Christmas always brings special meaning to the general public. Even for the Premier League, it bears a certain importance. In recent times, the team that is bottom at this time of the year will always get relegated (WBA being the only exception in this case). For the top it is less obvious.
Looking at the past results for the last 10 seasons here, one can make several assumptions. Arsenal have never won the championship after leading it at Christmas. Chelsea have maintained their pole position 3 times during those 10 seasons but failed to win the league if otherwise. Ominously enough for us, Manchester United has managed to claim top spot 3 times by Christmas and have only failed to hold on in only one of those occasions.
Only in one of those seasons had a team held a 10 points gap at the top and subsequently went on to win the title. All other leads were of 9 points or less. At this stage where Arsenal are only 2 points from the top though having played a game more. So, if we are to believe the signs, we are still in the title race. Something which Arsene Wenger agrees, provided he and the rest of the club learnt from what they have gone through this season.
While the performances in some games left a lot to be desired, there are a few positives that can be taken from our season thus far. Not least the emergence of Jack Wilshere. We all knew about the potential, having seen his exploits in the Carling Cup as well as from his loan stint with Bolton last season. We all knew him as the attacking player, a playmaker if you like. Yet, this season has seen Wenger put him in a slightly more reserved role.
Others would have grumbled about being played out of their normal position, not Wilshere. He has learnt to share the defensive responsibilites with Alex Song. Though, frustratingly enough on more times than I care to witness. When he does go forward, you can see how much better he is driving at the opposition. He is still learning the defensive/tackling trade. Fair enough, on a couple of occasions, he has got it wrong in terms of the tackling but he looks matured enough to learn from mistakes. Learning and humility is not a trade commonly linked with a certain Golden Boy winner.
The other positives are also the emergence of young players. Henri Lansbury is following the Wilshere route by going out on loan to Norwich. Wenger likens him to Ray Parlour and I’m more than happy to see that comparison come to be proven. I’ve only seen one of his performance for the Canaries and the potential is there to be seen. There’s nothing the fans relate more to, than seeing players rise through the club from the academies to the Premier League.
Last but not least is Wojciech Szczesny. He has started 4 games for Arsenal, 3 this season and 1 last season. In those 360 minutes, he has only conceded 1 goal. That is to the Park Ji-Sung goal last Monday. His story is nothing short of remarkable. Having broken both his hands simultaneously, you may wonder whether he will ever make it back. That his work on the field depends more on his hands than his feet, makes it even more incredible that he has not only managed to recover but also with improved performance.
There’s some transfer rumours yet again. This time its Denilson to Barcelona and Nicklas Bendtner to Lazio. The first one may not come to fruition as the touted interested club is in a conundrum to cancel their multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Qatar Foundation as it is linked with a terrorist group. If they do that, Barcelona goes to being broke and thus has no money to get new players. As for Bendtner, the rumour is just a rumour. Else, he would not have released a statement on the official website stating his desire to fight for his place. We can’t play Marouane Chamakh all season and Robin Van Persie has never proven himself to be able to stay fit for the entire season. With all that in mind, I’m hard pressed to find any reasoning to sell or loan Bendtner.