How the season is unfolding ahead of Premier League return
The dust has settled on the Qatar World Cup and excitement is growing ahead of the Premier League return on Boxing Day.
Ahead of the competition’s restart over the festive season, we look at some of the situations you might have forgotten.
Arsenal in pole position to win the title
Mikel Arteta’s side enjoy a five-point lead over nearest rivals Manchester City thanks to an impressive Premier League return of 12 wins, one draw and one defeat from their 14 games to date, with the sole loss coming at Manchester United in the first week of September.
Arteta, whose starting XI has been the second most consistent in the top flight, has called on his players to seize their chance of a first title since 2004 and their two meetings with Pep Guardiola’s side (in February and April) could be pivotal.
City remain the favourites in the Premier League winner odds but that could soon change if Arsenal can extend their lead even further.
Champions on a losing streak
OK, ‘streak’ may be pushing it, but City did lose their final Premier League game before the World Cup, and second in their last five, when they were surprisingly beaten at home by Brentford.
They also had 16 players, the most of any club, on international duty in Qatar, with striker Julian Alvarez playing a key role in Argentina’s thrilling victory.
Perhaps crucially, Erling Haaland was not involved as Norway failed to qualify and he will undoubtedly be raring to go as the Premier League returns and he attempts to add to his remarkable tally of 23 goals in all competitions.
Potter yet to work his magic
One team genuinely on a winless streak are Chelsea, whose last Premier League victory in the middle of October has been followed by two draws and three defeats, including a humiliating 4-1 drubbing at manager Graham Potter’s former club Brighton.
Potter admitted before the most recent defeat at top-four rivals Newcastle that it was time to find out which players wanted to be part of his plans and he will be targeting points from games against Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest before back-to-back fixtures with Manchester City in the league and FA Cup.
Lampard still in trouble
Everton manager Frank Lampard is the odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League sacked, and it is not difficult to see why.
The Toffees went into the World Cup break just a point above the relegation zone after one win in their last five games in all competitions, including successive three-goal defeats at Bournemouth.
Lampard’s side have scored just 11 goals in 14 Premier League matches and injury-plagued striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has made only six appearances this season. If Lampard is not backed to buy reinforcements in January, his time at Goodison Park may be up.
The only way is up for Lopetegui
Julen Lopetegui was appointed Wolves boss just a matter of hours before their home defeat to Brighton on November 5 and also watched the loss to Arsenal a week later from the stands, but officially started his time in charge at Molineux on Tuesday with a Carabao Cup win over League Two Gillingham.
Encouragingly, late substitute Raul Jimenez, making his first club appearance since August 31, broke the deadlock from the penalty spot.
Atletico Madrid’s Matheus Cunha could be the first of several additions to the bottom-of-the-table squad to boost an attack which has managed just eight league goals so far, with Wolves one of the three teams most likely to be relegated according to the Premier League relegation odds.
Nathan Jones was also appointed as Southampton boss just before the World Cup break, and he will be looking to guide his side out of the bottom two as well.