It was a busy Christmas period for the sides in the Premier League. Every team was faced with the daunting prospect of five games in a two-week period, with Boxing Day and New Year’s Day games being added along with the usual Saturday fixtures.
One of the most exciting games over the festive period was that between Wolves and Manchester City at Molineux on Dec. 27. City got off to a stressful start when goalkeeper Ederson Santana de Moraes was sent off after just 12 minutes for bringing down Diogo Jota when he was through on goal. Wolves had a man advantage, and, despite City’s superiority on paper, there was a sense of expectation that they could be hurt.
However, after 50 minutes, two Raheem Sterling goals ensured Manchester City were up 2-0. Wolves were not playing badly, but the Sky Blues were much more clinical in front of goal. A spark of magic was needed to bring them back into the game.
Luckily, that’s just what Adama Traore provided them. From just outside the box, he fired the ball low into the corner and just past Claudio Bravo into the Manchester City net. The capacity crowd at Molineux began to believe their home side could get a point or three from this game.
Eight minutes before time, Benjamin Mendy dallied on the ball in his own penalty area. He was shrugged off it by Traore, who crossed the ball into Mexican striker Raul Jimenez; all Jimenez had to do was tap the ball in from two yards out. They had pulled it back, but Wolves were hungry for a winner.
Traore is a curious player. Almost impossibly muscular around his upper body, he insists he doesn’t lift weights, but his power does give him enormous assistance with his penchant for direct running at the opposition defence. In his first season with Wolves after signing from lower-division Middlesbrough, he was criticised for not having composure in the penalty box.
He seems to have rectified that now. A goal and an assist was joined by a subtle but important role in Wolves’ winner. He peeled away to the right-hand side, allowing Matt Doherty the space to come inside. Doherty combined to great effect with Jimenez, before stroking the ball past Bravo with his weaker left foot.
Wolves were delighted with another three points to add to their dark horse chance at a Champions League spot. Defending champions Manchester City, on the other hand, fell further behind Liverpool, who now appear to be cruising to the league title.
Liverpool themselves won all three of their Premier League games over the Christmas period without conceding a goal in any of them. The best performance was probably in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s Blades have been impressive this season, surprising everyone with their surge up to eighth in the Premier League table, but the team were made to look very ordinary by Liverpool.
The Jose Mourinho revolution at Tottenham continued to falter over the Christmas games. Despite a win over Brighton at home, they failed to impress with a 0-1 defeat against Southampton. They, too, could only muster a draw against bottom-of-the-table Norwich City.
Spurs fans are frustrated with the insipid football their team has been playing this season under both previous manager Mauricio Pochettino and current boss Mourinho. They seem to lack a midfielder capable of creating chances: Christian Eriksen has not been in the best form, and Giovani Lo Celso has failed to hit the ground running since his summer move from Spanish side Real Betis.
However, a change of manager seems to have worked for Watford. They already sacked two managers this season before turning to the experienced Nigel Pearson. Pearson is not the most modern or cosmopolitan manager, and the Hornets were ridiculed when he was appointed.
Pearson does seem to have changed the mood at Watford and proven his doubters wrong. They romped to victory against Wolves and Aston Villa, which, along with their earlier victory against Manchester United, means they have won three games in Pearson’s tenure. They have only won one other game this season. Watford are now just two points from safety, and have a fighting chance of avoiding relegation and ensuring Premier League football in Hertfordshire for another season.