One of the most exciting periods of the season is right around the corner. Football at Christmas is one of the best and most special things about the Premier League and even though the top leagues in France, Italy, Spain and Germany have winter breaks, I hope England does not follow suit. Christmas would not be anywhere near as good as it is without the Boxing Day and New Years Day matches as well as all of those in between. This season, there will be 20 matches played between the 26th of December and the 1st of January. That’s a lot of football to look forward to and I’m hoping for plenty of Christmas crackers in the 2016/17 season! For the time being, here are my five Christmas crackers from the last five Premier League seasons.
Manchester United 2-3 Blackburn Rovers (31st December 2011)
It’s your 70th birthday and you’re playing Blackburn Rovers who are in the bottom three. Those three points are yours, right? Wrong. Sir Alex’s 70th birthday was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Manchester United were below-par from start to finish and Blackburn Rovers took full advantage. Rovers were 1-0 up within 15 minutes thanks to Ayegbeni Yakubu’s penalty after Dimitar Berbatov fouled Christopher Samba. In the 50th minute, Yakubu struck again to double Blackburn’s lead. Two goals in ten minutes from Berbatov atoned for his earlier error and got Man United back into the game. With just under half an hour to play, it seemed the match would end 2-2. Enter Grant Hanley. The Scottish defender was in the right place at the right time and scored a header from close range to make it 3-2 and give Blackburn all three points. Old Trafford was stunned and Fergie had a very unhappy birthday!
Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle (29th December 2012)
Arsenal v Newcastle was 1-1 at half-time thanks to goals from Theo Walcott and Demba Ba. Nobody could have expected what happened in the second half. There were eight goals scored in 41 minutes in a game full of action and top quality football, everything that a festive fixture should be. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored just after the restart but Arsenal’s lead only lasted nine minutes with Sylvain Marveaux getting Newcastle’s second equaliser of the game. In the 63rd minute, Lukas Podolski made it 3-2 to Arsenal but Newcastle fought back yet again and equalised five minutes later thanks to another goal from Demba Ba. Unfortunately for Newcastle, they didn’t have any fight left and while they didn’t score again, Arsenal scored four goals in eighteen minutes to put the game to bed once and for all. Walcott scored Arsenal’s fourth goal before Olivier Giroud came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and scored twice to make it 6-3. Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal in the 19th minute and he finished it in the 90th minute, completing a well-deserved hat-trick. What a game!
Man City 6-3 Arsenal (14th December 2013)
Arsenal were on 35 points, top of the league and five points clear of second-placed Liverpool. However, after a 6-3 defeat against Man City, their lead at the top was cut to two points with Chelsea on 33 points. Man City overwhelmed the Gunners with their sheer firepower and they could have scored more. The score was 2-1 to Man City at half-time after Sergio Aguero opened the scoring then Theo Walcott brought Arsenal level before a goal from Alvaro Negredo gave City the lead once again. Arsenal didn’t look comfortable during the game and struggled to find their rhythm, something that Man City took full advantage of. Five minutes into the second half, Fernandinho doubled City’s lead. Walcott scored his second goal to make it 3-2 but just three minutes later Man City had their two goal lead back thanks to a goal from David Silva. Man City continued to press Arsenal and were guilty of not taking the chances that could have increased their led even further. This changed with two minutes to go when Fernandinho bagged a brace. The drama carried on as Per Mertesacker scored from a corner in stoppage time to make it 5-3. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed minutes later when Wojciech Szczesny brought down James Milner and Yaya Toure converted the penalty to end the match 6-3. Man City were unstoppable and Arsenal paid the price.
Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion (20th December 2014)
When Charlie Austin, now of Southampton, is on top form, there is no stopping him, as this match showed. A header from Joleon Lescott and a low strike from Silvestre Varela gave West Brom a two-goal lead after 20 minutes and it was seemingly game over for QPR. That was before Charlie Austin’s first Premier League hat-trick single-handedly helped QPR climb out of the bottom three. His first goal was from the penalty spot after James Morrison was adjudged to have pulled back Leroy Fer. Three minutes into the second half, Austin scored his and QPR’s second goal of the match. Both teams had chances to go on and win the match and Austin took his with four minutes to spare. QPR moved up to 15th thanks to the 3-2 win and even though they were relegated that season, Austin certainly did his best to keep them up.
Southampton 4-0 Arsenal (26th December 2015)
Arsenal had the chance to go top but in typical Arsenal fashion, they were thrashed 4-0 by Southampton and remained in second place behind the team that went on to win the Premier League, Leicester City. The Gunners were a goal down within 19 minutes after a superb strike from Saints full-back Cuco Martina who was making his first league start for the Saints. He also became the first player from Curacao to score in the Premier League once his 30-yard curler beat Petr Cech. Arsenal were stunned and even though they were only 1-0 down at half-time, their second-half capitulation showed exactly when they would not go on to win the league. Southampton kept the likes of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott quiet, forcing them to remain in their own half for large parts of the game. The Saints had 35% possession in the match but they made it count. Two goals from Shane Long and one from Jose Fonte in the second half consigned Arsenal to their heaviest defeat since they were beaten 6-0 at Stamford Bridge by Chelsea in March 2014.