As 2016 draws to a close, we look at where it began…
* Arsenal started 2016 as they ended it – with a scratchy 1-0 home win. But this scratchy 1-0 win over Newcastle featured Mathieu Flamini in a midfield pairing with Aaron Ramsey and Joel Campbell off the bench. Only five of the players who started that day were in Arsenal’s final starting XI of 2016.
* Newcastle were a Premier League club and were managed by Steve McClaren. The survivors from that game to Newcastle’s Friday night win over Nottingham Forest to close 2016? Paul Dummett, Jack Colback and Ayoze Perez. Newcastle have since garnered over £60m from the sales of Daryl Janmaat, Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum. Which is pure sorcery.
* Claudio Ranieri promised champagne to his players as Leicester reached the magical 40-point mark after a 0-0 draw with Bournemouth. Eventual Premier League medal winner Nathan Dyer was treated to his longest spell in a Leicester shirt – 45 minutes as he replaced Leo Ulloa.
* Sylvain Distin played a whole 30 minutes for Bournemouth. At the age of 38. And Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth did not manage a single shot on target at Leicester. Not a one.
* A Manchester United side managed by Louis van Gaal recorded their first win -against Swansea – in six weeks thanks to a wonderful goal from Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United central midfield that day? Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
* Alan Curtis was the Swansea caretaker manager. Some things haven’t changed at all.
* Norwich moved to within a point of Southampton with a 1-0 win over the Saints. Of the Norwich starting XI that day, the only two players currently playing Premier League football are Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani. The man who came off the bench that day to make a difference was Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe. Where is he now? Legia Warsaw of course.
* Southampton boss Ronald Koeman left Sadio Mane out of his starting line-up that day because he had been late to a team meeting; Victor Wanyama got sent off for two yellow cards. As is his wont.
* 19th played 20th and Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce called the clash with Aston Villa the “biggest game of the season”. Only four members of the starting XI that day – Billy Jones, Patrick van Aanholt, Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe – started the Black Cats defeat at Old Trafford on Boxing Day at the end of 2016. John O’Shea and Wes Brown as the two centre-halves? And they won 3-1.
* Three of that Aston Villa XI managed by Remi Garde started Steve Bruce’s latest match in charge: Alan Hutton, Jack Grealish and Leandro Bacuna. Also starting that day were Jordan Veretout (now on loan at St. Etienne), Carles Gil (now at Deportivo la Coruna) and Aly Sissokho (who knew he was still at Villa?).
* Well, Quique Sanchez Flores was the Watford manager and he picked a team in January to lose 2-1 that included five players who faced the same opposition (Manchester City) in December and lost 2-0. Among those who have since moved on is Juan Michel Jurado, bought for £7m from Spartak Moscow one summer and sold the next summer to Espanyol for £1m.
* Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini recorded his first away Premier League victory in seven attempts at Watford. Only one member of City’s starting line-up that day – Eliaquim Mangala – is no longer at the club.
* West Brom beat Stoke (as they always do) and one of their scorers was Stephane Sessegnon, now playing regularly at Montpelier. The starting striker that day was Rickie Lambert, who we absolutely did not realise was now at Cardiff City.
* Of Stoke’s starting XI that day, only Ryan Shawcross, Erik Pieters, Xherdan Shaqiri, Glenn Whelan and Marko Arnautovic have started ten Premier League games this season. Gone and largely forgotten are Philipp Wollscheid (on loan at Wolfsburg) and substitute Joselu (sold to Deportivo).
* West Ham leapfrogged Liverpool in the table with a 2-0 win; they were unbeaten in eight Premier League home games. James Tomkins played at right-back despite Carl Jenkinson being on the bench. What doesn’t change: Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll scored with headers.
* Of the Liverpool starting XI that day, Christian Benteke and Jordon Ibe have been sold, Mamadou Sakho ostracised, Alberto Moreno demoted and Lucas Leiva is on his way out. On the bench was Adam Lallana; an awful lot has changed since then.
* Ah, the beginning of a truly miserable year for Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace, who lost 3-0 at home to Chelsea. They were seventh. Palace, that is, not Chelsea. Starting up front for Palace that day? One Fraizer Campbell, replaced after 67 pretty useless minutes by Marouane Chamakh. Just released by Cardiff, to save you a Google.
* Chelsea got their first win under new boss Guus Hiddink to move six points clear of relegation. The starting central midfield that day? John Obi Mikel and Cesc Fabregas. Poor John Obi Mikel.
* Roberto Martinez managed Everton to a 1-1 draw with Tottenham that featured a goal from Aaron Lennon and starts for the phenomenal Tom Cleverley and Arouna Kone. Only five starters from Everton’s first game of 2016 then started their last against Hull City. This was the game in which Tim Howard was sarcastically applauded by his own fans for making a catch.
* It’s hardly surprising that Tottenham struggled to create anything at Goodison Park – their midfield pairing that day was Eric Dier and Tom Carroll. Of the four games started by Carroll last season, Tottenham won only one – against Watford. This season? He has played one Premier League minute. He is 24.