The World Cup punctuated the league season, but has it changed the club narrative?

January 26 – The Premier League season, already punctuated by the Qatar 2022 winter World Cup, runs in to another weekend break at the season’s half-way point with the fourth round of the FA Cup taking precedence. It is providing a break and the chance of a rethink for some clubs and an important opportunity for others, and for sports betting too.

Going into the Qatar 2022 World Cup the 2022/23 Premier League season was starting to ask some big questions. Many of those questions are still to have answers but in a season that is fractured and seen the order of the big six English clubs challenged, will the second half give them enough time to pull round league finishes in time for European qualification in 2023/24.

Is it really Arsenal’s turn now? Can the bottom clubs in the league reverse their fortunes? Have Manchester United’s issues been truly resolved?

The chase is on for Champions League slots

Manchester City are in a hard chase for the top spot despite there being five points of daylight between them and Arsenal. The two clubs still have to play each other twice in what could prove to be winner takes all deciders.

Below them it is a fierce battle for a top four position with Newcastle United and Manchester United both showing the style and form that makes them look good for a Champions League qualification slot.

Newcastle have become one of the league’s most attractive sides, built around a rock solid back four and a goalkeeper in Nick Pope who has kept nine clean sheets in the past nine matches.

Newcastle’s problem is whether they can consistently turn pressure into goals. Callum Wilson is currently who they look to first for goals but coming off the bench they have world class in Alexander Isak and creative unpredictability in Saint-Maximan.

Man Utd have hit a rich vein of form under Erik ten Hag who has managed to knit together an undoubtedly talented group of players into a cohesive unit. This has been helped by a rejuvenated and goal-scoring Marcus Rashford delivering imposing performances every week.

In contrast Spurs have been erratic, lurching from good wins to horrible losses. They are still very much in the race for a Champions League place but need to find consistency, and perhaps less reliance on Harry Kane and his talismanic leadership

Liverpool have still to find their stride and pattern but are just about keeping in touch. Similarly Chelsea who fell off a cliff on the resumption of the league after the World Cup, not helped by 14 injuries to first team players

Arsenal still top of the league

Arsenal fans are now starting to believe that this is their season, that they are back at the top of the Premier League and are real contenders. Many thought that the youngest squad in the Premier League would blow out on the restart.

The opposite has happened. Bakayo Saka has moved his game to another level, skipper Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka have led by example and Eddie Nketiah has impressively seized the opportunity up front to score match winning goals with Gabriel Jesus out injured for three months.

Arsenal were aware that their performance without Jesus will likely determine whether or not they win the championship. The transfer window may see them find some support for Nketiah, but right now he doesn’t need it.

Chelsea seek redemption

New owners, new coach and a lot of new money lashed out in the transfer market has not left Chelsea anywhere near the league position they expect. Like Liverpool, Champions League qualification is still possible but there are now few margins for error as they sit 10 points behind fourth placed Manchester United.

Graham Potter won his first nine games after joining Chelsea in September but since the World Cup has had a horrible run of form and an early exit from the FA Cup. No fixture this weekend will give Potter a welcome break from the league schedule to work on getting his team co-ordinated.

Injuries and tired legs from the World Cup have not helped Potter but nevertheless this is a team that looks unplugged. Potter has been helped by the two biggest signings so far in the winter transfer market in Portugal’s Joao Felix and Ukraine’s
Mykhailo Mudryk.

But there is a lot of work to be done and expectations are high.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1716128200labto1716128200ofdlr1716128200owedi1716128200sni@o1716128200fni1716128200