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The fate of every single Premier League manager who has been top at Christmas

Sackrace

Pep Guardiola's Man City are three points clear at the summit of the Premier League table following a 4-0 demolition of Newcastle, meaning the defending champions will be top of the tree at Christmas.

It’s only the second time in six seasons that three-time Premier League victor Guardiola has been in this position at this stage in the season. The previous occasion was in 2017/18 when City went on to become the first-ever top-flight side in the history of English football to accumulate 100 points.

Here at The Sack Race we’ve flicked back through the history books to see what happened to each Premier League manager who claimed top spot at Christmas, across the previous 29 seasons...

Scroll to the bottom to see the full Christmas Manager table

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15 of the 29 managers top on Christmas Day have lifted the title

That’s right, just over half of the managers who have been in pole position at Christmas in the Premier League era have gone on to lift the title at the end of the season.

Over the course of the last 12 seasons it's been particularly handy to be placed at the summit on 25th December as in nine of those 12 years the manager have gone on to claim the spoils; a 75% success race; only Liverpool managers Jurgen Klopp (20/21 & 18/19) and Brendan Rodgers (13/14) have missed out in that period after being top.

Current pacesetters City are in simply superb form. We're talking eight wins in a row and 11 goals in their last two matches alone. As a result Pep Guardiola's men can now be found at just 1/3 to win the league.

Klopp’s Liverpool lead the chasing pack, while Thomas Tuchel will need to stop the rot soon, having already seen his Chelsea side fall six points adrift - the Blues have never won the title when they've not been top at Christmas.

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Odds correct as of 2023-01-28 09:10 Odds subject to change.

The King of Christmas

No Premier League manager has secured more gold stars at Christmas than Sir Alex Ferguson, whose Man Utd side were top seven times under his rule - they’ve not been top at this stage of the season since his departure in 2013. 

The Scot won five of his 13 titles from pole position, while the other eight titles were claimed from futherafield.

Jose Mourinho is the only other manager in Premier League history to win multiple titles when leading on Santa's Big Day; winning the title with Chelsea three times.

As we've mentioned, Jurgen Klopp has three Christmas top spots on his CV, one of which he converted into silverware.

The only other two managers who have multiple Christmas No.1s are Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger (both two); the latter surprisingly never won the title from this position, with each of his three gongs won from the chasing pack.

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 rest at Christmas.

Chelsea have won the title every time they've been top (five times out of five); unfortunately for Thomas Tuchel his side have slipped up meaning they are now 3rd in the table.

Other managers who have been top but failed to win the title include Rafa Benitez, Brendan Rodgers and Roy Evans (Liverpool), Newcastle’s Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan, David O’Leary (Leeds), John Gregory (Aston Villa), and Norwich’s Mike Walker in the Premier League’s inaugural campaign - fast-forward to the current campaign and the Canaries are bottom of the pile.

Most Christmas No.1s

7 - Sir Alex Ferguson

3 - Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp

2 - Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger

Sir Alex Ferguson was top at Christmas seven times
Sir Alex Ferguson was top at Christmas seven times

Look away Liverpool fans

Four Liverpool managers have hogged top spot in six different seasons: Jurgen Klopp was top of the pile in each of the last three seasons, as was Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14, Rafa Benitez in 2008/09, and Roy Evans back in 1996/97.

Yet on those six occasions a Liverpool manager has fallen short five times, including twice in the last three years, with the anomaly coming in 2019/20 when Klopp finally ended years of hurt by winning the club their first ever Premier League gong.

Klopp was top three times in a row between 2018 - 2020
Klopp was top three times in a row between 2018 - 2020

The biggest collapses

There have been a fair few collapses over the years.

Perhaps the most infamous occurred in the thrilling 1995/96 season aka "Honestly, I will love it if we beat them. Love it" when Kevin Keegan's Newcastle were a whopping 10 points clear, but come the warmer months they lost out to Fergie's United.

However, the Red Devils haven't always had it all their own way. Twice they've been top and unable to hold on, including in 1997/98 they were 13 points ahead of Arsene Wenger's 6th-placed Arsenal, who stormed back in the second-half of the season to win their first ever Premier League title in the Frenchman's first full season in charge.

Scroll back to Christmas 1999 and it wasn’t Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger who led the way at Christmas, but John Gregory’s Aston Villa.

Villa lost Dwight York to Man Utd in the summer but started extremely well, only to then be swiftly defeated on Boxing Day, then come the final day they’d slumped all the way down to 6th spot; a staggering 24 points adrift of Fergie’s champs who of course won the famous treble that season.

Gregory may never have got his mitts on the Premier League title, but nearly 20 years later he did inspire Chennaiyin FC to Indian Super League glory (17/18)!

Another shout-out goes to 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.

Bottom at Christmas

Sorry, Norwich fans.

Dean Smith's side are rock-bottom at Christmas. A little bit unfortunately, perhaps, given that their clash with West Ham was postponed. If the game had gone ahead and they'd claimed a point then it would be Eddie Howe's Newcastle who would have been at the foot of the table, while three points would have moved the Canaries to 18th.

The statistics are horrible for clubs that have been 20th on Christmas Day.

26 of the 29 teams who have been bottom when tucking into their turkeys have gone on to be relegated, including in each of the last six successive seasons.

The only three managers to survive from this position are Bryan Robson (West Brom, 2004), Gus Poyet (Sunderland, 2013), and Nigel Pearson (Leicester, 2014); remarkably the Foxes bounced back to win the title the following season under Claudio Ranieri.

Season Top at christmas title winner
2021/22 Pep Guardiola (Man City) TBD
2020/21 Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) Pep Guardiola (Man City)
2019/20 Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
2018/19 Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) Pep Guardiola (Man City)
2017/18 Pep Guardiola (Man City) Pep Guardiola (Man City)
2016/17 Antonio Conte (Chelsea) Antonio Conte (Chelsea)
2015/16 Claudio Ranieri (Leicester) Claudio Ranieri (Leicester)
2014/15 Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)
2013/14 Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool) Manuel Pellegrini (Man City)
2012/13 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2011/12  Roberto Mancini (Man City) Roberto Mancini (Man City)
2010/11 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2009/10 Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea) Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea)
2008/09 Rafa Benitez (Liverpool) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2007/08 Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2006/07 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2005/06 Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)
2004/05 Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)
2003/04 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
2002/03 Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
2001/02 Sir Bobby Robson (Newcastle) Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
2000/01 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1999/00 David O'Leary (Leeds) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1998/99 John Gregory (Aston Villa) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1997/98 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
1996/97 Roy Evans (Liverpool) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1995/96 Kevin Keegan (Newcastle) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1994/95 Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn) Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn)
1993/94 Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
1992/93 Mike Walker (Norwich) Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)

 

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