Like leagues all across Europe, the Premier League has now paused for the World Cup and will not resume until the Boxing Day fixtures are played. Whilst some will regard the break as a chance to recharge their batteries and work on the training ground, others may fear a loss of momentum.
And those teams with players away with their national teams at the World Cup will have ears about what state they may be in afterwards, both physically and mentally.
The title race
At the top, Arsenal have gone into the break with a five-point lead over Manchester City after the defending champions were unexpectedly beaten at home by Brentford at the weekend.
The Gunners have made their best ever start to their league season. But whilst all seven teams that have won 12 of their 14 games have gone on to win the league, most people – including the majority of Arsenal fans – expect City to win it again.
They have much the stronger squad and the Gunners are still light in key positions in case of injury. And City also have the goal machine that is Erling Haaland playing for them.
A return of Champions League football was the objective at the start of the season, and that is now looking increasingly likely.
Champions League places
Newcastle United are the other form team and go into the break third in the table. That is probably ahead of where they planned to be this far into the takeover, but they may be hard to dislodge now especially as they will have the money to spend big in the January transfer window.
Tottenham are fourth in the table and, even if their style of play until Antonio Conte is not as pleasing to the club’s supporters as some of their fans would like, he knows how to get results.
Manchester United, though, are a growing force under Erik ten Hag even if they remain a work in progress. It has taken them some time to get used to his style of football, but they can expect a strong second half of the season and can expect to be in Champions League contention.
Liverpool and Chelsea both have work to do
At the start of the season, both Liverpool and Chelsea were expected to be among the title challengers, but both will have their work cut out now to finish in the top four.
Jurgen Klopp’s side started the season poorly, perhaps a reaction to the demand of last season where they were in contention for four trophies at one stage. There have been signs of improvement of late, but consistency is an issue.
Chelsea appear to have lost their way, and go in to the break having lost three league games on the bounce.
Whilst the decision to fire Thomas Tuchel, the man who had steered them to Champions League glory 18 months previously was controversial, his successor Graham Potter has inherited an unbalanced squad and he has yet to provide them with any sort of playing identity.
He may need to be busy in January, not only with incomings but also some pruning of his squad.
The relegation picture
At the bottom, Wolves are propping up the table followed by Southampton, with Nottingham Forest occupying the last relegation place. Everton, West Ham, Leeds United, and Bournemouth are all looking over their shoulders, but Leicester have now climbed their way out of trouble.
Whilst Forest have decided to stick with their manager, both Southampton and Wolves have decided to make changes. Nathan Jones has replaced Ralph Hasenhüttl at St. Mary’s and he had just the one game in charge, a defeat at Liverpool, before the World Cup.
Julen Lopetegui only formally takes over ay Molineux this week, although he was in the stands to watch them get beaten at home by the league leaders Arsenal.
All three teams have their work cut out to stay up, although Everton and Bournemouth look like they could get sucked into the dogfight as well.
Managerial changes afoot?
Already six teams do not have the same manager as they started the season with and the World Cup break may afford some clubs the opportunity to make further changes.
Already here is speculation about the futures of David Moyes at West Ham and Frank Lampard at Everton, whilst Marcelo Bielsa is being linked with a return to the Premier League and Bournemouth.
Some have even suggested that Potter may be vulnerable at Chelsea, although he is likely to be given some time to sort out the mess he has inherited.
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