Christmas usually marks the midway point of the Premier League season. This milestone is often considered a significant portent of things to come in the rest of the season. Sides that top the league at Christmas are often tipped to hold onto top spot, but equally significant is who sits rock bottom.
The Christmas Curse
Only four sides in 31 prior PL seasons have escaped the drop after being bottom for Christmas. The first was West Bromwich Albion's great escape squad of 2004–05, when they finished 17th – memorably doing so after starting the final day bottom of the standings.
Then came Sunderland, who avoided the drop in 2013–14 after a disastrous start under the management of Paolo di Canio. Leicester City repeated that act in the following year, before Wolverhampton Wanderers joined ‘the club' only last season, after sitting on just 10 points at Christmas.
Sheffield United – 11/10 to finish bottom
The Blades’ most recent return to the Premier League has gone the complete opposite way to their last return to the top flight. On Christmas Day 2019, United, then managed by Chris Wilder, sat fifth and on track to qualify for the Europa League.
This time around, the Blades sit 18th on a paltry five points going into the congested festive period, but are only above Everton on account of the Toffees’ 10 point deduction.
Three of their five upcoming fixtures are against Aston Villa, Chelsea and Liverpool. The Blades also have the worst goal difference in the league, having shipped an enormous 34 goals, including eight at home to Newcastle.
Everton – 13/2 to finish bottom
The Blues only get a passing mention here, with an appeal against their points deduction for breaching FFP regulations still in progress. There remains hope amongst the Goodison faithful of at least a partial reduction, but as it is, Sean Dyche's men are stuck on four points from 13.
That aside, their underlying metrics are astonishingly good. Everton’s expected goal difference per 90 minutes is +0.18 – the ninth best in the league – and a better figure than Spurs and Manchester United. Barring a disaster (which can never quite be ruled out at Goodison Park), Everton will not be anywhere near bottom at Christmas.
Luton Town – 9/4 to finish bottom
Luton currently sit four points above the relegation zone in 17th place, which is a seriously commendable achievement for a side few gave a prayer to. Admittedly this is partially because of Everton’s deduction, but the Hatters deserve credit for their application, especially goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.
Things may not stay rosy for long at Kenilworth Road, despite their first ever home Premier League win over Crystal Palace. Luton will welcome three of the league’s top scoring sides in their next five (Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle) which could see their goal difference take a substantial hit.
With five points separating them from bottom, however, they do have a cushion in their short-term mission to avoid being the PL's basement club on 25 December.
Burnley – 7/2 to finish bottom
Vincent Kompany’s attempts to translate Burnley’s all-conquering 22/23 Championship winning season to the Premier League have gone quite disastrously.
The Clarets are the incumbent of 20th place, and have just one win. It has clearly been challenging integrating 14 new players into Kompany’s complex possession system, and few fruits have been reaped from their toil.
A glimmer of hope for Burnley is their five fixtures before Christmas Day are against the top seven. They can also take heart from Nottingham Forest's strong second half of 2022/23 after bedding in new players.
Our pick to unwrap their presents at the foot of the Premier League table is Sheffield United. With or without an overturn of the points deduction on appeal, Everton will eventually pick up where they left off and begin to ascend the table, and the four-point gap to Luton is likely too big for the Blades to close before Christmas.
Burnley are just a point behind United, but have a more favourable fixture list. To make matters worse for the Blades, the underlying data points to the, being comfortably the poorest side in the league. Their expected goal difference per 90 is -1.43, which is almost 0.5 worse than any other side.
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