After an amazing 2016, especially the last three months where Chelsea won all their Premier League matches, the new year didn’t quite get off to the start we expected thanks to Dele Alli’s brace and Spurs’ 2-0 victory. Dreams of eclipsing Arsenal’s record winning streak and making history dashed, we now get to fully concentrate on Chelsea’s quest for the league title.
But in the meanwhile, there is the small matter Premier League Manager of the Month for December. Conte is on the shortlist, accompanied by our old friend Jose Mourinho, as well as Mauricio Pochettino, who ended our bid for the win-streak record, and Jurgen Klopp, so far the Manager of the Season according to my ratings. Conte is the only one to have a 100% record this month, just as he had in November and October. In the previous two months the 100% record was enough for him to win Manager of the Month, and it shouldn’t be any different this time around.
Let’s take a closer look at the performance of all the managers in the month of December.
In terms of Premier League results, December 2016 was one of the best months for Chelsea. Only twice before has a team won six matches in a month: Chelsea in December 05-06 and Manchester United in December 03-04). Chelsea started this month with a stunning win over Manchester City at the Etihad, which gave Conte 4.476 points. This was Conte’s highest rating in a single match this season. This was the last title rival Chelsea faced in the first round of fixtures. After that, it was all about capitalizing on the good work Chelsea did. The Blues eked out narrow 1-0 victories over West Brom, Sunderland and Crystal Palace before rolling past Bournemouth and Stoke City. Chelsea started the month top of the table with only 1 point lead over Liverpool and Manchester City. After the string of victories, Chelsea ended the month six points clear of second place Liverpool. This was a very good month for Conte and Chelsea.
Contrary to Chelsea, Liverpool had the worst possible start to December with a 3-4 loss against Bournemouth after leading 3-1 with 15 minutes to go. The result gave Klopp a rating of -1.953. This was followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw vs West Ham United, which earned Klopp only 0.830 points. Liverpool got back on track after that and won their remaining four fixtures for the month. Contrary to their performances in previous months, where Liverpool would score quite a few goals while also leaking some at the back, they managed three clean sheets in their remaining matches, including 1-0 victories over local rivals Everton and title rivals Manchester City, which earned Klopp rating points of 2.992 and 4.639, respectively. Other victories included heavy beat-downs of Middlesbrough and Stoke City.
Mourinho (Manchester United)
For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, Manchester United have won five matches in a row (now six, including January’s win over West Ham United). Mourinho has engineered the turnaround by giving minutes to Mkhitaryan, adding a few new tactical wrinkles, and simply getting less unlucky than before. Optimism has returned and both the fans and the pundits are talking up the team’s chances. That said, December did not start well as United settled for a draw against Everton when Fellaini conceded a needless late penalty. Since then Mourinho’s has managed five wins out of five, including a significant one over top four rivals Tottenham. The result earned Mourinho 2.629 points, which is also his season highest. Other results included a mix of narrow and convincing wins over Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
It took some time but Pochettino has finally managed to make his team play up to their potential. Spurs are the only team that haven’t been upset the entire season. Their only two losses this season have came against Chelsea and Manchester United away from home. Other than the latter result, which did not give Pochettino a negative rating as United were overwhelming favorites (based on the ratings parameters), Spurs have won all their matches in December. And not only have they managed to win them, but they did so convincingly. Their month started with a thumping 5-0 win over Swansea and ended with similar thumpings of Hull, Southampton and Watford, along with a come-from-behind victory over Burnley. The high margin of victories has rewarded Pochettino with higher rating points.
Even though Conte was not the top rated manager in my previous months’ ratings, he still won the Manager of the Month award. This was primarily because Conte was the only manger in the league to have a 100% record in those months. This was month was no different as Conte was the only manager to get 18 points out of the available 18, and this time around, he’s even rated the highest with an average rating of 2.325. There should absolutely be no doubt in who deserves to win the award this month. Conte should be making history by becoming the first manger ever in the 25-year history of the Premier League to win three Manager of the Month awards in a row.
Special #campaign mention:
My ratings are based purely on quantifiable parameters, which does not account for the power of narrative. Entering the month, Mourinho was under immense pressure with only 20 points out of 13 matches and the unfortunate Everton draw, with Fellaini giving the points away only added to it. At that point Mourinho was closer to the bottom of the table (Swansea on 9 points) than top (Chelsea on 34). Since then, Mourinho has turned things around with six victories on the trot. United are only five points behind Liverpool in second ahead of their derby this weekend.
Considering the high profile of the team and the high number of fans voting, there is a reasonable chance of Mourinho winning the award as well.
Previous month’s ratings
Liverpool’s victory against Everton wasn’t recorded in my previous article, I have corrected that. January 1st fixtures which were part of GW 19 are considered under December.