Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – A Premier League season unlike any other has been suspended for six weeks to make way for the World Cup with Arsenal enjoying a five-point lead at the top of the table.
The Gunners, who have not won the title since the 2003/04 unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season, have failed to even finish in the top four for the past six seasons.
Mikel Arteta’s men are well on their way to a Champions League return, but Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United have some catching up to do if they want to climb back into the top four.
AFP Sport looks back at three talking points from the Premier League season so far:
Arteta’s Arsenal project pays off
The third anniversary of Arteta’s appointment as Arsenal boss will take place during the World Cup break.
Arsenal have been through a series of ups and downs from winning the FA Cup in 2020 to finishing eighth in consecutive seasons.
But the patience shown by the Spaniard is paying off in spectacular fashion as Arteta turned a young squad into title contenders.
City may regret the decision to sell Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to the Gunners as they have added title experience to a collection of promising stars.
No team has ever failed to win the league after taking 37 points in their first 14 games.
The real test still awaits, especially with two fascinating clashes against City to come, but Arsenal’s early season pace has set up another intriguing title battle.
Newcastle up earlier than expected
The traditional top six were well aware of the threat Newcastle will pose in the years to come, backed by the seemingly endless wealth of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
But the Magpies are well ahead of schedule as they battle for a top four spot.
Eddie Howe’s men took 22 points from a possible 24 to enter the break in third.
With Champions League wealth a realistic target, Newcastle are set to splash their newfound wealth again in January.
But Howe’s best work so far has been reviving the careers of players who arrived at St. James’ Park long before the influx of Saudi money.
Miguel Almiron won Player of the Month for October, while Callum Wilson’s form earned him a call into England’s World Cup squad.
Even though their form is waning in the new year, Newcastle are the new force in English football that is not going away.
Haaland takes England by storm
Arsenal’s success in keeping City top of the table is all the more impressive against the backdrop of Erling Haaland’s explosive start to his career in England.
Pep Guardiola’s men won back-to-back titles largely without a proven striker, but got the man they wanted to be Sergio Aguero’s long-term successor in the imposing Norwegian.
Haaland, who scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund before moving to Manchester, dismissed any suggestion he might struggle to adapt to City’s style.
The 22-year-old at one point netted a hat-trick in three consecutive home league games amid an 18-goal streak in his first 13 Premier League games.
A ligament injury in his foot has slowed that pace in recent weeks but Haaland will be rested and refreshed after the World Cup break as Norway failed to qualify for Qatar.
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