Christmas is always a crucial period in the season, especially when the Premier League table is as tight as it is at present, says Graeme Le Saux. The Betfair Ambassador and former-England defender explains why post-match recovery is vital at this time of year and why he doesn't mind being proved wrong by Burnley...
"There's no price on the spirit that Burnley possess currently and I'm constantly reminded of my pre-season prediction that they'd struggle during this campaign; but I love that I'm eating my words."
In football, Christmas is very much a marathon, not a sprint, and once you've played that first game you just need to get your head down and focus on recovering for the next fixture. It requires a huge amount of discipline.
I always found myself focused more on the post-match recovery rather than the pre-match regime with the games coming in such quick succession. You almost feel like you're still recovering when you're sat in the dressing room for the next game.
As a player, you try to be two different people as you have to enjoy the time you have with your family - which is a lovely distraction - but equally you're trying to juggle so many things, it can get really complicated. I was very fortunate that the people around me knew just how vital a time this was in the season as a successful or disastrous set of Christmas results can define your campaign as a club.
If you look at the current Premier League table, there's just six points that split Watford in tenth and Stoke in 17th; if a side can go on a run then it can have a huge impact. Swansea are just four points behind Mark Hughes' side and if you consider the effect that the change of manager has had on Everton, Crystal Palace and West Ham then they could really make the most of this quick run of games. There's no doubt they've rolled the dice by relieving Paul Clement of his duties at such a risky time but it may just lift the mood at the Liberty at the right time.
At the other end of the table, I have to save a word for Burnley, who have been magnificent so far this season. It just shows what you can do with the right set of players, and it always re-assures me when you see a team that hasn't had that luxury of spending huge sums of money, that they can still punch above their weight. There's no price on the spirit that team possesses currently and I'm constantly reminded of my pre-season prediction that they'd struggle during this campaign; but I love that I'm eating my words.
They do have some tough games over the Christmas period but they're very much on schedule to smash that "40 point barrier". They'll want to show they have that consistency to finish in the top ten and if they can do that, it'd be a huge achievement.