What the Premier League's Managers Are Hoping to Get from Santa This Christmas
With the festive season now in full swing, the Premier League kicks it up a gear.
With sides playing up to four times in a two week period, this time of year is generally seen as a season defining period for those at both ends of the table.
With the Christmas period so important for each side, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the League's managers will be focusing solely on each game as they prepare both mentally and tactically for the challenges ahead.
But, surely, managers have Christmas wishes to? Here's what I reckon each boss should be asking for come December 25th...
Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
A seasons supply of cotton wool
To say Arsenal have been a one man team so far this term is a little unfair. To say they would be languishing in the mid-table if weren't for Robin van Persie's incredible form this year is simple fact. Wenger will be doing everything he can to protect the injury prone Dutchman, and if this means swaddling him in cotton wool between game, so be it....
A glasses prescription
"Ze sending off? Non, I did not see it...."
Alex McLeish (Aston Villa)
A game changer
The loss of Ashley Young to Manchester United in the summer seems to have done serious damage to Villa's goal scoring threat. 16 goals in 14 games is not what you would expect of a team most expect to be challenging the top six.
The presence of £24 million pound front man, and notorious poacher, Darren Bent is all very good but he's not getting the service he requires from an underachieving midfield. This is realized by recently released stats - Bent averages the least amount of touches of any outfield Premier League player.
A friendlier schedule
Over the festive season, the Villans will host Liverpool and Arsenal, followed by daunting trips to Stoke and Chelsea. Disaster here could see them slip into the relegation mire.
Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers)
A new job
100% Blackburn, 0% Kean.
Go to a Rovers game these days and this is what you'll see fans wearing on their shirts and displaying on banners. It's not hard to see why.
Blackburn are in the relegation zone with just two wins all season. Their performances have been mostly abject, and, fairly or unfairly, the majority of the blame has been placed at Kean's door.
Add to this they play three North-West derbies over Christmas, including Manchester United and Liverpool away.
If Kean still has his job come January, I'll eat my hat.
Owen Coyle (Bolton)
A rabbit's foot, a four leafed clover etc.
Another North-West manager enduring a torrid time. Bolton have one just once in front of their home fans all season, however no-one is panicking just yet. Bolton have a decent squad, and In Coyle they have a respected and talented manager who is capable of turning things around.
Bolton are just waiting for something to click. They need that one spark, that once slice of luck, and they'll rocket up the table. Fans need not be concerned, Bolton are safe this season.
Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea)
So that it can be shoved up Fernando Torres' rear end. The most expensive player in Premier League history, has been cutting a frustrating figure as the ageing Didier Drogba and the lively Daniel Sturridge are favoured ahead of him.
Chelsea have been performing well below expectations and find themselves in fourth, 10 points behind Manchester City. An on form Torres is unstoppable at worst, a goal machine and capable of tormenting the best defences in the world, and will elevate Chelsea to genuine title contenders once more.
David Moyes (Everton)
A new owner
You have to feel sorry for David Moyes. Operating on a shoestring budget, Moyes has performed miracles at Goodison Park. His qualities as a manager are proven further when star names such as Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini commit their future to the club, despite being certain to earn more money elsewhere.
The Everton squad badly needs investment, however. The leader of a limited strikeforce Louis Saha, is only getting older and spends an ever increasing amount of time on the physio's table. The same can be said of captain Phil Neville.
Everton need to find resources soon, of Moyes may feel he has achieved all he can with the Toffees.
Martin Jol (Fulham)
A new team bus
As in last season, Fulham's form away from home has been dismal. Whilst a tally of six points away compared to just nine at home doesn't seem like a huge gap, a quick look at the goal stats will tell you Martin Jol's side are three times more likely to score at Craven Cottage. Big difference.
You only have to look at Fulham's last two League fixtures to see the difference. An entertaining 1-0 victory over Liverpool at home, followed by a dismal 2-0 defeat at Swansea.
Jol will know results away from Craven Cottage will need to improve, and maybe that can be kick started with a brand new luxury coach?
Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)
No doubt about it, 'King' Kenny has turned Liverpool's fortunes around this season, albeit with significant investment. However, the abrasiveness of both himself and his players is starting to wear thin.
Take last Monday's game at Fulham. Jay Spearing was justly red carded for a horrible challenge. Would Dalglish shut up about it being unfair at all over the next couple of press conferences? No.
A lot Dalglish's bile has been spent at officials this season and for the large part it has been completely unjustified.
The less said about Luis Suarez' conduct the better.
Once again, cannot fault the side on the field. The resurgence is well and truly on, and if Dalglish can continue to get the Reds beating the sides around them, then Anfield should welcome Champions League football again next season.
Roberto Mancini (Manchester City)
Some new toys
Because Mario Balotelli has broken all his, having thrown them out of the pram once too often.
Uhh, but on a serious note, it's hard to criticize where City find themselves right now. Top of the league with two points and a game in hand to spare. Semi-final of the Carling Cup. The Champions League campaign is now over, but the acquitted themselves well, 10 points in the so-called 'Group of Death' would usually have been enough to qualify.
Also, the huge 6-1 thrashing of fierce rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford will live in fans memories for a long time.
A lot will be made of the Citizens squad depth given the busy nature of the festive period. Perhaps one that will define their season more is how they cope with the loss of talisman Yaya Toure when he is on African Cup of Nations duty throughout January.
Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
No metaphors here readers, just straight to the point.
United, other than when the young Tom Cleverley has been playing, have all season lacked that spark in midfield, someone who can play a game changing pass, someone who cut the tightest of defences open.
There's no question in my mind that the player best suited for this role is the Dutch playmaker.
Anderson and Michael Carrick have tried, but whilst they've been calm and collected in possession, the final ball just isn't there.
The only problem here is that Santa may not be able to deliver until the summer transfer window....
Alan Pardew (Newcastle)
There's no doubt in most people's minds that Newcastle have been performing above everyone's expectations so far this season.
However recent injuries to star centre backs Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini have left the Magpies back four reeling as Newcastle have taken just one point from the last four games, and have now dropped out the top six.
With both Taylor and Coloccini set for lengthy lay offs, Pardew will no doubt be hoping for a miracle worker to offer his services to Newcastle this Christmas.
Paul Lambert (Norwich)
Sticking wire, by and large, the same defensive set up from the start of the campaign would suggest that Norwich have been a defensively cohesive unit. The stats suggest otherwise.
Despite the Canaries higher than expected league placing, they have still shipped 28 goals this season, and have not kept one clean sheet, a worse performance than both QPR and Swansea, who also came up this season.
Norwich have a tough Christmas schedule, and the key to them remaining out of the relegation wars is to stop the goals leaking. Richie de Laet was bought in on loan from Manchester United in the summer to shore up the defence, and an unfortunate string of injuries has kept him out the side.
Perhaps it's time for Lambert to look at another loanee?
Neil Warnock (QPR)
Some new excuses
If QPR have just lost, Mr. Warnock will generally blame, a) the referee, b) the dirty underhand tactics of the other team or c) both of these.
Whilst there's no doubt some truth in this some of the time, it gets kind of boring hearing the same old tired clichés being pattered about.
QPR have a decent squad and will avoid relegation this season. But sometimes, Neil, they will just play rubbish...
Tony Pulis (Stoke)
Another season, another strong performance from Stoke going unnoticed.
The Potters currently sit in a strong mid-table position with a game in hand, and have a relatively straightforward festive period fixture list.
They were also the first British team to qualify from the group stages of European competition this season.
Still, Pulis' side sneak by the media's attention, perhaps scaring off potential signings or investors.
I'm going to be bold here and predict a top seven finish for Stoke this season, something that would finally announce their arrival on the big scene.
Martin O'Neil (Sunderland)
A time machine
As I'm writing this, O'Neil's Sunderland are 1-0 down at home to Blackburn, who have been consistently the worse team this term.
The majority of the blame which has seen Sunderland's awful form this year (just two wins since January, the worst in the League) must rest at Steve Bruce's door and the bizarre decisions made in the transfer market.
Letting your best player and most consistent goal scorer, Darren Bent, go is only good business if you replace him. The signings made by Bruce have been questionable at best, and how O'Neil must want to go back in time and either stop the sale of Bent or make sure the money was spent wiser.
O'Neil, will need time, Sunderland fans, and unless he is backed heavily in January, that may include a stint in the Championship.
Brendan Rodgers (Swansea)
More of the same, please
Coming up through the play-offs to the Premier League often casts you as favourites to go back down straight away. Swansea, overseen by Brendan Rodgers, look to be a safe bet in bucking that trend.
The Welsh side have played good football, keeping it on the deck with a slick passing game, even in the face of much bigger opposition.
They have also been backed up by some superb individual performances, noticeably that of goalkeeper Michel Vorm who's performances have saved the Swans valuable points as of late.
What Rodgers will be looking for over Christmas and into the New Year is his side to produce more of the same. As long as the passion, intensity and concentration is kept, Wales will be represented in the Premier League next season as well.
Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur)
Another Scott Parker. Or five.
As of late, Spurs have been in fantastic form recently, winning their last six on the bounce and being flouted as title contenders.
The reason for this has been simple: the fine form of Scott Parker. A player who's never say die attitude, tackling ability and eye for a pass has seen Ol 'Arry's charges soar up the table.
Unfortunately, he can't be on top form all the time, as is currently being shown with Spurs 2-0 down away at Stoke right now.
Redknapp would love someone else who can bring that midfield mettle, to ensure the Spurs league form can continue unabashed.
A good lawyer?
How typical the renowned 'wheeler-dealer' Redknapp has been charged with tax evasion? Couldn't write this stuff sometimes...
Roy Hodgson (West Brom)
A case of Red Bull
Five times this season, West Brom have got themselves into a winning position only to be on the losing side after 90 minutes, the most recent example being at home to the struggling Wigan yesterday. That means with a little more energy in the latter stages of the game, Hodgson's side would be in 4th.
So what better to perk his players up than with Austria's most famous export? Although perhaps don't give any to Peter Odemwingie. Poor lad would be up all night running about...
Roberto Martinez (Wigan)
Martinez has to be the most adventurous manger in the League right now. Why he tries to get a side so dour and lifeless as Wigan to play on the deck, attacking football, I've no idea. It certainly doesn't work.
He, like every Wigan fan did ages ago, must accept that in it's current form the Latics are much more suited to the 'hump it up to big man and pray' tactic that worked so well for them under Steve Bruce. If Martinez continues on his quest to make them an attractive football side, they're gone.
It won't help an already dreadful attendance record, hence the clown. What better to take your mind off yet another thrilling Wigan - Blackburn tie?
Mick McCarthy (Wolves)
Quick growing fingernails
Here's a manager in complete reverse to Wigan's Roberto Martinez.
'Mad' Mick knows his squads limitations and has them well motivated and playing their hearts out every game, see last weekend's turnaround at Sunderland for proof.
The problem is, without the backing of vast resources, McCarthy also has Wolves playing to their full potential and I'm not convinced that's enough to keep them up.
It's going to be a long, nerve shredding season for Mick and the Wolves faithful, with it likely going to the last day again.
I for one hope he can keep them up.