Why Leicester City Should Win The Premier League…
As households across the world prepare to decorate their Christmas tables, tables of another kind will be more resonant for Premier League football clubs.
While Justin Bieber and the NHS Choir battle it out for Christmas number one, Leicester City will top the Premier League charts on Christmas Day, having propped it up just twelve months ago.
Which means, if recent history is any predictor, that they’ll probably win the league.
Nine of the last eleven league leaders at Christmas have gone on to lift the title in May – Liverpool being the anomaly two seasons ago and in 2008/09.
However, if you go further back in Premier League history it does give some comfort to the chasing pack. In the competition’s first twelve seasons, only three Christmas leaders held on to the top spot. The likes of Norwich City, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Leeds United were top of the festive tree during the nineties before blowing their lead come May – on each occasion to Manchester United.
It’s unlikely based on their current form that United can replicate these historic feats but Louis van Gaal’s record suggests it would be premature to rule it out – if he even remains at the club. During his first season as Bayern Munich boss, his side languished in third place at the Christmas break –before winning game after game in the New Year to claim the Bundesliga title. As I said, unlikely.
Meanwhile, if the ghosts of Christmas past are anything to go by, Aston Villa look doomed.
The so-called “Curse of Christmas” means they are almost 90% certain to be relegated with only three bottom-of-the-table sides on the 25th December in the Premier League’s 23-year history pulling off a great escape.
Gus Poyet led Sunderland to 14th having propped up the table two Christmases ago while West Brom left it to the last day of the season in 2004 to pull off an improbable stay of execution in the top flight. The Baggies remained bottom of the pile going into their last fixture, but a win over Portsmouth, allied to defeats for Norwich City and Southampton saved Bryan Robson’s men from the drop. And, of course, Leicester City pulled off a remarkable escape last season under Nigel Pearson.
Joining Aston Villa for demotion to the Championship, will more than likely be whoever is languishing in 18th and 19th place when we’re all tucking into our turkey dinners. Of the last 18 sides to be relegated, twelve of them teetered in the drop zone as Santa delivered his presents, including Burnley and Hull City last year.
If Remi Garde’s Villians do drop to the Championship, it’s likely they’ll be replaced by Middlesborough who will sit astride the second tier on Christmas Day. Most of the teams that have topped the Championship at Christmas have gone on to win the title, with Bournemouth last season being the most recent example.