This is the final set of matches for the hectic festive season of the Premier League, and as it closes out, I feel a sense of relief much like the managers and players. As a football fan, I enjoy blocking out mornings and afternoons to watch elite English clubs duke it out, but I am gradually running out of time to enjoy them before reality sets back in. While I will miss the hectic four fixtures in two weeks, it is nice to see that this is its final rendition. Today’s football requires so much, and a winter break is what these players deserve because they are human just like you or I and they need breaks too.
With all the pleasantries out of the way, let’s explore the interesting slate of matches that saw Everton booed off at Goodison Park, Chelsea look stagnant, and a thrilling matchup of two Premier League titans.
January 1, 2019
Everton 0-1 Leicester City
This match culminated with Everton being booed of their home pitch after what can only be characterized as another dismal match for the Merseyside outfit. Everton have seen the misery piled on as Leicester were clinical once again when their chance game, and it is really a tale of two sides who are trending in opposite directions. Everton had started off well, but they have continued to falter over the last two months, and they were poor for the entirety of the match. Leicester continued a fine run of form and keep themselves in contention for a European place as they pick up another win. It cements their place in the top half of the table as they continue to enjoy their football as underdogs against some of the bigger names in English football.
Arsenal 4-1 Fulham
As an Arsenal fan, I rejoice that they were able to bounce back after a 5-1 defeat to first-place Liverpool. However, do not let the scoreline fool you about the state of this match. Arsenal looked tepid at the back, even with a changed back four, and were extremely vulnerable against Fulham on the counterattack where Fulham exposed Arsenal’s lack of pace. The only thing Arsenal did better was take their chances as they converted them with aplomb while Fulham squandered numerous opportunities. For most of the match, Fulham was resilient on defense, but the quality of Arsenal finally broke them down and exposed an improved defense under new manager Claudio Ranieri.
Cardiff City 0-3 Tottenham
Tottenham were in full control of the match, and the only thing that they didn’t have to show for it was a second half goal. Cardiff never really looked like mustering much in attack, and Tottenham took chances that they wasted earlier in the week against Wolverhampton. The win will keep Tottenham in the hunt for the title race, but they will need to maintain the consistency that they found in this match if they truly want to trouble the two sides that currently sit ahead of them.
January 2, 2019
Bournemouth 3-3 Watford
Defense was not really a factor in the first half of this match, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. This was a classic match for the neutral as there was an end-to-end nature to the match that persisted for the duration of the 90 minutes, and brought six goals. There was better defense in the second half after the first half drew to a close with four goals in six minutes. Both sides should be happy with a point given their recent form, but both sides were routinely exposed and their defensive frailties were at the forefront once more.
Chelsea 0-0 Southampton
This match was a dud for about 70 or so minutes before Cesc Fabregas was introduced into what could be his final Premier League match. He provided a much needed spark into the Chelsea attack, and there was a goal from Álvaro Morata that was wrongfully disallowed for offsides, but that was the best chance of the match. Southampton offered very little going forward, but they did manage to carve out a few half-chances that kept the match from being a completely one-sided affair.
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Burnley
This match was a bit of a scrum from the outset as there was very physical play from both sides throughout the match. Burnley managed to claw back from a goal down in order to secure the victory, but received a significant boost after Christopher Schindler was booked for a second time and sent off reducing Huddersfield to 10 men. The second half was dominated by Burnley who bagged a deserved winning goal, but will be frustrated that substitute Robert Brady received a straight red card in the 90th minute.
West Ham United 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton continue to compile impressive results as they managed to score twice in as many minutes to secure a lead before West Ham equalized with two Marko Arnautovic strikes in another two minute span. Both sides had great quality throughout the match, but West Ham should feel hard done after an obvious penalty claim was waved off by referee Chris Kavanaugh incorrectly. The result does move West Ham back into the top half of the table, and they should feel good about their match, even if they didn’t have the killer instinct to grab a winning third goal.
Wolverhampton 0-2 Crystal Palace
This result should trouble fans of Wolverhampton following their previous 3-1 win over Tottenham earlier in the week. Wolverhampton never seemed to get out of first gear throughout the match, and were dutifully punished by Jordan Ayew in the 83rd minute. Luka Milivojevic netted a penalty to clinch a win for Palace in the 94th minute, and Palace have pulled away from the relegation pack with a comprehensive win of a team that has been inconsistent as of late.
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United
Manchester United struggled for most of the match to break down Newcastle, and the inability of Newcastle to capitalize on some earlier chances will surely haunt them after this result. Manchester United were able to net two second half goals to secure their victory in a result they always looked likely to take. Unfortunately for Newcastle, the lack of positive football was once again present even at home as they looked incoherent when they did send men forward. Surely, both sides will take positives from this game, but this could a result Newcastle look back upon an rue should they be relegated.
January 3, 2019
Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
This match was an instant classic with neither side looking content to settle for a point. City got on the board first half when Sergio Agüero found the back of the net from a tight angle before Roberto Firmino equalized for Liverpool in the 64th minute. The deadlock was broken again by Leroy Sane in the 72nd minute, and City held their lead against a late onslaught from Liverpool. The result means that Liverpool are no longer the only unbeaten side, but they were beaten by a Manchester City side that found a gear that had been missing for most of the season. The best news, the title race is back on as only four points separate these two sides.
The Premier League will return after a FA Cup weekend on January 12. Here is a look at the current table after the festive fixture season.