Iconic Moments: Wenger bids farewell (May 2018)

On Friday 20th April 2018, Arsenal announced that Arsene Wenger was to step down as the club’s longest-serving manager after 22 years at the helm.

Wenger was a revolutionary for the English game, changing the way managers approach training regimes, player diets and data analysis. It was his dream to complete an entire Premier League season unbeaten and that feat was achieved with ‘The Invincibles’ side of 2003-2004. The likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell and Dennis Bergkamp playing a crucial role in the Gunners going through a season undefeated. They eventually went 49 league matches without losing.

In recent seasons, success had given way to frustration and protests which included banners, aeroplanes calling for his departure and eventually, supporters deciding not to turn up to home matches. This was despite keeping Arsenal in the top four for 19 successive seasons and becoming the most successful foreign manager in the history of the FA Cup. The end was near and it was time for a change as Arsenal started to slip further away from the other prime Premier League challengers.

In his final home match as the club’s manager, Arsenal put in a splendid display of attacking football, beating Burnley 5-0 with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Alex Iwobi and two from his final-ever signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A final day victory at Huddersfield meant Wenger finished with three titles and 476 Premier League wins. He has been succeeded by Unai Emery.

Although there were some very awkward moments in the closing years of his reign, Wenger’s legacy should never be tarnished. He has to be considered as one of the most influential figures the Premier League has ever seen.

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Shock Results: Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United (February 2018)

Goalscorer: Matt Ritchie 65

Teams:

Newcastle United: Martin Dubravka, Paul Dummett, DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune, Mohamed Diame, Jonjo Shelvey, Kenedy (Christian Atsu 84), Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle (Joselu 80), Ayoze Perez (Isaac Hayden 90)

Manchester United: David de Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic (Scott McTominay 77), Paul Pogba (Michael Carrick 66), Jesse Lingard (Juan Mata 66), Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 52,309

Whilst Manchester United’s chances of catching Manchester City in mid-February 2018 were slim to nil, the Red Devils were locked in a tight battle for the runners-up spot with outgoing champions Chelsea, Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur.

Jose Mourinho’s side travelled to Tyneside to face Newcastle United, who following Huddersfield’s 4-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth earlier in the day, kicked off in the bottom three. Rafa Benitez’s team were in desperate need of a result, having not won infront of their home supporters since beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in October. This meeting also brought together the old foes Mourinho and Benitez, whose rivalry during the Chelsea/Liverpool FC showdowns of the previous decade were spiky to say the least.

Mourinho began with the same starting XI that had lost to Tottenham at Wembley just under a fortnight earlier but whilst they struggled to muster anything clear-cut on that evening, they did create plenty of opportunities here. However, they ran into Martin Dubravka, who was in inspired form on his first-team debut. Dubravka had signed on-loan from Sparta Prague and he showed agile reflexes throughout to deny the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.

Despite not having as many opportunities, Newcastle worked tirelessly for their manager. They ran further than their opponents in the 90 minutes, clocked up more sprints and closed down the space relentlessly on United’s more dangerous players. Romelu Lukaku had a quiet afternoon, whilst Paul Pogba cut a forlorn figure as he was outfought by Jonjo Shelvey in the midfield battle before being substituted for Michael Carrick in the 66th minute.

60 seconds earlier, Newcastle got their big chance and seized the moment. From Shelvey’s free-kick, Pogba was easily outmuscled in an aerial duel with Florian Lejeune. Lejeune’s header found Dwight Gayle, who flicked the ball cutely into the path of the onrushing Matt Ritchie. The Scottish international drilled his shot beyond David de Gea and sent the home support into a wave of joy and delight. It was Ritchie’s first goal of the season with his 43rd shot of the campaign.

Dubravka continued to deny Manchester United after that moment and Newcastle held on for a priceless victory. Mourinho sportingly congratulated Benitez afterwards and admitted Newcastle had fought “like animals.” Defeat here left Manchester United 16 points behind Manchester City and that deficit increased by the end of the season. It also meant another winless trip to St James’ Park for Mourinho, who has failed to win any of his seven previous visits as a Premier League boss.

Newcastle rarely looked back after this fantastic victory. They lost just once at home after this day and finished a creditable 10th.

Premier League Rewind: 20th-22nd January 2018

Results: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea, Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace, Burnley 0-1 Manchester United, Everton 1-1 West Bromwich Albion, Leicester City 2-0 Watford, Stoke City 2-0 Huddersfield Town, West Ham United 1-1 AFC Bournemouth, Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle United, Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City 1-0 Liverpool FC

With Christmas well and truly over and the January transfer window in full swing, a question had been asked of runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. A week earlier, the Citizens lost 4-3 to Liverpool FC, losing their first league match of the campaign. Could Pep Guardiola’s side return to winning ways?

They made no mistake against Newcastle United, beating the Magpies 3-1. Sergio Aguero was in peak form against Newcastle again, scoring his seventh hat-trick in the competition and his second against the Toon Army after his five-goal haul against them in October 2015. It was a perfect way to mark his 200th appearance in the competition.

Manchester City remained 12 points clear at the top of the table after Manchester United extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight matches. Anthony Martial’s strike after 54 minutes saw Jose Mourinho’s men record a narrow 1-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor. By contrast, Burnley’s bright start to the season had been checked. They were still eighth in the table but winless now in seven games and had lost their last three matches. The Red Devils were yet to concede a goal in 2018.

Liverpool FC should have been on a real high after the victory over Manchester City. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side inexplicably lost their next match, going down 1-0 at The Liberty Stadium to struggling Swansea City. Virgil van Dijk made his league debut for the Reds after his £75 million move from Southampton making him the most expensive defender in world football. However, he was partially responsible for the only goal of the game, scored by Swansea centre-back, Alfie Mawson. Swansea remained bottom but were now just three points adrift of safety.

Following a humiliating exit at the hands of Coventry City in the FA Cup earlier in the month, Stoke City had parted company with Mark Hughes after nearly five years in-charge. After missing out on their prime target, the Derby boss Gary Rowett, it was Paul Lambert who stepped in to fill the breach. He made the perfect start as the Potters beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 to lift themselves outside the drop zone. They were replaced in the bottom three by Southampton, who hadn’t won a game now in nearly two months. That was despite the Saints earning a decent point against Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane scored the equaliser for Tottenham. It was his 99th Premier League goal.

The match at Goodison Park between Everton and West Bromwich Albion was completely overshadowed by a horrific injury to Everton midfielder, James McCarthy. An unfortunate collision with West Brom forward Salomon Rondon saw him suffer a double leg fracture and leaving the field on a stretcher. Rondon was seen in tears after the incident which meant the final 1-1 scoreline was made completely irrelevant by these events.

Sam Allardyce was the man in-charge of Everton but their prime target to succeed Ronald Koeman had been Marco Silva. The Watford boss had been the subject of an approach by Everton in mid-November. The Hornets turned the approach down but their form completely nosedived after this. A 2-0 defeat away at Leicester City spelt the end for Silva. He was sacked by Watford less than 24 hours after the loss at The King Power Stadium.

What else happened in January 2018?

  • Cyrille Regis dies after suffering a heart attack, aged 59. He won five England caps and represented the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City and Aston Villa during a 19-year professional career.
  • The UK’s second-largest construction company, Carillion goes into liquidation with debts of £1.5 million. Over 19,000 jobs in the UK disappear with the collapse.
  • A huge fire at the Liverpool Echo Arena car park destroys 1,400 cars.
  • The United States government enters a federal government shutdown as a result of a dispute over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
  • A total lunar eclipse takes place. It is the first blue moon eclipse since 1983.
  • After touring for nearly 50 years, Sir Elton John announces his retirement.
  • Professional dancer Brendan Cole announces he is leaving Strictly Come Dancing after being with the series since its inception in 2004.

Shock Results: Leicester City 0-3 Crystal Palace (December 2017)

Goalscorers: Christian Benteke 19, Wilfried Zaha 40, Bakary Sako 90

Teams:

Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Ben Chilwell, Harry Maguire, Wes Morgan, Danny Simpson, Vicente Iborra (Shinji Okazaki 77), Wilfred Ndidi (SENT OFF), Marc Albrighton (Andy King 77), Demarai Gray, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy (Leonardo Ulloa 85)

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Scott Dann, James Tomkins, Martin Kelly, Jeff Schlupp, Yohan Cabaye (Jairo Riedewald 85), James McArthur, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke (Bakary Sako 88)

Referee: Martin Atkinson, Attendance: 31,081

After their truly abysmal start to the 2017-2018 season that yielded no points from seven matches, Crystal Palace were starting to recover by the time Christmas arrived. The Eagles had found some form at Selhurst Park but were still without the magic formula on their travels. They hadn’t even scored away from home by the time they travelled to The King Power Stadium.

They faced a rejuvenated Leicester City. Two months earlier, the former Premier League champions had dispensed with the services of Craig Shakespeare as manager after just one win in their first eight matches. Now, Claude Puel had steered them to four successive victories and just one defeat in seven matches, which had come against Manchester City. With Palace’s pompous away record, this looked like a home banker on many of the weekend’s accumulators.

However, Roy Hodgson’s team were about to tear up the formbook, producing a dazzling display that left the Foxes in a Saturday lunchtime daze. Palace took control of the game from the opening moments and deservedly took the lead after 19 minutes. Christian Benteke showed some of his old form to power a header past Kasper Schmeichel after he met Andros Townsend’s deep cross. It was the perfect response from Benteke, who had taken a spot-kick against AFC Bournemouth a week earlier and missed having gone against team instructions from his manager.

Only a yellow card which led to a suspension would temper Benteke’s afternoon. The Belgian was a menace throughout and so was the ever-increasingly influential Wilfried Zaha. Five minutes before half-time, he doubled the advantage for the south-east Londoners, producing a lovely stepover to beat Ben Chilwell, then producing a devastating finish past Schmeichel. Leicester looked shell-shocked. This was almost a completely different team from the one that had just dismantled Southampton 4-1 in their own backyard less than 72 hours earlier.

Puel’s side did rally after the break. Vicente Iborra had the ball in the net but it was rightfully disallowed for a foul in the build-up, whilst veteran goalkeeper Julian Speroni was at full stretch to deny Riyad Mahrez from distance. Any realistic hope Leicester had of getting back into the match though was ended by Wilfred Ndidi’s dismissal just past the hour mark. On his 21st birthday, Ndidi went down cheaply in the penalty area looking for a spot-kick. Martin Atkinson wasn’t falling for this trick and booked the Nigerian for simulation. That was his second bookable offence, leading to an early bath and a dressing-down from his manager. It wasn’t a birthday to remember for Ndidi.

Crystal Palace saw the game out comfortably with the extra man advantage and Benteke was slightly unfortunate not to win a penalty for his side late on when it seemed like Marc Albrighton had tripped him. In stoppage-time, it was his replacement, Bakary Sako who added the gloss to an almost perfect away performance with a fine finish.

There were still nine points between the sides on the full-time whistle but this win and a resounding 5-0 victory at Selhurst Park in April made Leicester a very favourable opponent for Crystal Palace in the 2017-2018 Premier League season.

Great Goals: Jose Izquierdo – BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION vs. West Ham United (February 2018)

Jose Izquierdo was enjoying his first season in Premier League football and making a decent impact at Brighton & Hove Albion. The Colombian scored one of the club’s best goals of their debut Premier League season against West Ham United in February 2018.

The game was evenly poised at 1-1 going into the 59th minute. It looked like West Ham had cleared the danger from a Pascal Gross corner. Izquierdo had some space on the edge of the penalty area and he curled a beautiful shot with his right foot right into the top right-hand corner of the net. Adrian in the West Ham goal had no chance of saving the shot and honestly, no Premier League goalkeeper would have saved this effort.

Even Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan raced down the pitch to join in the celebrations. It was Izquierdo’s second strike in the campaign against the Hammers. He had also scored in Brighton’s impressive 3-0 victory earlier in the campaign at The London Stadium.  This was his best moment of an impressive debut season on these shores which ended with a place in Colombia’s squad for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Memorable Matches: Liverpool FC 4-3 Manchester City (January 2018)

Goalscorers: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 9, Leroy Sane 40, Roberto Firmino 59, Sadio Mane 61, Mohamed Salah 68, Bernardo Silva 84, Ilkay Gundogan 90

Teams:

Liverpool FC: Loris Karius, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Emre Can (James Milner 79), Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mane (Ragnar Klavan 90), Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah (Adam Lallana 88)

Manchester City: Ederson, Fabian Delph (Danilo 31), Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling (Bernardo Silva 71), Sergio Aguero

Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 53,285

Manchester City travelled to Anfield in January 2018 still unbeaten in the Premier League. They had avoided defeat in their first 22 games and only Everton and Crystal Palace had managed to take points off them so far in the season. Liverpool FC were seen as a major obstacle in the way of Pep Guardiola’s side potentially becoming the first team since Arsenal in 2003-2004 to go through an entire campaign undefeated.

This was Liverpool’s first match since selling Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142 million and their own expensive purchase, defender Virgil van Dijk was injured so would have to wait to make his Premier League debut for the club. With both sides loving to attack and score goals, a 0-0 draw was never likely.

The home side took the lead after nine minutes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s energetic run through the centre of the park led to the England midfielder driving a low shot beyond Ederson’s reach to give the Reds the lead infront of an ecstatic Kop end. Liverpool were in control of the game but surrendered their advantage five minutes before the interval. Joe Gomez misjudged an aerial pass, allowing Leroy Sane to get round the back of him. The German’s shot then somehow evaded Loris Karius at the near post to strike the equaliser. Karius had just won Jurgen Klopp’s backing to take over no.1 goalkeeping duties from Simon Mignolet. This was not an ideal start to prove the manager’s confidence in him.

The course of the match turned in a scintillating period which saw Liverpool punish City clinically for individual errors, scoring three times in nine second half minutes. First, Roberto Firmino pressured John Stones into a mistake and coolly restored Liverpool’s lead just before the hour mark. Moments later, Sadio Mane smashed the crossbar and then with the very next attack, Mane arrowed an explosive shot into the top corner to make it 3-1. Having been controversially sent off in the reverse fixture in September, Mane had his revenge against the Citizens.

Mohamed Salah was having one of his quieter matches but he was never going to be left off the scoring. On 69 minutes, Ederson made a rare lapse of judgement in an otherwise fantastic debut season. His poor clearance fell straight to Salah who lobbed the ball into the empty net from over 40-yards out. It was great vision and the perfect finish to surely put the game beyond the league leaders.

Guardiola’s side rallied in the closing stages and late goals from substitute Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan made it a nervous final few minutes but Liverpool FC held on for a deserved victory. This extended their own unbeaten run in all competitions to 18 matches, although they would lose their very next match to bottom-placed Swansea City. The ultimate winner had been football as these wonderful teams put in an exciting exhibition for everyone to enjoy on a cold January afternoon.

Iconic Moments: Proud Petr reaches 200 clean sheets (March 2018)

There were many milestones achieved in the 2017-2018 Premier League season. One was achieved by one of the league’s evergreen and most outstanding goalkeepers. Petr Cech became the first goalkeeper in Premier League history to record 200 clean sheets after shutting out Watford in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory at The Emirates Stadium. Whilst Shkodran Mustafi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were scoring the goals to get Arsenal’s first league victory in over a month, it was Cech’s heroics that ensured a routine afternoon for the Gunners.

Just after the hour mark, Watford won a penalty when Roberto Pereyra was tripped by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Troy Deeney stepped up from the spot but was denied by Cech, who saved his first spot-kick as an Arsenal goalkeeper. Cech’s first clean sheet in 11 games saw him achieve the magical number of 200 Premier League shutouts. One of the greatest goalkeepers to have graced the Premier League, the Czech kept his first clean sheet back in August 2004 playing for Chelsea and has four Premier League title winners’ medals to his name.

Memorable Matches: Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea (January 2018)

Goalscorers: Jack Wilshere 63, Eden Hazard 69 PEN, Marcos Alonso 84, Hector Bellerin 90

Teams:

Arsenal: Petr Cech, Calum Chambers (Theo Walcott 88), Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette (Danny Welbeck 80), Alexis Sanchez

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses (Davide Zappacosta 56), N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas (Danny Drinkwater 71), Eden Hazard (Willian 82), Alvaro Morata

Referee: Anthony Taylor, Attendance: 59,379

One of the final matches of the 2017-2018 festive period saw two of the London giants come face-to-face at The Emirates Stadium. Arsenal and Chelsea faced each other, shared four goals, 33 chances and a point apiece in an absorbing and entertaining contest.

It was the home side’s sixth game in 19 days and injuries were starting to take their toll on Arsene Wenger’s side. Having lost Nacho Monreal to injury in the first game of the Christmas fixtures against Liverpool FC, Wenger had seen Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac both join the treatment table in the New Years’ Eve draw at West Bromwich Albion. This meant Rob Holding made a rare start in the back three.

Chelsea looked to punish the inexperience in the Arsenal defence and inside 10 minutes, should have been ahead. Alvaro Morata had a golden opportunity but one-on-one with Petr Cech, he squandered it, putting the ball well wide of the post on his first-ever visit to The Emirates. It started a miserable evening for the Spanish forward who missed some guilt-edge opportunities throughout the contest.

Both goalkeepers were incredibly busy and in fine form. Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois made an outrageous save in the first half to deny Alexis Sanchez with the ball bouncing off both posts but incredibly not crossing the goal-line. Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Tiemoue Bakayoko also forced the respective keepers into fine stops. The form of Courtois and Petr Cech in this game was amazing to witness.

0-0 at the break, the breakthrough finally came in the 63rd minute. Via a deflection from Morata, the ball fell into the path of Jack Wilshere who smashed a shot beyond Courtois to score his first Premier League goal since May 2015. Six minutes later, the visitors were back on level terms. Hector Bellerin tripped Eden Hazard in the box and Anthony Taylor awarded the penalty. Wenger, facing the possibility of a touchline ban for comments made about Mike Dean at The Hawthorns days earlier, was fuming with this decision too, calling it “farcical.” Hazard picked himself up and scored from the spot, sending Cech the wrong way.

With six minutes left, it looked like Antonio Conte’s side had sneaked all three points. Substitute Davide Zappacosta worked his way beyond Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He drilled a cross across the box and fellow wing-back Marcos Alonso made a decisive run, taking advantage of static defending from the centre-backs to find the back of the net. However, Chelsea were to be denied in the second minute of stoppage-time. Bellerin levelled the match with a convincing strike on the half-volley after Alonso had failed to clear his lines. There was still time for Zappacosta to hit the bar in stoppage-time but in the first of three meetings in January 2018 between the sides, a point was quite rightly a fair result.

Shock Results: Swansea City 1-0 Liverpool FC (January 2018)

Goalscorer: Alfie Mawson 40

Teams:

Swansea City: Lukasz Fabianski, Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson, Mike van der Hoorn, Kyle Naughton, Martin Olsson, Sam Clucas, Leroy Fer, Ki Sung-Yueng, Nathan Dyer (Tom Carroll 64), Jordan Ayew (Wilfried Bony 79)

Liverpool FC: Loris Karius, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Emre Can, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Adam Lallana 68), Georginio Wijnaldum (Danny Ings 73), Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah

Referee: Neil Swarbrick, Attendance: 20,886

27 days earlier, Swansea City had shipped five goals at Anfield against Liverpool FC. The Swans were without a permanent manager, bottom of the table and looked completely devoid of any confidence. However, the Swans soon found a new boss and Carlos Carvalhal was about to give belief back to the Swansea supporters.

In the return match on a Monday Night Football at The Liberty Stadium, Swansea took a more cautious approach to this match. Carvalhal would later say: “They (Liverpool) are like a Formula 1 car. But at 4pm in London it will be difficult to speed, they would be a car like any other. We needed to make sure there was traffic; we could not let them have open roads to drive in.”

Both sides did have early opportunities. Jordan Ayew did have the ball in the back of the net but it was correctly ruled out as he had run the ball out of play. Meanwhile, Liverpool FC’s club-record signing was making his Premier League debut and Virgil van Dijk came close to scoring with a headed effort from a corner. His attempt whistled just wide of the far post.

The general feeling was if Swansea were going to strike, it would come from a set-piece. That theory was proved right five minutes before half-time. Liverpool didn’t clear their lines properly from a corner. Van Dijk was especially guilty as he didn’t get enough on his clearing header. After a ricochet off Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson took full advantage. He drove a shot into the bottom corner of the net. It was his first goal of the season.

Both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah wasted good opportunities in the first half but Liverpool were nowhere near the level they’d demonstrated in their recent victory over the runaway league leaders Manchester City. Going into the match, Salah had scored 24 goals in all competitions, two more than the entire Swansea team. He had a quiet evening though. The Egyptian’s best moment was a free-kick in the second half that forced Lukasz Fabianski into a flying save.

Liverpool had scored 29 away goals in the league but they achieved none here despite controlling the second half. The closest they came was with virtually the last kick of the match. Van Dijk picked out Roberto Firmino but the Brazilian’s late header struck the post with Fabianski well-beaten.

Swansea held on for a sensational victory which took them within three points of safety. It was Carvalhal’s second win in four matches and he would guide them to impressive victories in quick succession over Arsenal, Burnley and West Ham United.

However, Swansea failed to win another game after the 4-1 victory over the Hammers in early March and they would be relegated at the end of the season. However, the fans can lookback at this victory over the Reds as one of the bright spots of a disappointing 2017-2018 season.

Iconic Moments: Eriksen’s fast start (January 2018)

In January 2018, Tottenham Hotspur made a flying start against Manchester United, scoring one of the quickest goals in Premier League history. Infront of a record Premier League attendance at the time of 81,978 spectators, Wembley Stadium was treated to an incredible opening from Tottenham and Christian Eriksen.

The Dane was the quickest to latch onto Dele Alli’s attempted effort and he flashed a shot past David de Gea after just 11 seconds. It was easily the fastest goal of the 2017-2018 Premier League campaign. It was the fastest goal Manchester United had ever conceded in the Premier League and only two goals have been timed quicker than Eriksen’s effort since the league began in 1992.

One of those goals came from a Tottenham player in the form of Ledley King against Bradford City in December 2000. The other goal quicker than Eriksen’s came in January 2003 from Alan Shearer, playing for Newcastle United against Manchester City. A Phil Jones own goal added to the gloss of an impressive Tottenham performance, as they won 2-0 on an evening where they were very fast out of the starting blocks.

Memorable Matches: AFC Bournemouth 3-3 West Ham United (December 2017)

Goalscorers: James Collins 7, Dan Gosling 30, Nathan Ake 57, Marko Arnautovic 81, 89, Callum Wilson 90

Teams:

AFC Bournemouth: Asmir Begovic, Nathan Ake, Steve Cook, Simon Francis, Adam Smith, Lewis Cook, Dan Gosling, Ryan Fraser (Marc Pugh 86), Jordon Ibe, Josh King (Benik Afobe 65), Callum Wilson

West Ham United: Adrian, James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta (Declan Rice 79), Artur Masuaku, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang (Andy Carroll 60), Manuel Lanzini, Andre Ayew (Javier Hernandez 61), Marko Arnautovic

Referee: Bobby Madley, Attendance: 10,596

Both AFC Bournemouth and West Ham United came into this Boxing Day fixture in serious trouble. The Hammers had only recorded two victories in their last 12 fixtures whilst Bournemouth sat in the bottom three after back-to-back 4-0 losses to Liverpool FC and Manchester City.

West Ham had enjoyed victory on their last away trip in the Premier League at Stoke City and made a flying start on the south coast. Skipper James Collins put the visitors infront after only seven minutes. From Aaron Cresswell’s corner, he made an early run to the near post, escaping the attentions of his Bournemouth counterpart, Simon Francis. He made no mistake with his header.

Bournemouth’s Josh King and West Ham’s Andre Ayew both squandered chances before Dan Gosling fired Bournemouth level on the half-hour mark with the Cherries first league goal in 344 minutes. Eddie Howe’s side deserved to be level going into half-time but were lucky to still have 11 players. Francis was booked by Bobby Madley for a high foot shown in a challenge against Cheikhou Kouyate. Replays showed he was incredibly fortunate to avoid the red card. It wasn’t the last good bit of fortune Bournemouth would get from the officials over the course of the afternoon.

12 minutes into the second half, the home side sensed their opportunity and took the lead. Nathan Ake finished sharply after a neat flick-on. However, they would squander the lead with nine minutes left. Asmir Begovic slipped in the wet conditions as he tried to make a routine clearance. It was a late Christmas gift for Marko Arnautovic who couldn’t believe his luck, rolling the ball into the empty net. That wasn’t the end of the drama for Begovic or Arnautovic. Eight minutes later, it looked like the Austrian had won it for the Hammers. Begovic capped an error-strewn display by spilling an effort from Javier Hernandez into the path of Arnautovic who was in the right place to tap home.

Just when it looked like David Moyes could celebrate a rare victory, his team were to be denied in cruel circumstances in stoppage-time. Ake’s powerful header ended up in the back of the net but was ruled out by linesman Simon Long for offside. Callum Wilson seemed to have interfered with play. However, after further consultation, referee Madley wrongly overturned the decision, awarding the goal even though there was an offside and hint of a handball from Wilson who was credited with the equaliser.

Whilst Bournemouth did have 26 efforts on-goal and therefore, deserved something out of this gripping contest, their equaliser in this fashion was a tough one to take for West Ham fans. Both clubs eventually escaped the depths of the relegation scrap to finish in 12th and 13th places respectively. This result actually was a turning point in Bournemouth’s season. They would enjoy a seven-match unbeaten streak off the back of this game.

Premier League Rewind: 22nd-23rd December 2017

Results: Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool FC, Everton 0-0 Chelsea, Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Watford, Manchester City 4-0 AFC Bournemouth, Southampton 1-1 Huddersfield Town, Stoke City 3-1 West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City 1-1 Crystal Palace, West Ham United 2-3 Newcastle United, Burnley 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United

The final weekend of Premier League action before Christmas 2017 certainly didn’t disappoint. It started with one of the matches of the season. Goals were almost a certain guarantee as Arsenal and Liverpool FC went head-to-head at The Emirates Stadium to kick-start the weekend.

The Sky Sports Friday Night Football audience were treated to an entertaining spectacle full of great attacking football and some costly mistakes by both goalkeepers. Liverpool dominated the first half and deservedly led at half-time through Philippe Coutinho’s header. Mohamed Salah extended the advantage shortly after half-time before Arsenal burst into life with three goals in a devastating six-minute spell. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both scored either side of a Granit Xhaka long-distance shot which Simon Mignolet completely misjudged the flight of. Petr Cech also made a critical error, parrying Roberto Firmino’s strike into his own net with 20 minutes left to play. This meant the match ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, keeping the Reds one point clear of the Gunners in the table.

Manchester City extended their lead at the top of the table to 13 points after recording their 17th successive victory, thumping AFC Bournemouth 4-0 at The Etihad Stadium. Sergio Aguero added another two goals to his growing collection and it meant Manchester City became the first team in Premier League history to score 100 goals in the calendar year. With back-to-back 4-0 losses, Eddie Howe’s Cherries would spend Christmas Day in the bottom three.

Second-placed Manchester United lost further ground after conceding a late equaliser to Harry Maguire and Leicester City. In an exciting contest at The King Power Stadium, Riyad Mahrez played through Jamie Vardy to score his 50th Premier League goal before a Juan Mata brace either side of half-time put the Red Devils into a 2-1 lead. Daniel Amartey received his marching orders for two yellow cards but 10-man Leicester never gave up and Maguire’s intervention in the fourth minute of stoppage-time kept their excellent run going. Claude Puel had lost just two of his 10 matches’ in-charge as Foxes boss.

Tottenham Hotspur moved from seventh into fifth spot after Harry Kane scored a hat-trick in Spurs’ 3-0 victory at Turf Moor over Burnley. Kane’s treble saw him equal Alan Shearer’s long-standing record of most goals in a Premier League calendar year. He would have one more chance to break the record against Southampton on Boxing Day.

The Saints’ own form was questionable to say the least. Virgil van Dijk was now completely out-of-favour with manager Mauricio Pellegrino and his side now went six games without a win after drawing 1-1 at home to Huddersfield Town. Charlie Austin scored his fifth goal in seven matches but was later charged by the FA with violent conduct and limped off injured too. He would be out of action for several months.

It was Swansea City who would spend Christmas Day bottom of the table, despite getting a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace. It was the first meeting at The Liberty Stadium between the teams since the previous season’s encounter which ended 5-4 to Swansea. Unsurprisingly, this fixture lacked the excitement of the 2016-2017 match but Jordan Ayew’s equaliser was a positive tonic for interim boss Leon Britton, who was filling in after Paul Clement’s dismissal earlier in the week. West Bromwich Albion completed the bottom three after a 3-1 defeat to Stoke City. Alan Pardew was still winless five games into his reign as Baggies boss.

What else happened in December 2017?

  • One of Theresa May’s closest allies, Damian Green, resigns from the government after an investigation finds he made “inaccurate and misleading” statements regarding pornography on a computer in his Commons office.
  • The United States officially recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • Following an investigation into state-sponsored doping, Russia is banned from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics by the IOC.
  • For $66 billion, The Walt Disney Company announces that it will acquire most of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox film studio.
  • Coventry is named as the UK City of Culture for the year 2021.
  • Made in Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo beats Hollyoaks actor Jamie Lomas to win the 17th series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
  • Sir Mo Farah is the surprising winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2017.