Premier League Teams Leading at Christmas and Their Final Season Standings

Analyzing the teams who move into the New Year at the top of the Premier League paints a fascinating picture of those who manage to close out the campaign on a high and those who struggle. There’s a widespread belief in England that finishing at the top come year’s end provides a crucial psychological edge but not everyone’s able to turn that into a league triumph. Teams are all too often overtaken in the new year and the lead yielded.

There have been 16 instances where the Premier League leaders on Christmas Day have taken the title. Manchester United and Chelsea hold a joint record of converting their Christmas leadership into title wins, with both clubs doing so five times each. Chelsea, in particular, managed to take full advantage of their half-season dominance and win the corresponding league silverware in 2016/17.

Manchester City managed to overtake Arsenal in the 2022/23 season, even though Arsenal sat at the top of the table in November–a quirk of majority seasons planning. Pep Guardiola’s men excelled in pushing past their rivals to command a leading position.

During Pep Guardiola’s tenure in England, he has frequently turned the tables on the league leaders. With Liverpool leading the title race in 2018/19, 2019/20, and 2020/21, it was only during the 2019/20 season that they managed to endure and win the league. During the 2017/18 and 2021/22 seasons, there wasn’t a team that could displace Manchester City from their top-ranking position.

Manchester United has topped the Premier League the highest number of times, with seven instances. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, they failed to turn their leads into silverware winnings in only two circumstances: 1997/98 and 2003/04.

The Gunners have a history of racing ahead only to lose steam. They’ve been top during Christmas on three occasions, each time failing to press on to secure silverware. Aston Villa also had a flailing season after a strong start to 1998/99. Similarly, Leeds United and Arsenal both struggled to maintain their leads after being top in a couple of Christmas seasons.

There’s an interesting dynamic at Christmas which doesn’t always manifest into the second half of the season. While Liverpool- who’ve held the top Christmas spot twenty times in English Football League history- and Manchester United currently have the most number of toppers, Manchester City have only been at the forefront six times, though they have been making their presence known more in recent years.

The intricate history of Christmas Day league leaders tells a diverse tale somewhere between elation at being on top and despair when it doesn’t work out. It’s a day marking both colossal achievements and heavy regrets, a reminder that momentum can both carry and crush a team’s hopes.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that not every team’s Christmas wishes come true, and not all those who are hopeful at the end of December can carry the momentum needed to clinch the top spot.


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