Arsenal Takes 5-Point Lead Over City Into World Cup Break

By STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Journalist

As the Premier League prepares to take a break for the World Cup, unlikely scenarios are in place for the second half of the season.

Arsenal have a five-point lead and are undoubtedly Manchester City’s biggest title challengers.

Newcastle are increasingly looking like a team with enough quality to enter the Champions League.

Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, meanwhile, would do well to finish the season in their respective jobs at Chelsea and Everton.

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The last set of games before a six-week break saw Arsenal respond to City’s 2-1 loss to Brentford by beating Wolverhampton 2-0 to open their biggest lead so far in the league.

Martin Odegaard’s goals in the 55th and 75th minutes earned Arsenal a 12th win in 14 games. The only points Mikel Arteta’s side will have dropped before Christmas are a defeat at Manchester United and a draw at Southampton, a brilliant run of results that few could have seen coming.

While Arsenal’s players kept up their intensity at Molineux, City stars – including recall Erling Haaland – were exceptionally flat at the Etihad Stadium as Ivan Toney reacted to his snub by England for the World Cup by scoring the opener in the 16th and the winner in the eighth. minute of downtime. Phil Foden had equalized for City, who are two points clear of third-place Newcastle after their 1-0 win over struggling Chelsea.

Newcastle have now won five games in a row to bolster their unlikely – at least this season – Champions League qualification in their first full season under Saudi ownership.

Seven points separate Newcastle and fifth-placed Manchester United, who visit Fulham in one of two games on Sunday.

Joe Willock’s curling shot from outside the box condemned Chelsea to their third straight defeat. His only wins in the last eight games have come in the Champions League, with a defeat at Manchester City also knocking Chelsea out of the League Cup in midweek.

“We’re in for a bad time,” said Potter, who replaced Thomas Tuchel in September and regularly tinkers with his roster in search of the right formula. “We take the break to reload and start again.”

The long hiatus will test the faith Chelsea’s US owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital have in the man they have chosen to lead their overhaul of the London club.

Late comebacks become Tottenham’s trademark.

The last rally came in a wild 4-3 win at home to Leeds which saw Spurs come from behind three times before a Rodrigo Bentancur brace – in the 81st and 83rd minutes – sealed victory.

Tottenham’s last three wins have come from losing positions – 2-0 at Bournemouth, with Bentancur claiming the winner in stoppage time; and 2-1 at Marseille to seal progress in the Champions League.

Harry Kane scored Tottenham’s first goal for his 13th of the season, while USA midfielder Tyler Adams was sent off in the 87th for two yellow cards for Leeds.

Darwin Núñez will be heading to the World Cup after finally hitting his stride in his debut season at Liverpool.

The Uruguay striker scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Southampton, which was first managed by Nathan Jones after replacing Ralph Hasenhuttl this week.

Núñez, who joined Benfica for $75m, is starting to score regularly for Jurgen Klopp’s side. That’s seven goals in his last 10 appearances and he now looks well settled in his role on the left of a top three.

Liverpool climbed to sixth place, seven points off the Champions League places.

Two days after winning a surprise World Cup call-up from England, James Maddison suffered an injury that threatened to jeopardize his chances of going to Qatar.

Maddison, however, played down the right hamstring problem which forced him off the pitch shortly after opening the scoring for Leicester in their 2-0 win at West Ham.

“You should be fine,” Maddison, 25, said. “Yes, I think so.”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who saw Harvey Barnes score the second goal, said Maddison was taken off as a precaution.

In another injury concern, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka came off in the 16th minute of Arsenal’s win over Wolves with an unspecified problem. He argued the issue early and briefly played.

Everton players and manager Frank Lampard were berated and subjected to teasing and whistles as they made their way to the traveling support after the final whistle in the team’s 3-0 defeat in Bournemouth.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, in particular, was seen protesting against Everton fans before captain Seamus Coleman and Lampard apparently tried to defuse the situation.

Pickford was partly responsible for Bournemouth’s opener, scored by Marcus Tavernier, before more goals from Kieffer Moore and Jadon Anthony as Everton dipped a point and a place clear of the relegation zone.

Lampard felt his side’s performance justified the fan reaction, four days after Everton lost 4-1 on the same ground in the League Cup.

“The fans have every right to be disappointed,” Lampard said, “because they came here twice this week and saw poor performances and before that we were fine.”

Nottingham Forest are just behind Everton after beating Crystal Palace 1-0 to climb to the bottom of the table. Wilfried Zaha missed a penalty.

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