The three day long Boxing Day
Boxing Day went on for three days this year to enable Sky to show Liverpool’s home game against Stoke on the 27th and Southampton v Tottenham last night. It proved to be a decent enough Boxing Day for the Clarets given that we could have dropped into the bottom three had results gone the wrong way.
It needed Crystal Palace to win at Watford, us to lose and then Sunderland to win at Manchester United. With the fixtures in Gameweek 18 now completed, we have moved up a couple of places to 14th and now hold a six point advantage over our next opponents Sunderland.
Any chance of us dropping into the bottom three were over by the time we kicked off when Palace, under new manager Sam Allardyce, failed to win at Watford, the highlight of which was the diving mascot which so upset Big Sam.
Wilfried Zaha was yellow carded by referee Mark Clattenburg for diving with Palace appealing for a late penalty. Harry the Hornet (was he a Sean Dyche signing for Watford?) mocked Zaha at the end, diving in front of the player as he applauded the fans.
Allardyce thought it was a penalty so wasn’t happy with the referee, nor was he with Harry. “The mascot is out of order, isn’t he?” he said. Was Sam really calling for the mascot to be banned? Whether touched or not, Zaha went down very easily, as he so often does, but Allardyce now has a bigger problem with him. Zaha has been named in the Ivory Coast squad for the African Cup of Nations and that’s left his manager threatening to sell him.
It was Sam’s first game in charge of Palace since he became the latest managerial recruit in the Premier League, replacing Swansea’s Bob Bradley. That’s now former Swansea boss Bob Bradley after the inevitable axe fell following their latest defeat.
It seemed a strange appointment at the time and the longer it went the more and more bizarre it all became. He accused detractors of being critical of his nationality and accent, suggesting that’s why they wanted him out, and he accused his players of letting their heads drop again after getting a 4-1 hammering from West Ham. Watching some of their performances you have to think the players have helped push him out.
Swansea actually moved out of the bottom three recently for a day with West Ham falling into the relegation positions on 10th December. A day later West Ham got a point at Liverpool and have since added three successive wins against us, Hull and now Swansea to move up to 11th place.
Down in those relegation places, Swansea are off the bottom only on goal difference from Hull with Sunderland two points ahead of them.
It was free mince pies, t-shirts and Jamie Vardy masks at the King Power, the masks coming as part of a protest at the FA’s decision not to rescind the red card Vardy had received from referee Craig Pawson at Stoke making the whole place look like an Albert Steptoe convention.
While having every sympathy for a player coming up against Pawson right now, this was the latest episode at Leicester that is fast turning them into something of a joke. They really are a classless outfit who are not coping very well with their fall from grace. I don’t think it is often you will find the champions some 29 points behind the leaders after the Boxing Day games.
The leaders, with a six point advantage over Liverpool, are Chelsea. They looked anything but title contenders when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Liverpool and followed it up with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal in September but have since won 12 games on the bounce and that includes wins against both Manchester clubs and Spurs. They’ve scored 28 goals in those 12 games too while conceding just twice with one of them an own goal. Only Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has found the net against them in that run.
We’ve just one set of fixtures left now before 2017 although two of them will actually be played after the singing of Auld Lang Syne. By then we’ll have all played everyone once and will be ready for the second half of the season.
Gameweek 19 Fixtures
Friday 30th December 2016
Hull v Everton (8 p.m.)
Saturday 31st December 2016
Burnley v Sunderland
Chelsea v Stoke
Leicester v West Ham
Manchester United v Middlesbrough
Southampton v West Brom
Swansea v Bournemouth
Liverpool v Manchester City (5:30 p.m.)
Sunday 1st January 2017
Watford v Tottenham (1:30 p.m.)
Arsenal v Crystal Palace (4 p.m.)