There are no prizes for topping the table at Christmas, but the consensus is that leading the Premier League when Santa comes around provides a great edge to carry it through to the end of the season.
Manchester City’s domestic dominance in recent years has often seen them finish strong, but that hasn’t always meant that they’ve led the pack at Christmas. In fact, they’ve only topped the table at Christmas in two of the last seven seasons where they’ve won the league.
With Arsenal threatening another title charge and topping the table at Christmas this season, we’ve taken a look at the last seven teams to have done so, only to let their lead slip and not lift the title in May.
The Gunners wowed everyone in 2022-23 campaign with the second-youngest team in the league, dropping just four points in the run to Christmas and picking up wins against Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea in the process.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, Manchester City simply could not be written off and a wobble in February where they lost twice and drew once – one defeat of which came at the hands of City – proved to be their undoing.
They remained top until the final three gameweeks of the season, when City beat them again at the end of April and went on to lift the title on their way to the treble.
Jurgen Klopp’s side found themselves top of the pile by Christmas after just 14 games in 2020-21 due to the delayed start to the season at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing their way to the top in front of every stadiums.
It was Manchester United pushing them the hardest at the time, with eventual champions City as far behind as eighth come Christmas. Liverpool stuttered after the festivities, however, going five games without a win through the end of December and into January, while also seeing their unbeaten home record undone by Burnley.
Injuries ravaged the Reds as their defence fell apart, allowing City to capitalise on both their and United’s stutters to finish top and 12 points clear of their noisy neighbours in second, with Liverpool scraping third place after a late return to form and a certain Alisson goal.
Despite topping the table at Christmas and looking virtually flawless, Liverpool couldn’t stop City who went on a 14-game winning streak at the end of the season to finish on 98 points, eclipsing the Reds’ 97. Ridiculous standards.
Winning the Champions League was a solid consolation, but we doubt anyone will ever beat Liverpool’s total that season for the highest points tally achieved by a second-placed team.
Unfortunately, it’s the Reds again who were on the losing end of one of the Premier League’s most historic moments.
Weeks away from lifting his first Premier League title, captain Steven Gerrard slips, Demba Ba scores, and Chelsea go on to win 2-0 at Anfield, blowing Brendan Rodgers’ side’s push to bits and opening the door for City to sneak in and lift their second Premier League title.
It’s getting a bit Spursy this, isn’t it?
You won’t be surprised to hear that Liverpool are the side who have let slip the most Premier League titles when leading at Christmas. In 2008-09, Rafa Benitez’s side started strong, but stuttered come the turn of the year and a series of draws allowed Manchester United to catch up.
Despite beating United 4-1 at Old Trafford, the Reds eventually fell short to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the penultimate weekend of the season, with Federico Macheda’s winner at home to Aston Villa a few weeks earlier proving key to them securing their 18th league title and making it three in a row.
Further proof that the best teams turn it on at the business end of the season, United repeated a similar feat in the previous season to eclipse Arsenal, who sat top at Christmas in 2007.
Arsene Wenger’s side actually fell away from the top two, finishing third on 83 points while Chelsea pushed United until the final day, but ultimately fell short before losing to them again shortly after in Moscow, as the Red Devils won the Champions League.
Manchester United (2003-04)
Before finishing strong in the late 2000s, United came unstuck somewhat in the mid-noughties with Chelsea and Arsenal both getting the better of Ferguson.
The Red Devils topped the table at Christmas in 2003, losing just three times in the first half of the season, but fell away in the new year, losing six games and drawing four. Chelsea leapfrogged them for second place, while Arsenal put together that invincible campaign – yet to be repeated – to become champions.