When Premier League festivities resume on Boxing Day the good cash is on Arsenal and Manchester Metropolis slugging it out for the title till Could in what might be a contest for the ages. Main their sides in a basic master-apprentice matchup is Metropolis’s near-peerless supervisor, Pep Guardiola, and his former assistant and now Arsenal No 1, Mikel Arteta.
The story of the tape up to now is fascinating. Arteta’s pretenders are the younger thrusters who’ve a five-point lead however might be with out Gabriel Jesus till February. Their purpose rely is 33 with 11 conceded, the division’s joint lowest, and in captain Martin Ødegaard (who’s 24), Bukayo Saka (21), Gabriel Martinelli (21), Ben White (25), Aaron Ramsdale (24) and William Saliba (21) Arsenal have an effervescent core being led by the colourful Arteta.
Guardiola’s seasoned campaigners are reigning champions, have scored a division-high 40, and their 18-goal phenomenon Erling Haaland loved six weeks off earlier than returning to attain towards Liverpool within the Carabao Cup. Metropolis have plundered 4 of the final 5 Premier League titles and Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are a few of their different headline acts.
On this World Cup-interrupted season each sides have performed 14 video games however are but to satisfy. Hold 15 February and 26 April within the diary free for Metropolis’s go to to the Emirates and the reverse fixture to look at how every will hope to unpick the opposite plus, in fact, the riveting sideshow of two animated managers attempting to take care of cool on the touchline.
Viewers of Arsenal’s All or Nothing, which took in final time period, have been supplied an perception into Arteta’s at occasions left-field strategies (a floating lightbulb featured in one crew discuss) and wholly likable persona. They are going to be impressed at how his crew have gone from the late-season collapse that resulted in a fifth-place end, featured within the Amazon documentary, to this season’s obvious actual deal. Arsenal’s sole reverse has been at Manchester United they usually have dropped solely two factors since.
Metropolis have two defeats on the cardboard. November’s fractious 1-0 downing by Liverpool at Anfield through which Jürgen Klopp was despatched off. And Brentford’s smash-and-grab 2-1 win at Etihad Stadium of their remaining outing earlier than the Qatar 2022 cessation.
5 factors isn’t a large margin but it surely signifies an Arsenal aspect who should not going wherever between now and the spring months when the championship is set. Newcastle United, an extra two factors behind Metropolis, and Tottenham (three), could imagine they’ll nonetheless pressure themselves into the competition however realistically this appears destined to unfold as a storybook toe-to-toe of two prizefighters: the aspect who have been final England’s finest in 2004 and the present holders.
Solely three Premier League groups have damaged the standard suspects’ vice-like grip on Champions League qualification up to now 20 years – Leicester, when profitable the title in 2016, Everton in 2005 and Newcastle in 2003 (solely the highest three in England certified after they completed fourth in 2001-02). It’s St James’ Park that homes the largest risk to the closed store as soon as once more. Historical past could counsel in any other case, however on pre-World Cup type the chances have to be firmly on Eddie Howe delivering a top-four end within the first full season for the reason that cash began flowing in from Saudi Arabia.
Taking the title race as a shootout between Arsenal and Manchester Metropolis – and Newcastle could beg to vary given their profitable streak earlier than the break – six groups are left difficult for the remaining two Champions League spots, from Howe’s aspect in third to a plummeting Chelsea in eighth. Newcastle, who resume their league marketing campaign at Leicester on Boxing Day, have offered the strongest case for inclusion by far in a season after they have misplaced as soon as in all competitions and received seven of eight league video games previous to the World Cup. There might be no clearer assertion about their credentials than the efficiency that secured the 2-1 win at Tottenham.
Fourth-placed Spurs stay in rivalry however have been faltering earlier than the World Cup. Antonio Conte was left in little question as to the misgivings over his model amongst supporters throughout a run of three defeats in 5 league video games, with a Carabao Cup exit at Nottingham Forest thrown in for unhealthy measure. Harry Kane’s laboured performances in Qatar and the burden carried by Son Heung-min might be an added trigger for concern. Richarlison’s elavated standing and self-belief after a high quality marketing campaign with Brazil affords the counterbalance.
Graham Potter has larger issues throughout London having made an underwhelming begin to his Chelsea reign. The 2021 European champions discover themselves eight factors adrift of fourth place, albeit with a sport in hand on Spurs, having not received a Premier League sport since 16 October. New co-owner Todd Boehly could already be sweating on his funding and decision-making.