How Premier League looks at World Cup break – and who could come back better

The Premier League is taking an unprecedented six-week break midway through the season as the World Cup in Qatar takes center stage.

With this weekend’s action now over, the Premier League does not return until December 26.

The World Cup kicks off on Sunday November 20 with the final on Sunday December 18.

So what does the English top flight look like now, who has the most players going to Qatar and who needs this break?

What does it look like upstairs

Premier League top 10

Arsenal are leaders five points behind Manchester City, the first time they have been top at Christmas since the 2007-08 season.

Their 37 points in 14 games marked their career best start. The seven teams that have won 12 of their first 14 games have won the Premier League title.

Another good omen for the Gunners is that the team that topped the table on Christmas Day have been champions in 10 of the last 13 seasons.

The bad omen for Mikel Arteta’s side is that the last five times they have been top on December 25, they have failed to stay there at the end of the campaign.

You have to go back to 1947-48 for the last time they were in the lead on both days.

Gunners legend Ian Wright told BBC Match of the Day: “They’ve controlled most of the games they’ve played this season, very confident. The target was the top four.”

Of course, the teams will have played fewer games on Christmas Day than usual, so City will still be keen to close the deficit on the Gunners in the remaining 24 games.

Newcastle are in uncharted territory – third, seven points behind Arsenal.

It’s the first time since 2001-02 that they have held one of the Champions League spots on Christmas Day. They were in the lead this season but finished fourth.

Magpies icon Alan Shearer said: “They’re so organized and there’s an understanding as a team of each other’s duties – when to press, when to sit down and their reaction when they lose the ball.

“What a job Eddie Howe is doing at Newcastle. Good times, they come into the break third and another really impressive performance.”

However, Shearer said his former team would not win the title this season.

Tottenham, one point behind Howe’s side, complete the top four. Manchester United are fifth, Liverpool sixth with 22 points.

Graham Potter’s Chelsea have not won in five Premier League games and have fallen to eighth place. They will probably appreciate the opportunity to take a break and start again.

Wright added: “The main worry for Chelsea fans is the constant change in formation. Seventeen goals in 14 games is not good, no team in the top half has scored less.

“They have to give Graham Potter time – [Liverpool’s Jurgen] Klopp has had time, we have seen what Arteta does over time. So hopefully he gets that time.”

And deep down

Premier League last 10

Probably any team below Chelsea can consider themselves part of the relegation equation.

There are just six points separating Fulham in ninth and Nottingham Forest in 18th.

Wolves are down – four points from safety – so what are their chances of survival?

Only six teams were down at Christmas and stayed up – half of them in the first three Premier League campaigns.

Leicester City, in 2014-15, were the last team to avoid relegation from that position – before winning the title the following season.

But as the in-form Foxes showed just before this break, a good few weeks can get you mid-table as they now sit in 13th place.

What could change during the break?

Two teams made managerial changes just before the break – but could there be more before December 26?

Julen Lopetegui takes over from Steve Davis as Wolves manager on Monday – so these next few weeks will effectively be like his pre-season.

Southampton, who are second from bottom, also have a new manager, Nathan Jones taking charge of their last game before the break, a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.

The next bookies favorite to lose his job is Everton boss Frank Lampard. The Toffees have lost their last three games to sit one point above the relegation zone.

Police were forced to intervene after the 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday to calm some fans as the players made their way to the away section at the final whistle.

“As good as the fans are to us, with the welcome they gave us last year and the applause they gave us after the Crystal Palace game, you have to accept that they have a right to ‘express their opinion. And they traveled to Bournemouth to do so,” Lampard told BBC Sport.

The other boss under pressure is David Moyes at West Ham, who is only above Everton on goal difference.

Moyes admitted the fans had every right to leave early and boo in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Leicester. Of the pressure put on Moyes, captain Declan Rice said: “It’s nonsense. If you look at what he’s done for this club, how he’s brought us back to where we were.”

A few weeks ago Brendan Rodgers at Leicester and Jesse Marsch at Leeds were under immense pressure but good form means neither should worry now.

Former Premier League goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer expects the Premier League to have a different feel on Boxing Day.

Citing Unai Emery’s recent arrival as boss of Aston Villa, where he has won back-to-back league victories, Schwarzer told BBC Radio 5 Live: “There will be a number of clubs looking at the situation. to have about a month off and then have the opportunity to do this mini pre-season, getting to know the players.

“If they want to bring in a new manager, I could see one or two clubs probably considering the possibility of doing so.”

Which teams will be most affected by the World Cup?

Kyle Walker, John Stones, Kevin de Bruyne and Jack Grealish
Kyle Walker, John Stones, Kevin de Bruyne and Jack Grealish are four of Manchester City’s 16 World Cup players.

Champions Manchester City have the most players going to the World Cup with 16 – and 10 of the 11 starters for their 2-1 loss to Brentford on Saturday will travel to Qatar.

The only one who isn’t… is Premier League top scorer Erling Haaland because Norway didn’t qualify. He could really benefit from tired legs or substitute defenders at the end of December.

Manchester United will have 15 players for Qatar, if Hannibal Mejbri makes the Tunisian squad as planned, with 12 for Chelsea and 11 for Tottenham.

Leaders Arsenal will have 10 players in the tournament.

But of the team that beat Wolves on Saturday, Gabriel, Oleksandr Zinchenko and captain Martin Odegaard remain at home.

If Newcastle are indeed in the title hunt, they could benefit from any World Cup fatigue as they only have five players leaving.

Sixth-placed Liverpool could also be fresher than many with seven players going to Qatar, including just three of their 10 goalscorers this season. Egypt’s top scorer Mohamed Salah did not qualify.

The teams with the fewest players are Southampton – Germany’s Armel Bella-Kotchap and Ghana’s Mohammed Salisu – and Bournemouth, which have Chris Mepham and Kieffer Moore in the Wales squad. Leeds are next with three.

When are the next Premier League teams in action?

OK, so we said the Premier League is back on December 26. But some top-flight teams might actually have competitive matches just a day or two after the World Cup final.

The fourth round of the Carabao Cup takes place the week of December 19, the day after the Sunday final in Qatar.

Traditionally, most of these games end on Tuesday or Wednesday, although Manchester City will host Liverpool on Thursday, December 22.

Wolves, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Manchester United, Leicester and Brighton are also in action in this round.

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