Wednesday 21 February 2018

Data shows Robbie Keane was one of the most prolific Stephen's Day Premier League strikers

Robbie Keane playing for Tottenham in 2011
Robbie Keane playing for Tottenham in 2011

Alisdair Tweedale

Leicester reach the festive period top of the pile in the Premier League and hoping to extend a run which has seen five of the last six teams to occupy first position on Christmas Day go on to lift the title.

They are quite patently a quite different team from ever before but they will need to continue to defy their history if they are to maintain their current spell of form, having only won one of their nine previous games on Boxing Day.

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They face Liverpool, who have one of the better festive records, having won 55 per cent of their games. Robbie Fowler brings the most gifts, with more Boxing Day goals (nine) than any other player.

Manchester United have won a whopping 85.7 per cent of their Boxing Day fixtures, giving them by a distance the best points per game rate in Premier League history. They have won 18 of their last 19 and even won the day after Christmas when David Moyes was in charge.

Arsenal have the second best record, with their only ever Boxing Day defeat coming in 1999 when they fell 3-2 to Coventry. Perhaps the only hope for Southampton - their opponents this year - is that a positive result for them would be about as unexected as Coventry's was 16 years ago.

Chelsea’s Boxing Day win rate of 42.9 per cent does not bode well for their hopes of turning their season around in the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s departure. They have won their last three Boxing Day games but prior to that failed to win one since 2005, on the way enduring disappointing results against the likes of Birmingham, Fulham and Aston Villa. Could that mean a fifth straight win and a first on Boxing Day for Watford as they travel to Stamford Bridge?

 Any suggestion that players are always nursing Christmas hangovers and the quality of defending drops on Boxing Day are of course merely mythical. In 2009 there were as few as 12 goals in the eight games and in 2011 there were 13 in seven. Perhaps in 1999 players had indulged a little too much in the Christmas cheer, with 35 goals scored.

There is, however, no illustrable pattern and the fact that 22 goals were scored in seven games last Saturday is probably a better reflection of things to come.

While the top of the Boxing Day Premier League table reflects the recognised hierarchy for the most part, the likes of Stoke and Sunderland may hope for some unexpected Christmas cheer against the Manchester clubs given their rather respectable records.

 Meanwhile, West Brom and a seemingly doomed Aston Villa share only four wins from 29 and for them it could well be another bleak midwinter.

Villa might be struggling this season but have generally held a loftier position than their three wins from 20 Boxing Day games suggests. Clearly they struggle during the festive period and they will need to battle against that tendency as they try and drag themselves out of their current mess.

Norwich will be hoping to build on last week's win at Old Trafford as they travel to Tottenham searching for their first ever Boxing Day win. Spurs have only lost three of 20 such fixtures, though and will pose a serious threat.

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