Saturday 31 May 2014
In a busy month of Barclays Premier League action both on and off the field, a number of clubs parted ways with their managers in December, Arsenal stayed top of the table after a busy festive period, Manchester United suffered back-to-back home defeats while Liverpool striker Luis Suarez broke the record for goals scored in a calendar month.
There were four managerial changes in the final month of 2013. Martin Jol parted ways with Fulham on 1 December after five straight defeats and was replaced by head coach Rene Meulensteen the same day. Steve Clarke was then relieved of his duties by West Bromwich Albion, who were yet to name a successor at the end of the month, as were Cardiff following the dismissal of Malky Mackay.
Tottenham Hotspur also said goodbye to head coach Andre Villas-Boas, who led the club to their best ever start to a Barclays Premier League season but left after a 5-0 home defeat against Liverpool. Villas-Boas was replaced by Tim Sherwood on an 18-month contract after the former Spurs midfielder guided them to a 2-1 win at Southampton, courtesy of an Emmanuel Adebayor brace.
Liverpool striker Suarez became the first player to score 10 Barclays Premier League goals in a calendar month when he scored twice in a 3-1 victory against Cardiff City, surpassing Mark Viduka's record of eight for Leeds United in 2003, to send the Reds top of the Barclays Premier League. The Uruguay striker could not help his side avoid defeat at Hull City on the first day of December, but he scored four against Norwich a few days later and added two more in each of the three corresponding fixtures, including Cardiff, West Ham United and Spurs.
Hull's memorable victory over Liverpool at the KC Stadium opened an opportunity for Chelsea and Manchester City to take advantage at the top of the table. Both teams made no mistake as Chelsea came from behind to beat Southampton, helped by a John Terry header on his 400th Barclays Premier League appearance, while Samir Nasri scored twice in Man City's 3-0 win against Swansea.
But while Liverpool and Manchester City both temporarily went top of the league in December, it was Arsenal who finished the year in pole position after beating Newcastle at St James's Park in their final match of 2013. Everton meanwhile finished in the top four and above their Merseyside rivals after the Toffees beat Southampton and Liverpool lost 2-1 at Chelsea in the final round of fixtures.
Manchester United suffered back-to-back defeats at Old Trafford for the first time since 2002 at the start of December, as the current champions fell to 1-0 defeats on home soil against Everton and Newcastle. But David Moyes's side responded by the end of the month and went on a four-match winning streak to finish 2013 in sixth position, eight points behind leaders Arsenal.
At the opposite end of the table, managerial changes caused something of a reshuffle. Crystal Palace started December bottom of the table but new manager Tony Pulis won his first home fixture in charge against West Ham and by the end of the month had guided the club out of the bottom three, after also managing to secure wins against Aston Villa and at Cardiff.
West Ham slipped into the bottom three for the first time after picking up two points from six league fixtures while Fulham, under Meulensteen, were 18th at the end of the calendar year and a final-round 6-0 loss at Hull left the Cottagers with the worst goal difference in the division.
Sunderland were bottom at Christmas after a goalless draw with Norwich and ended 2013 in the same position, although Gus Poyet restored some hope when he guided the Black Cats to their first away success since April with a 1-0 win against 10-man Everton on Boxing Day.
In Europe, the final two Barclays Premier League teams booked their place in the knock-out phase of each competition. Arsenal reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after finishing as Group F runners-up, despite losing the final round fixture at Napoli, while Swansea shared similar fortune after securing qualification to the UEFA Europa League knock-out phase despite defeat at St Gallen.
Man City, who booked an early place in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League in November, ended the group stages in style as they came from behind to beat European club champions Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Allianz Arena.
"It's an honour to be head coach of this top club. It's a club that means an awful lot to me. I've known it from the grassroots right up to the first team, worked at every level of the football club and played here, so I know it better than most. Hopefully, that will stand me in good stead taking this club forward as head coach. If you cut me in half, I bleed the colour of the club. It's a proud moment."
Spurs head coach Tim Sherwood after being announced as successor to Andre Villas-Boas
"Six or seven teams will be fighting for the Premier League until the end and this will continue exactly the same as the first half, that within four or five points, you have five teams. I think this will be exactly the same."
Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini on the title race
"Before West Brom it was no one. Now it is one. It is a statistic and it is real. If you are at the bottom at that time, you deserve to be at the bottom - you are the worst team. Now I hope you agree with me we didn't see the worst team in the Premier League."
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on avoiding the drop after being bottom at Christmas
Barclays Premier League table on 1 January 2014.