With the final English Premier League games of 2012 all completed, here are some of the big winners and losers from the final round of games.
Rafa Benitez (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s interim manager took his in-form team to the always difficult Goodison Park to face an Everton side who are breathing down their neck in the race for a top 4 slot, and who were previously unbeaten at home for 9 months. After a tough grilling by David Moyes’ men in the first half, Benitez changed tactics and with two goals from captain Frank Lampard, was able to secure a vital 3 points in their quest to remain in the race for the title.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
With increasing speculation over his future as we approach the January transfer window, what better way to give a timely nudge to your current and any prospective new employers than to give a maestro’s performance? Walcott destroyed Newcastle United with an impressive hat-trick of goals and a display that had spectators wowing at the prospect of him playing as a central striker permanently. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, will be hoping to sort out the financial and professional differences with the player as soon as possible to ensure he does not lose yet another of his hottest properties to a competitor.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Love him or hate him, there is no denying Suarez is one of the leading goal-getters in world football. The controversial Uruguayan is singlehandedly carrying the Liverpool attacking threat through the season, and it is a measure of the Reds’ reliance on his goals, that they have made their priority to sign a quality back-up in case Suarez suffers injury or loss of form. His brace of goals in the early stages at Loftus Road really knocked the stuffing out of struggling QPR.
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)
The Newcastle manager is experiencing the other side of the coin this year, after last season’s exploits brought them a superb 5th place league finish. Injuries have been plentiful while victories have not and Pardew now faces the very likely possibility of losing top scorer Demba Ba in the next week or two with clubs queuing up to activate the £7 million release cause in his contract. The Magpies' resources are being stretched to the limit over the busy Christmas period, as was evident in their 7-3 defeat to Arsenal, when his players looked out on their feet towards the end when the Gunners could have reached double figures.
Paul Lambert (Aston Villa)
With no money, very few experienced players and no prospect of a change in situation it’s easy to understand why Aston Villa are at the wrong end of the table for such a large club. But the current run of form has been nothing short of horrifying for the Scot. After being humbled by Chelsea and Tottenham, a home clash with fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic would have been seen as an opportunity to claim some much needed points. However, Roberto Martinez was able to guide his men to a win over Lambert’s youngsters, who have now shipped an alarming 15 goals in their last 3 games without troubling the opposition at the other end. The rot must be stopped and quickly, otherwise Villa are facing the dreaded trap door.
David Moyes (Everton)
Until Sunday’s game with Chelsea, the Toffees had enjoyed an excellent Christmas with 2 wins from 2 games. Moyes, who loves nothing more than to get one over the big boys when they come to visit Goodison Park, would have jumped to third place with a victory over old foe, Rafa Benitez. Despite dominating the first half and matching the mega-rich Londoners for the entire 90 minutes, the recurring difficulties of finishing opponents off when in the ascendency and slack defending returned to bite Everton yet again this season. This defeat to one of their closest rivals for a top 4 place, while not fatal, is certainly a big blow to Moyes chances of reaching the Champions League qualification spots by the end of the season.