The World Cup in Qatar had its curtain name final Sunday when Argentina have been topped champions, however that does not imply the footballing world is now devoid of high motion. In truth, it has already kicked off because the Carabao Cup and Copa del Rey return on Tuesday.
Thanks to the bizarre timing of this World Cup, European golf equipment from high leagues have been working all through the World Cup, getting ready their returns to their respective campaigns, and within the Premier League it’s no completely different. It’s truthful to say that this previous month has been dealt with as a second preseason for groups within the richest league on the planet, as many golf equipment have traveled to hotter climates for coaching, friendlies and much-needed changes.
The reality is, nevertheless, that although golf equipment’ itineraries in current weeks appeared related to a July and August offseason schedule, the stakes on this specific scenario are a lot, a lot larger. There isn’t any clean slate or a brand new season set to start — quite, what comes subsequent is the second act as there’s already a storyline to proceed or attempt to reverse.
If this have been a Shakespearean tragedy, this is able to be the second the place the plot set in movement turns into extra sophisticated as extra questions come up. Can Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal keep their five-point lead regardless of shedding key gamers to harm? How about Newcastle United and their continued quest to add extra strain to the top-four race? What will Man City and Liverpool do and, most significantly, what can we anticipate from the freshly rejuvenated Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah given they missed the World Cup?
Here are the largest Premier League questions forward of the return to motion on Dec. 26.
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Can Arsenal preserve going?
After watching their aspect beat AC Milan and Lyon in Dubai, earlier than shedding 2-0 to Juventus in a pleasant on the Emirates, no different fan base might be happier for the return of the Premier League on Boxing Day than Arsenal. Arteta’s workforce are 5 factors clear on the high of the Premier League — their largest lead in pole place since 2013 — and have regarded nice doing it. With 12 wins and 37 factors, the Gunners are additionally having fun with their finest document ever this far right into a season.
There are urgent points, nevertheless, as Gabriel Jesus’ knee harm will preserve him out for round 10-12 weeks, relying on how easily his restoration goes. Thus, Arteta certainly should discover a alternative in January that he can solely hope will make up for the Brazilian’s contributions of 5 objectives and 6 assists in 14 league appearances.
The Arsenal assault just isn’t all concerning the 25-year-old, however he’s little question an enormous a part of Arsenal’s technique. “We are looking and we are active in the possibilities,” Arteta mentioned final week. “If we can find the players that will strengthen the team, we will try.”
There is sweet information as Emile Smith Rowe will get nearer to a return after a prolonged absence due to a groin harm. The 22-year-old was large final season, with 10 objectives from 21 league appearances, second within the Arsenal tally solely to Bukayo Saka, so he might show very important in 2023. The attacking space does want somewhat assist, given the truth that Gabriel Martinelli continues to be away after his spell with Brazil and solely Eddie Nketiah is a central striker.
For Arteta, the target is obvious: Keep going, match by match. This is, after all, simpler mentioned than achieved, particularly because the Europa League comes into play and the schedule turns into extra congested. It will take a whole squad to totally take cost and hand Arsenal their first Premier League title since 2003-04, which was their momentous Invincibles season.
Can rejuvenated Haaland offset Man City’s World Cup absentees?
Erling Haaland, the Norwegian model of a Transformers character, has used the previous month to recharge each mentally and bodily. Time is a commodity not typically accessible presently of the season, particularly to skilled gamers at this stage, and the query is how a lot which will assist Haaland, who spent the primary half of the Premier League season scoring at a record-setting clip of 23 objectives in 18 video games.
Man City supervisor Pep Guardiola allowed his gamers to take an extended break earlier than their Abu Dhabi five-day camp earlier this month, which included seven first-team gamers and the membership’s growth squad, and Haaland spent it correctly at his residence in Marbella, Spain. Once he returned, Man City coaching periods should have felt fairly lonely for the 22-year-old, because the membership had 16 gamers from the primary workforce in Qatar, probably the most out of any Premier League membership.
But there is no motive to doubt that he used this almost-empty atmosphere as gasoline, and Haaland will be greater than prepared to go in opposition to Leeds United on Dec. 28. After camp, Haaland featured in opposition to Girona final week — the membership’s solely pleasant throughout this break — and scored. We’ll have to see what number of minutes he performs in opposition to Liverpool within the Carabao Cup spherical of 16 on Thursday night time, however one thing tells us he is keen to characteristic in each single recreation.
Haaland took half in nearly each match earlier than the World Cup, and this brought on a small knock to the striker, forcing Guardiola to give him a break in a few of the final matches earlier than Qatar. Now that the Premier League Golden Boot chief is again — and with the improbable Julian Alvarez out for some time after his unimaginable marketing campaign in Qatar, which ended him in being topped a World Cup champion with Argentina — Haaland has to take extra duty for Man City. It’s an enormous function, because the membership will do the whole lot of their energy to retain the league title and lastly win the Champions League.
– O’Hanlon: Why Messi is the best male athlete ever, interval
Are Newcastle United title contenders?
Here’s a truth: Newcastle United return to the Premier League with 30 factors. Under supervisor Eddie Howe, they’ve solely misplaced as soon as this season, sitting two factors behind Man City and 7 from Arsenal, albeit with an additional recreation performed. What’s extra spectacular, nevertheless, is the style by which they have been taking part in earlier than the World Cup break: relentless going ahead, defensively sturdy [they have the joint-best defensive record alongside Arsenal] and filled with confidence.
St. James’ Park is a fortress as soon as once more, and groups are legitimately cautious of the Magpies. This is a really sturdy workforce, and thanks to their Saudi Arabia-backed possession, they’re financially affluent. The different excellent news for Newcastle followers is that the first-team gamers who took half on the World Cup did not actually play many minutes, so their contributions upon returning mustn’t be too restricted. Oh, and Miguel Almiron, who had the World Cup break off as Paraguay did not qualify, is freshly rested.
The Magpies’ schedule is harder in 2023 and their largest challenges will come within the second half of the season. But even so, it is greater than truthful to say that Newcastle have a really real looking alternative to enter the title race. They even have one benefit over Man City and Arsenal: they do not have continental competitors to fear about. The query is, will they take advantage of out of it?
Who can nonetheless upset the leaders in race for high 4 and Europe?
It’s a really aggressive battle for a UEFA Champions League spot within the Premier League. Only eight factors separate first-place Arsenal and fourth-place Tottenham. There is an additional recreation performed, however the level nonetheless stands — anybody on the entrance of the pack can take one thing out of anybody proper now. Below that, it turns into much more intriguing because the distinction between fifth-place Man United and eighth-place Chelsea is 5 factors. Even newly-promoted Fulham have an opportunity as they’re simply behind in ninth with 19 factors.
As tight as this narrative continues to be, Liverpool and Chelsea know there is no such thing as a time to be careless within the second half of the season. Liverpool, similar to Haaland and Man City, would require a contemporary Salah up high to assist climb up the desk. This is particularly true as Jurgen Klopp’s aspect face notable absences resembling winger Luis Diaz, who will be out for 3 months after requiring knee surgical procedure. Klopp known as it a “proper smash in the face” whereas in Dubai for coaching. It’s higher information for Portugal ahead Diogo Jota, who might come again by the top of subsequent month after being sidelined since October due to a calf harm.
Regardless, Liverpool — who’re listening to presents as Fenway Sports Group put the membership up on the market — know they want to strengthen within the January switch window because the aforementioned Salah, Darwin Nunez and Roberto Firmino are the one match and accessible attackers. Sitting in sixth place, the pink aspect of Merseyside have to enhance so as to attain a Champions League spot.
For Chelsea, it is related, however a minimum of Klopp has the backing of his fan base and confirmed expertise of guiding Liverpool out of tough conditions. It’s very completely different for Graham Potter, who solely took the helm of Chelsea in September after leaving Brighton, a workforce that simply so occur to be above Chelsea within the desk on purpose distinction. After Chelsea’s loss to Newcastle within the final matchday earlier than the World Cup, Potter grew to become the primary Blues supervisor to lose three consecutive league video games since Jose Mourinho in 2014-15, and the writing was on the wall by the point Mourinho was fired later that 12 months.
Chelsea want to get it collectively and quick. With information of striker Armando Broja out for the remainder of the season after a knee harm throughout their warmup fixture in opposition to Aston Villa, co-owner Todd Boehly has to act as soon as once more in January. With Christopher Nkunku reportedly not becoming a member of from RB Leipzig earlier than the summer season, there’s so much to do subsequent month within the window. Can Chelsea climb up the desk? Do the followers belief Potter? We’ll have to wait and see.
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens talk about a doable transfer to Aston Villa for Atletico Madrid ahead Joao Felix.
Can any groups within the backside half of the desk shock us?
The distinction between ninth and twentieth on the Premier League desk is 9 factors. Three victories — that is it. With the added truth that almost all of these squads did not even have that many gamers in Qatar, this break has been an ideal probability for them to totally regroup forward of attempting to make a run up the desk. Whether these groups used the break to their benefit stays to be seen, nevertheless.
We already noticed Aston Villa’s vibrant begin beneath supervisor Unai Emery because the Spanish supervisor got here out with two wins in his first two league matches in opposition to Man United and Brighton respectively. The World Cup break has featured warmup matches the place we have seen a extra organized and artistic aspect, and with World Cup champion Emiliano Martínez returning, confidence ought to be excessive at Villa Park. The board promised Emery a price range for January, so there ought to be motion within the switch window. Perhaps not for €100m-rated Atletico Madrid ahead Joao Felix, as some had hoped, however the ambition is respectable.
Meanwhile, Emery’s compatriot, Julen Lopetegui, is in cost not too far-off at Wolves, additionally close to the underside of the desk. The former Real Madrid and Sevilla supervisor has so much to do so as to climb out of the relegation zone, however he’s an excellent tactician who’s already making a plan, reportedly aiming for six transfers in January. We’ll see how he does within the Premier League and if he can get them out of the drop zone.
Elsewhere, Nathan Jones will hope to change Southampton’s methods as the previous Luton supervisor changed Ralph Hasenhuttl, while West Ham’s subsequent three matches would possibly simply decide David Moyes’ destiny.
Oh, and at last, let’s finish this dialogue with Bournemouth and their new part-owner Michael B. Jordan. The membership, who’re solely three factors off the relegation zone, introduced the actor’s minority stake after billionaire Bill Foley’s takeover was confirmed. Jordan will work along with Foley “in areas including global marketing and internationalization of the club,” per Foley’s firm Cannae Holdings, who additionally personal NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
So I suppose we will name him Michael Bournemouth Jordan? Apologies for Thomas Muller-esque joke. Couldn’t resist.