The fate of managers who have topped the Premier League tree at Christmas

by Jack Kitson / 24 December 2017, 07:58

The 2017/18 Premier League season has now reached the half-way stage with all teams playing 19 of the scheduled 38 matches.

Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering juggernaut, Man City, have accumulated an eye-popping 55 points to date, more than any other team in history. The Citizens also have a record 13 point lead at the summit, and boss Pep will no doubt be pleased to hear that seven of the last eight gaffers who have been top on Christmas Day have then gone on to win the title.

This includes Chelsea's Antonio Conte who stood at the summit at this stage last season - six points clear when tucking into his turkey - and the Blues proceeded to roar to glory, registering a record 30 wins from 38 games.

Here at The Sack Race we take this opportunity to flick back through the record books and look at what history tells us about the previous 25 managers that have sat smugly at the top of the tree at Christmas.

Sir Alex Ferguson is the King of Christmas

It will surprise few people that Sir Alex Ferguson holds the record for the most title wins when top of the Christmas tree. The former Man Utd manager won five of his 13 titles from this position - holding a previous record 12 point lead at Christmas in 1993/94 - but what’s impressive is the amount he hoisted when coming from behind: eight!

Jose Mourinho is the only other manager in Premier League history to win multiple titles when leading on 25 December, three, but if he’s got any chance of winning the league this season he’ll have to make up a whopping 13¬†point deficit.

Chelsea managers Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti, Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri, Man City’s Roberto Mancini, and Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn Rovers are all one time winners when ahead of the pack on Jesus’ big day.

Meanwhile, none of Arsene Wenger’s three title successes have been won when leading at Christmas, although he’s twice topped the pile at this time of the year only to lose out to Fergie’s United on both occasions.

The biggest collapse

Three Liverpool bosses in Rafa Benitez, Brendan Rodgers and Roy Evans have all been top of the tree but on each occasion they were unable to hold on.

Other memorable managers to top the pile but fail to cash out include Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan (both Newcastle), David O’Leary (Leeds), John Gregory (Aston Villa), and Mike Walker who memorably led the way with Norwich in the Premier League’s debut season but in the end had to settle for 3rd, 12 points adrift of Ferguson’s Man Utd.

Who is bottom at Christmas?

Of the above names it was Gregory who endured the biggest collapse, with Villa slumping down to 6th spot come the end of the 1998/99 season - a whopping 24 points behind United - after losing a staggering 11 of their final 20 matches, winning only five.

Guardiola in cruise control but is there hope for the chasing pack?

Man City have a gargantuan lead at the summit, but while few would back against the scorching hot 1/50 favourites to go on to win the title, it’s important to remember that there’s still half of the season remaining - a lot can happen from now until May.

This season’s chasing pack will take a small snippet of hope from the Arsenal side of the 1997/98 campaign who came from an eye-popping 13 points back to win their first Premier League title. Remarkably five teams were above the Gunners, but they leapfrogged them all, winning 15 of their final 20 matches to pip Man Utd by a single point.

The last team to claim the title when not leading at Christmas was in fact Manuel Pellegrino’s Man City back in the 2013/14 season, when they edged out Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool. Man Utd and Arsenal are the only two other teams to have achieved this feat.

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