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Previously on... the Premier League: All the storylines you forgot about

The English top flight has been absent from pitches and television screens for just over a month, with the Qatar World Cup putting domestic football on pause

Alex Pattle,Karl Matchett
Friday 23 December 2022 07:07 GMT
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The Premier League has been absent from pitches and television screens for just over a month, with the Qatar World Cup putting domestic football on pause.

The first ever winter edition of the world championship has now wrapped up, however, and we’ve even seen a slew of Carabao Cup games.

But the matches that most fans have really been waiting for, in the Premier League, are now upon us.

And it had been quite the campaign up until the World Cup began, with Arsenal atop the table, Newcastle flying high, and Liverpool flagging somewhat...

Here are just some of the things you forgot had happened in the Premier League this season...

A quirk around the top scorers

Two of the top three goalscorers in the Premier League at this point in the season are English, but only one went to the World Cup. Erling Haaland looks well on course to break the top-flight goals record for a single season (34), with the Manchester City striker on 18 from just 13 appearances. However, Haaland was not in Qatar as Norway failed to qualify. Harry Kane, meanwhile, has netted 12 in 15 for Tottenham and guided England to the World Cup quarter-finals as captain, while Ivan Toney was not named in the Three Lions squad despite his 10 goals in 14 Premier League games so far this term. But it is tough to say what Toney’s involvement with Brentford will be like throughout the rest of the season; he has been charged by the FA over more than 250 alleged breaches of betting rules.

Haaland’s scary statistic

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland is on track to break a major record (Getty Images)

Haaland’s rate of 18 Premier League goals from 13 games means he has a goal every 57.8 minutes of top-flight play. If you factor in his Champions League efforts (five goals in four matches), the 22-year-old has scored once ever 56.2 minutes. Will his absence from the World Cup mean he is less match-ready than some of his fellow strikers at other clubs? Or will Haaland be helped by the time he has had to rest? We’ll soon find out.

Saints sacked Hasenhuttl

That’s right. Having seemingly been on the brink numerous times throughout his four-year spell in charge of Southampton, Hasenhuttl was finally let go in November, just after a 4-1 loss to Newcastle. Just after the Austrian was fired, Southampton edged past Sheffield Wednesday in a Carabao Cup penalty shootout, and Nathan Jones arrived in the dugout in time for a 3-1 loss to Liverpool. The Welshman, 49, then oversaw a Carabao Cup victory over Lincoln this week. Jones joined from Luton Town, where he was named manager of the season in the Championship last term.

Lopetegui hasn’t managed a Premier League game yet

Julen Lopetegui took over as coach at Wolves, who had just sacked Bruno Lage, just before the World Cup. The former Spain and Real Madrid manager had recently left Sevilla after a three-year stint in which he won the Europa League in 2020, and he had no time to get any games under his belt at Wolves before the World Cup began. He did, however, lead his new side to a Carabao Cup win against Gillingham this week.

Almiron’s scintillating form

Miguel Almiron has been crucial to Newcastle entering the break in third place (Getty Images)

Miguel Almiron needs just one more league goal to equal his total from the last three-and-a-half years. The Newcastle midfielder has netted eight times so far this season, compared to nine between arriving in the top flight in 2018/19 and the start of this campaign. His contributions have helped Newcastle climb to third in the table.

Mind the gap to the Gunners

The expectation is that Arsenal’s title charge will eventually run out of momentum, with defending champions Man City sitting second in the Premier League, but it is worth noting that the Gunners are five points clear at the top. Furthermore, they have a game in hand over third-placed Newcastle and Spurs in fourth.

A crammed season will get even more crammed

The World Cup and domestic cup fixtures have combined with the Premier League to make this a relentless season. And it will only get worse for fatigued footballers, with four matches having been postponed for various reasons before the World Cup, and an entire gameweek needing to be rescheduled followin the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

Arsenal’s young record-breaker

Coming off the bench for Arsenal in their game with Brentford in September, 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest ever player to appear in the Premier League. The midfielder also became the youngest footballer to represent Arsenal in any competition. He is one to watch for sure.

Bournemouth have a new manager – and new owners

Bournemouth appointed Gary O’Neil on a permanent basis after his successful spell as caretaker coach (Mike Egerton/PA Images) (PA Wire)

Scott Parker was let go by Bournemouth in late August, with Gary O’Neil taking over on a temporary basis. But temporary has become permanent, with O’Neil handed an 18-month contract just after the World Cup began. The former Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and West Ham player had picked up 13 points from 11 games prior to earning the contract.

Newcastle among Europe’s elite

Newcastle were on a five-match win streak when the World Cup interrupted their momentum, and only Juventus (6), Bayern Munich (6) and Napoli (11) have longer winning runs than the Magpies when you look at Europe’s top five leagues.

Who needs Ronaldo when you’ve got Garnacho?

Cristiano Ronalo has left Manchester United, again, and we’ll see if the squad is more... well... united without the Portugal superstar. Who will step up in his absence? National side teammate Bruno Fernandes? Jadon Sancho? Or Alejandro Garnacho? The latter may be the best bet in the long term, with the 18-year-old Argentine having scored in United’s last Premier League game before the break, two weeks after netting in the Europa League.

Liverpool’s surprise top scorer

Liverpool’s leading scorer this season is not star man Mohamed Salah, or even summer signing Darwin Nunez, but rather Roberto Firmino. Having been less of a fixture in the Reds’ frontline last season, and having been known to create more goals than he scores, Firmino was not expected to find the net more than any of his teammates this term. However, the Brazilian – who did not go to the World Cup, where his nation exited in the last eight – has netted seven times in 13 top-flight matches.

Everton have one win in three months

Frank Lampard has overseen a troubling period for Everton (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

The Toffees have picked up just one victory in 86 days (as of Boxing Day), with Frank Lampard’s side just one point above the relegation zone. Worry.

Cooper scores new contract against run of play

With Nottingham Forest having been in the relegation zone almost ever since the Premier League began this season, coach Steve Cooper looked to be a goner as the World Cup edged nearer. However, the club made clear their faith in Cooper by handing him a new contract – and one spanning five years, at that!

Chelsea’s relegation form

Chelsea’s new coach Graham Potter got off to a decent start after joining from Brighton in September, but their form became very concerning ahead of the World Cup. The Blues are without a win in five Premier League games – the worst run in the division and one of the 10 worst across Europe’s top five leagues.

Man United’s lack of goals – at both ends – at Old Trafford

Only the teams sitting 17th, 19th and 20th in the Premier League have scored fewer goals at home than Manchester United, though no side in the division has conceded fewer goals at home. So, Old Trafford may not be the place to go if you’re looking for footballing fireworks.

Gabriel Jesus’ goalless run

Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus has undergone surgery on a knee injury sustained at the World Cup with Brazil (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

After such a promising start to the season, Gabriel Jesus began to lose his scoring touch, and it’s been missing altogether as of 1 October; the striker has not scored for Arsenal or Brazil since. Injury ruled him out of the World Cup during the group stage, and he is expected to be out for Arsenal until April. That means: If the Gunners are going to win the title, defying all pre-season expectations, they will seemingly have to do it without Jesus.

Alexander-Arnold’s struggles

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been heavily criticised for his defensive showings this season, but he has also been much less effective in an attacking sense, too. Ever the creator in past seasons, the Liverpol right back has not assisted a single goal in the Premier League so far this term.

Spurs strike second – over and over

Tottenham have conceded the opening goal in eight straight games across all competitions. Next up for Antonio Conte’s side? Brentford away from home.

West Ham’s woes and worries

West Ham United manager David Moyes may be running out of time (PA Wire)

West Ham, after such a fine campaign in 2021/22, sit just one point above the relegation zone, and more and more fans are turning on coach David Moyes. It has been said numerous times since the Hammers moved to the 60,000-seater London Stadium in 2016, but they cannot afford to be relegated while occupying a ground like that.

Outside the top flight...

Blackburn have not yet drawn a league game this season. In fact, they have not drawn in the Championship in 28 games, dating back to April.

In stark contrast, League One outfit Fleetwood have more draws than wins or losses this season.

Plymouth, also in League One, have the best home record of any team in the four domestic divisions: 10 wins; one loss.

And League Two’s Colchester have the worst away record across the four leagues: one draw; 10 defeats.

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