We have now reached the half way mark in the 2016-17 Premier League season after December saw the majority of teams play six games. There’s now more of a gap at the top, but the mid-table area especially is very close, whilst the bottom three is unchanged but there a plenty of teams nervously looking over their shoulders…
What We Can See From The Table
- Chelsea won all six of their games in December to increase their lead at the top of the table to six points. The Blues, along with Manchester United were the only unbeaten sides last month.
- The Red Devils and Tottenham Hotspur decreased the gap on the top four to just a point, whilst second placed Liverpool increase the gap between themselves and Manchester City in third to four points.
- West Ham rose the most places in December, as an impressive three wins and a draw moved them clear of the drop zone.
- Hull City were the only side not to win a game in December, whilst Swansea, Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace all had bad Christmases, winning just once.
- It is the managerless Swans who go into the new year bottom, one point below Hull. Two wins saw Sunderland finally move off the foot of the table but remain in the bottom three.
Player of the Month
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Manchester United
He will turn 36 this year, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic just keeps on going. Since signing for Manchester United in the summer, he has adapted to the Premier League much better than most people expected and December was his best month yet as he netted five goals and grabbed three assists. Out of this six games he played, in only the 1-0 win against Tottenham did he not register a goal or assist. His impressive lob against Everton looked to have won all three points at Goodison Park before the Toffees snatched a point late on, but United would go on to win all five of their remaining games of December.
The Swede grabbed an 88th minute winner against Crystal Palace as he finished past Wayne Hennessey from an acute angle, and then grabbed a brace as the Red Devils beat West Brom 2-0. In the 3-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day, Ibrahimovic set up goals for Daley Blind and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as well as getting on the scoresheet himself. He ended 2016 by setting up Anthony Martial’s goal in the 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough as well as having a goal very unfairly ruled out. In total, the striker netted 50 goals in the calendar year – only Lionel Messi (51) got more.
2nd – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
3rd – Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
Manager of the Month
Antonio Conte – Chelsea
For the first time in It’s Football Not Soccer history, one man has won the Manager of the Month award for three consecutive months as Chelsea’s Antonio Conte scoops the accolade yet again. It was always going to take something special for this feat to be achieved, and a joint record 13 consecutive Premier League wins in one season is certainly pretty special. December crammed in more games than any more month so far this campaign, but Conte still guided his team to victories in every single one.
The Blues’ seemingly toughest test came in their first fixture of the month away to Manchester City, but despite going behind they came back to win 3-1 and make a big statement at the Etihad Stadium. A trio of 1-0 wins over West Brom, Sunderland and Crystal Palace followed – goals from Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa proving the difference in each of those matches. Their biggest victory of the month came on Boxing Day as defeated Bournemouth 3-0, before ending 2016 with a 4-2 win over Stoke City. Conte’s side go into the New Year six points clear at the top of the table. If they amass the same points tally in the second half of the campaign, then they’ll break their own record for most Premier League points amassed and cruise to the title.
2nd – Jose Mourinho (Manchester United)
3rd – Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham Hotspur)
Goal of the Month
Henrikh Mkhitaryan vs Sunderland
2nd – Jeff Hendrick vs Bournemouth
3rd – Fabio Borini vs Manchester United
Game of the Month
Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool
Bournemouth completed one of the comebacks of the season to beat Liverpool for the first time in a sensational Premier League game. The Cherries battled back from 2-0 down at half-time and 3-1 behind with 15 minutes to go, with Nathan Ake’s 93rd-minute winner sealing a famous win. Sadio Mane scored the Reds’ opener when he controlled Emre Can’s ball over the top, held off Ake and poked home. The visitors looked in control when Divock Origi went past Artur Boruc and curled home their second from a narrow angle.
Bournemouth brought on Ryan Fraser in the 55th minute and that proved to be the turning point of the game. Seconds later James Milner brought him down in the area and Callum Wilson scored the penalty. Can put the Reds 3-1 up with a 20-yard curling effort but Fraser scored his first Premier League goal when he tucked home after Wilson’s cross had hit the heels of Benik Afobe. Centre-back Steve Cook got Bournemouth level when he controlled Fraser’s cross, swivelled and volleyed home.
It looked like the drama was over until the third minute of injury time when Loris Karius spilled Cook’s shot and Ake tapped home into an empty net. Read the full BBC match report here.
2nd – Hull City 3-3 Crystal Palace
3rd – Leicester City 4-2 Manchester City
Did You Know?
Chelsea won six games in a row in December, meaning they are just the second Premier League team in history to win 13 consecutive games in a single season, following Arsenal in 2001-02.
- Alan Pardew sacked by Crystal Palace on 22/12 – replaced by Sam Allardyce on 23/12
- Bob Bradley sacked by Swansea on 27/12 – currently no replacement with Alan Curtis in temporary charge.
Games To Look Out For In January
- Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea (04/01)
- Manchester United vs Liverpool (15/01)
- Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur (21/01)
- Liverpool vs Chelsea (31/01)