End of the year hectic fixtures is a period when English Premier League Clubs play as much as 4 matches in little space of about 12/13 days, this period has always been a bone of contention between English Premier League coaches and the league body, most club managers had complained about the fatigue and injuries it brings on the team and had called for a break instead. It is a period where clubs/teams are stretched to the limit, the real spine and makeup of clubs are revealed during this period. Outgone year 2018 hectic fixtures had proven to be a pain in the rear for some of the ambitious clubs among the big/top 6 EPL clubs as far as title race and top 4 race is concerned, and there were winners, sinners, and loser of this year’s period fixtures.
Manchester United: The clear-cut winner of the hectic schedule was Manchester United with maximum 12 out of 12 points from 4 matches. Former home favorite, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the mantle of affairs at the Theater Of Dreams after Jose Mourinho was shown the exit door, and what a time to take charge at Old Trafford. It was a dream start for Solskjaer as United won in emphatic fashion, 5-1 away victory against Solskjaers former employer Cardiff, it was the 1st time United would score as many goals since the big boss himself Sir Alex Ferguson left United, United fans have almost forgotten what it takes to score that much. United attacking display did not end there, it was soon followed days after with a desirable 3 straight win with goals aplenty, 1st a 3-1 home win against Huddersfield, then another 4-1 home win versus Bournemouth, and capped it all with a fine 2-0 win away at Newcastle. It was not just the win, but the manners at which they got it, with miss firing big boys like Pogba and Alexi getting their mojo back. Seems like the race for the top 4 just got fired up.
Liverpool: Closely followed up on winning table was Liverpool though not with an excellent points total of 12, but 9 out of 12 points not bad either. It was a period that saw Liverpool overtook their rival at the summit of the league table, after spending much of the early season breathing down Manchester City’s neck. It looks like Liverpool were going to end up with a perfect 4 just like United, especially after a commanding display against Arsenal, but they were cut shot by title chaser Manchester City 1-2 their last match of the 4 ended. Nevertheless, Liverpool still on top with 4 points over their closest rival City, thanks to their earlier wins; 2-0 at a tricky Wolves, 4-0 home whitewash of Newcastle and the emphatic 5-1 home win over Arsenal. Most teams that led at the turn of the year had gone on to win the EPL title, hopefully, Liverpool will replicate such feat.
Tottenham: Tottenham sure looked like they have made the 3rd place position theirs with equally very good return of 9 out of 12 points, only an unlikely collapse can see their London rivals overtake them. Started well with a rain of goals in their 1st 2 matches of the hectic period, 6-2 away thrashing of Everton was followed by a 5-0 home drubbing of Bournemouth, but Spurs were shocked by a tricky Wolves 1-3 at home, we seen Wolves taken points off Chelsea and Arsenal this season. Spurs picked themselves up to win their last match 3-0 at Cardiff. When you have rival clubs dropping as much as 5-6 points, earning 9 points is really a victory for Spurs.
Chelsea: Sinners are the Clubs who could have had it all or done better than they did, and Chelsea falls under this category because they could have had it all (12 from 12 points). A return of 7 points out of 12 was never going to do their title chase any good, with rejuvenated Manchester United hot in the chase behind them, top 4 is even more of a concern now. Chelsea’s new manager Maurizio Sarri got his work cut out with his 1st baptism of fire of EPL annual busy schedules, a totally new one from where he was coming from (its winter break in Italy). Chelsea started the lined up fixtures with a shock 0-1 home loss to Leicester, picked themselves up with 2 straight slim away wins, 2-1 at Watford and a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, and then ended the fixture by a disappointing goalless draw at home against Southampton. Sarri and his Chelsea team will be kicking themselves for letting such valuable points slipped away.
Arsenal: Seasoned campaigner Arsenal was almost certainly going to be in this list, it has always been since the famous invisible, Arsenal fans were hoping the post-Wenger era will usher a new beginning, well! maybe next season because this past hectic schedule was the same old story. Nobody saw Arsenals early turn around coming, the strings of back to back wins had suddenly raised Arsenal fans to hope so high, so high that the top 4 seems achievable. It was Unai Emery’s 1st shot at busy schedules too, and realistically, it looks like a 9 points sure bet out of 12 ( with a Liverpool lost inevitably), Arsenal kick-started with a decent 3-1 home win against Burnley, then the disappointing 1-1 away at Brighton & Hove Albion FC, soon followed by the embarrassing 1-5 lost away at Liverpool, though Arsenal capped it all with a 4-1 home thrashing of Fulham, total of 7 out of 12 points for a Champions League spot chaser is a sin. Hard to see if Arsenal won’t rue this at end of the season.
Manchester City: Manchester City could easily fit under the sinners list, but just 6 points out of 12 points for a title challenger made them the sole loser of the busy fixtures. Manchester City had led for the majority of the season so far, and look like they were coasting home despite Liverpool’s hot chase, however, their gravy train was stopped by an unfazed Crystal Palace in a 5-goal thriller. Palace stunned City at home 3-2, the dust had not even settled, the Citizen was shocked again, this time away at Leicester. Though City rallied with quick fired double wins, 3-1 win at Southampton and a hard-fought 2-1 win to disrupt Liverpool’s unbeaten season, yet, 6 points out of 12 points is disappointing for City and had seen them dropped to second place on the log table, 4 points short of their rivals, and certainly will be hoping for a miracle to overtake high flying Liverpool.
Though the season is still far from over, and a lot can still happen between now and end of the season, each points matters, and one cannot afford to lose them lackadaisically.
ps: All images are sourced from Getty images and Sky Sport.
The blog was also made to my scorum account
Thanks for checking by, and I hope I did not bore you out.