Premier League returns: After the euphoria of the World Cup, big teams face big tasks

Eight days after the dramatic World Cup final, the return of English football may come as a surprise to some and resentment to others.

Here’s everything you need to know about the league’s top contenders as the story of one of the world’s most popular sports leagues resumes.

Arsenal in title race

Arsenal have been doing well this season. No, they look really good.

Mikel Arteta has effectively integrated a large number of new signings into their system this season.

They looked fluid in midfield and in attack, winning major London derbies against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and convincingly trumping Liverpool. The team has inspired belief in the North London team’s always passionate global fan base.

Arsenal players celebrate. (AP photo)

A fan base that will be quick to remind everyone that Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the league table at Christmas, a superstition in English football no doubt tainted by the dismissal.

For the most part, Arteta’s side has answered the questions critics put to them in the first half. But after losing crucial striker Gabriel Jesus to injury and seeing an already light side go through an intense World Cup, keeping up with their star-studded rivals will be a big ask.

Haland is back

The magic of a World Cup is in watching the best players in the world compete for the sport’s premier prize, but fans were robbed of the chance to see Manchester City’s latest goalscoring sensation Erling Haaland.

Erling Braut Haaland of Manchester City. (Reuters)

It took the Norwegian less than 10 minutes to get on the scoresheet in City’s 3-2 thriller against Liverpool in the League Cup on Thursday. Haaland has scored 18 of the team’s best 40 this season and seems hungry to prove himself after a six-week break.

Add to that Pep Guardiola’s winning machine who has won four of the last five league titles, and a hungry Kevin De Bruyne, one of the best midfielders of his generation determined to thrive after the disappointment with Belgium in Qatar, and Arsenal have a lot to do. worry about the top.

Rejuvenated Liverpool

Liverpool have battled for the title three of the last four years, winning it once, but in a transitional phase this season, making the top four seems a more realistic goal.

EPL Since FSG took over Liverpool, the club won their first Premier League title in the 2019-2020 season. (FILE)

While their performance against City was less than inspired and there are plenty of off-field distractions after their owners put the club up for sale in October, they are well equipped for the rush of post-World Cup games coming their way.

Fabinho was largely unused by Brazil, Thiago was – baffling to some – not called up by Spain, both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota are on their way to recover from injury, and other team mainstays such as Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip have a crucial breakthrough. After the six weeks of rest, talisman Mohamed Salah also gets the chance to recover his form.

Race for the top 4

Several clumsy clubs, who have been disappointing in recent seasons, make up the rest of the contenders who want to secure European football next season.

Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United is streaky and looks good in parts. And without the distraction of the Cristiano Ronaldo fiasco, they will try to get in shape. The start could be a bit hit and miss, however, as defensive partnership of first-choice Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane played the World Cup final just eight days before the restart of the season.

EPL table from now on. (File)

Tottenham Hotspur has one of Europe’s most glamorous coaches in Antonio Conte – in fame but not style of play – but seems far from settled. Under new ownership and the surprise change of management that saw Thomas Tuchel replaced by Graham Potter, poor form – two points in the last five games – left Chelsea languishing in eighth place.

Among these teams, Newcastle United, buoyed by the influx of Saudi money and a vibrant and energetic team led by Eddie Howe looking to shake up an English football giant, find themselves third after winning five games on the trot. They will be an important player in the top-4 race.

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