Halfway to the finish line. As we roll into 2022 and pass the midway point of the season, we look back at a month that was, by Premier League standards, a somewhat quiet and disjointed December.
Whilst all Premier League fans are grateful that the league is continuing at pace, December was plagued by Covid-driven match postponements, with some teams finishing the month with as many as four games in hand on teams above them.
But amidst the irregular match schedule, there was plenty of entertainment on show, from Manchester City’s perfect month and ever-growing win streak to Tottenham’s revival under Antonio Conte and Arsenal’s growing belief that they can crack the top four.
From an unusual December, here is our final Premier League Team of the Month for 2021.
Premier League Team of the Month for December 2021
GK: David De Gea (Manchester United)
Having finally bid farewell to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, Manchester United got off to a strong start under the leadership of Ralf Rangnick in December, picking up four wins and a draw from five matches.
Long serving goalkeeper David De Gea, who has come to United’s rescue multiple times already this season, was the standout player in their December success. Across the team’s five games, De Gea made 21 saves and kept two clean sheets, standing out particularly in his side’s fixtures against Norwich City and Newcastle United.
The Spaniard is still proving a reliable servant when the Red Devils most need him.
RB: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)
After kick-starting a winning run that commenced in early November, Manchester City fully hit their typically remarkable stride in December, winning seven out of seven to not only reach the top of the table but also open up daylight between them and their title rivals.
At right back, the brilliant Joao Cancelo was a key factor in City’s form, starting six of the seven wins. Exceptionally intelligent and tactically flexible, the Portugal international was commanding all over the pitch for the league leaders throughout the month, and popped up with an assist followed by a thunderous goal against Newcastle United.
Defensively, Cancelo successfully completed nine tackles and nine interceptions throughout the month, helping his side achieve three clean sheets.
CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Cancelo wasn’t the only Portugal international to play a starring role in City’s flawless December. At centre back, Ruben Dias impressed once again.
The defender played in all seven of City’s matches in December, in which the team shipped just five goals. Nine interceptions and a passing accuracy of over 90% highlights his abilities as City’s finest ball-playing defender.
However, it was going forward where Dias unexpectedly delivered an increased output in December, scoring twice in the league and also picking up an assist.
As third captain, he regularly led the team on the pitch, with his influence at the club only continuing to grow.
CB: Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Wolves may have only taken to the field five times in December, but in that time they kept three clean sheets and conceded just twice, the finest defensive record in the league throughout the month.
Whilst the entire backline performed impressively during December, centre back Romain Saiss particularly stood out. The defender made 16 interceptions and nine tackles across the five games, proving a key figure in a defence that conceded just once from open play in the month. He also scored a brilliant volleyed winner to give Wolves a narrow 1-0 triumph over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Now away with the Moroccan National Team for the African Cup of Nations, there is no doubt that Wolves will miss him for the weeks that he’s away.
LB: Kieran Tierney (Arsenal)
A month that started dreadfully for Arsenal turned around into a relatively successful one, with the Gunners securing four wins from six to end 2021 in the top four.
Having gotten back into the Arsenal XI ahead of Nuno Tavares, left back Kieran Tierney enjoyed a string of good performances in December. The Scotland international’s performances helped the Gunners to secure three clean sheets in the league across the five games he played, and he also contributed with back-to-back assists against Everton and Southampton and a well taken goal in the 5-0 drubbing of Norwich on Boxing Day.
One of the key driving forces in Arsenal’s strong form over the festive period.
CDM: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Southampton experienced a typically mixed month in December, and whilst the Saints had to settle for a few frustrating draws, they did only lose once in six games, enabling them to climb further and further away from trouble.
James Ward-Prowse, Southampton’s star player and captain, produced some of his finest form of the season so far. The central midfielder scored three goals in December, including a pinpoint free kick at Crystal Palace and stunning half volley against Tottenham. Another Ward-Prowse set piece was headed in by Jan Bednarek to give the Saints a terrific win on the road at West Ham.
If any more evidence was needed that Ward-Prowse is the league’s finest set piece taker, it was there in abundance throughout December.
RAM: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
Multiple Manchester City players shone during a flawless December for the team, but in terms of attacking contribution, Riyad Mahrez was one of the most prominent both within the team and across the league as a whole.
The Algerian was in fine form for the league leaders, recording a goal and assist in three consecutive games against Leeds, Newcastle and Leicester. His tally of six goal contributions in just five appearances placed him as one of the top performers in the league during the final month of 2021.
A key member of the Manchester City attack, the former Leicester star will certainly be missed by his team whilst on African Cup of Nations duty in January.
CAM: Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
Much of the praise surrounding Arsenal’s attacking exploits this season has been centred on the form of Emile Smith Rowe, but in December, fellow attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard stepped into the spotlight with a number of excellent performances.
Having only scored once in the league this season from August to November, the former Real Madrid player scored in three consecutive games for the Gunners at the start of December. This rich scoring form was followed by an assist in the victory over Leeds United and two more assists in the thrashing of Norwich.
Overall, the Norwegian contributed to six goals in six games, an excellent return that enabled him to stand out as Arsenal’s key player towards the end of 2021.
CAM: Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s form may have began to stutter in December, but throughout the month the increasingly prominent Mason Mount turned in some exceptional performances for the Blues.
Mount played in all seven of Chelsea’s Premier League fixtures last month underlining the importance of his presence to this team. Whilst Chelsea endured a mixed bag of results, Mount produced an outstanding return of four goals and three assists. The England international’s goal contributions led directly to seven points for Chelsea throughout the month, and he is now the team’s top scorer in the league this season.
Having equalled his record for Premier League goals in a season already, it looks like the sky is the limit for Mount in 2022.
LAM: Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur)
Tottenham’s revival under Antonio Conte gathered pace in December, with the North London side going undefeated in five matches to reignite their pursuit of a top four spot.
Although star striker Harry Kane looks to be gradually returning to form, there’s no doubt that it was instead Son Heung-Min who continued to be the team’s driving force throughout December. Tottenham’s number seven scored in four games in a row during the final month of 2021, helping his side earn victories over Brentford, Norwich and Crystal Palace as well as a draw against Liverpool.
Having also claimed an assist against Norwich, Son made a total of five goal contributions in five games throughout December, as Spurs steadily gained ground on the European spots.
ST: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) (C)
Whilst not much changed regarding Manchester City’s overall form between November and December, there was a considerable change in the fortunes of Raheem Sterling.
Having initially struggled to hit his stride this season, scoring just twice in the league between August and November, Sterling began to return to his best in December, scoring five goals and bagging one assist in five games. In the midst of that run, the England star scored his 100th Premier League goal with a penalty in the 1-0 triumph over Wolves, and netted twice in City’s crazy 6-3 victory against Leicester on Boxing Day.
2021 wasn’t Sterling’s best year in terms of his Premier League form, but this run of goals in December has re-established him as a starting player in Pep Guardiola’s team, and he’ll be hoping to maintain that in 2022.
Manager: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
With Manchester City players filling up a considerable proportion of this team, it’ll be of little surprise that City boss Pep Guardiola is our manager of the month following a perfect December.
Although City were lucky in one sense during December in that the team managed to avoid a major Covid outbreak and several match postponements, it did also mean that the matches came thick and fast for the league leaders, but Pep managed to steer them through it superbly.
Like so many times before, City proved that they can win matches in a number of ways, grinding out gritty victories over Aston Villa and Wolves before spectacularly dismantling the likes of Leeds and Leicester.
The remarkable run of seven wins in a row throughout December opened up daylight for City at the league’s summit, and there is no doubt that Pep’s City are currently as good as they ever have been.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.