a case in point. They lost to Tottenham, Burnley and Everton, drew with Southampton, then beat Chelsea and Brighton.
So who knows what this year will bring, with the Gunners starting their December fixtures at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
Tottenham usually kicked on nicely in December when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge, although the month typically featured an annoying reverse.
Mourinho lost to former club Man United and Chelsea in 2019 but won three of their other games having taken over the previous month.
But last season was poor, with just one win from five (albeit against Arsenal) as the threads started to unravel for Mourinho.
Tottenham continue to be unconvincing this season with Harry Kane and Co inconsistent
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (left) argues with Eric Dier during last season’s draw at Wolves
It’s far from clear whether Spurs have actually improved in the meantime, but Antonio Conte will be searching for some much-needed momentum, starting against Brentford on Thursday.
But if all goes to form, it will be Liverpool topping the Premier League come New Year’s Day with Chelsea and City straining to keep up.
Mind you, the beauty of festive football is that you don’t always get what you wish for.
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