It’s official: Manchester City will be top and Swansea City will be bottom of the Premier League table at Christmas. But will they finish up there come May?
Few would bet against City failing to win the Premier League from this position and Pep Guardiola’s men can take confidence from the fact seven out of the past 10 teams top of the Premier League at Christmas have gone on to win the title.
Only Liverpool (twice, in 2008/09 and 2013/14) and Arsenal (2007/08) have slipped from being top on December 25, while City have won the league on both occasions they’ve been in first place at this time (2011/12 and 2013/14).
When it comes to the race for the Champions League qualification spots, the current top four will be rightly optimistic about securing their place in Europe’s elite club competition – but history suggests a word of warning for the team in fourth, who this year are Liverpool.
While 82.5 per cent of teams in the top four at this point go on to finish in the top four, only four teams in fourth place on Christmas Day have qualified over the past 10 years.
Arsenal (2016/17), West Ham (2014/15), Tottenham (2012/13), Chelsea (2011/12), Aston Villa (2009/10) and Manchester City (2007/08) are the ones who missed out, while Villa also slipped out of the top four in 2008/09.
Looking at the other end of the table, 50 per cent of teams who have been bottom of the league at Christmas since 2007 have finished last.
Aston Villa (2015/16), West Ham (2010/11), Portsmouth (2009/10), West Brom (2008/09) and Derby (2007/08) failed to climb off the foot of the table by May. Will Swansea join them?
While Hull in 2016/17 and Reading in 2012/13 – both bottom at Christmas – managed to climb up from 20th place, they were both ultimately relegated, so the Swans will look instead to Sunderland in 2013/14 and Leicester City in 2014/15 for inspiration.
It’s not all doom and gloom for teams currently in the relegation zone, though. While 50 per cent of teams in the bottom three at Christmas have gone on to be relegated over the past 10 years, the only season where every team who were in the drop zone at Christmas went down was 2012/13, when Wigan, Reading and QPR were unable to recover and slipped into the Championship.
This news will give the current bottom three – Swansea, West Brom and Bournemouth – hope. In fact, Swansea have survived the drop after being in the bottom three at Christmas in two of the last three seasons. They will be hoping to continue the trend with a strong second half of the campaign.
Wigan Athletic survived the drop more times than any team in the last decade, maintaining their top-flight status despite being in the bottom three at Christmas three times in five years before eventually going down in 2012/2013.
So it seems there are strong correlations between Christmas positions and where teams end up at the end of the campaign. And that’s likely to be even more pronounced this year, with all of the teams having played two games more than they normally would have at this point.