Premier League: Leaders at Christmas and where they finished

22 December 2023

Premier League: Leaders at Christmas and where they finished

Christmas is often used as a benchmark time for when a Premier League table has taken shape and where the title contenders have become clear.

But how often has the top of the table at Christmas looked like the top of the table at the end of the season?

Here’s a look at the last five Christmas leaders and how the season finished. (Stream every Premier League game live on Showmax Pro Mobile, courtesy of SuperSport.)


Christmas leaders: Liverpool

The Reds were flying at the end of 2018 and after a run of seven straight wins, they had a six-point lead over Tottenham and were seven points clear of Manchester City who had just suffered two surprise losses in December.

They had yet to lose after 20 league games, so an “invincible” season was still on. The club was dreaming that their 29-year title drought was finally going to end.

They had a trip coming up to Manchester City in early January, which would define the whole season.

Eventual champions: Manchester City

City were 2-1 victors in that January clash at the Etihad that included a goal-line clearance where the ball was 11.7 millimetres away from being a goal. That was the difference between a draw and Liverpool’s only defeat of the season.

What followed was a relentless run of results between the two clubs right up until May. Liverpool ended the season with nine wins in a row. City pipped them to the title by one point with a finish of 14 straight wins.

Liverpool’s total of 97 points is the record for a team that didn’t win the title.


Christmas leaders: Liverpool

It was a similar situation to the previous season, but Liverpool had a bigger buffer this time.

They hadn’t lost a game, had only drawn one and had a 10-point lead over Leicester. Naturally, they were more concerned with Manchester City who were 11 points behind.

Surely this was Liverpool’s season?

Eventual champions: Liverpool

Liverpool finally had their hands on the Premier League trophy for the first time in a title run-in that was far less straightforward than it seems.

After beating Bournemouth in March to set up a jaw-dropping 25-point lead, the COVID pandemic spread too far for the league to continue. The fixtures only resumed three months later.

Eventually Liverpool had their extremely delayed coronation for fans to enjoy in worrying global times.


Christmas leaders: Liverpool

It was a hat-trick of Christmas leads for Liverpool in a season that looked far more open than the previous two campaigns.

After many unpredictable results, the defending champions were top with a four-point lead over an impressive Leicester. Manchester United were in third place entertaining dreams that they could mount their first proper title challenge in the post-Ferguson era.

Manchester City were sitting in the lowly position of eighth. Surely they were out of the running?

Eventual champions: Manchester City

As it turned out, the answer was “no”.

From December, City found their rhythm and put together a 15-game winning run that blew the other inconsistent challengers away. They eventually won the league by 12 points – an impressive 20-point swing from their position at Christmas.


Christmas leaders: Manchester City

For the first time in four years, City were top of the table by 25 December.

They only had a three-point lead, but had gone on an ominous eight-game winning run.

It looked like another tight top two battle with Liverpool was on the cards, but surely not as tight as their battle three seasons before.

Eventual champions: Manchester City

As it turned out, it was just as close as the 2018/19 season with City again pipping Liverpool by just one point.

Liverpool got given a sniff of the title on the last day of the season when City were 2-0 down at home to Aston Villa with 15 minutes left to play. Then a driving performance from Kevin de Bruyne helped set up a brace for Ilkay Gundogan, a goal for Rodri and a fourth Premier League title for Pep Guardiola.


Christmas leaders: Arsenal

This was a Premier League December with a difference because for the first time ever, there was a break in the season to accommodate the FIFA World Cup.

The last fixtures before the break took place in mid-November before the season resumed on Boxing day.

Arsenal were top after a resurgent start to the season under Mikel Arteta. Everyone kept thinking his young squad would start falling away, but they had managed to build up a five-point lead over Manchester City.

Eventual champions: Manchester City

Despite a thrilling challenge from Arsenal, Manchester City’s depth and experience came to the fore and they ended the season five points ahead of the Gunners.

What proved telling were the two matches between the teams. City won both of them comfortably, which crucially wiped out Arsenal’s lead.

In the last five seasons, City have won four titles but have only once been top of the table at Christmas.

What’s clear is that in order to win the title, you do need to have a strong run of form in the festive season to set up a launchpad where you can challenge in the new year.

This season, many sides are challenging at the top in December. How many will still be there or thereabouts in May?

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