Santa’s been! Santa’s been! Santa’s been!
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and we’re all awfully excited that the big man has completed his annual pilgrimage across the globe.
But we’re even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days having waited ever so patiently following a domestic break for the World Cup in Qatar!
We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after overindulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?
Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, given you’re all on the nice list we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.
A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER
We ho ho hope you don’t mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…
It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of 500 minutes).
That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.
Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.
Former Liverpool striker Divock Origi had eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn’s eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 106, the same rate as Demba Ba achieved.
MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?
Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!
And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa’s 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.
The full-back’s quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.
Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.4 yards.
Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five in data that was first collected from the 2006-07 season.
Better than Beckham?
Figueroa’s wonder goal lit up the 2009/10 season
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 3, 2017
LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS
Christmas is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren’t particularly good for us.
It is also, of course, if we’re being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.
Obviously, in football you’re not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.
The France World Cup winner (who missed out on a second medal at Qatar 2022 where Les Bleus were beaten by Argentina on penalties) has committed seven errors leading to a goal in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea and former Chelsea and Arsenal stopper Petr Cech.
Rob Green (5) and Simon Mignolet (4) have also been forthcoming with gifts.
SANTA’S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR
Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.
Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!
In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England’s top flight.
Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.
RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE
The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it’s very important to be top of the tree come December 25!
Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (3) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.
There have been 16 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 25, 2016
SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER
For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the month of December is Alan Shearer.
The Newcastle United great netted 39 times in that month, five more than ex-Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, while Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler netted 33.
England captain Harry Kane is closing in on Shearer having celebrated 32 goals in December for Tottenham, while former Spurs striker Jermain Defoe was on target 27 times.
JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION
Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus, former of Manchester City.
The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.