How will the World Cup affect the rest of the Premier League Season?
The 13th December saw the last ball kicked in anger in the Premier league before the unprecedented mid-season break that sent over 100 premier league players to Qatar for the first ever winter World Cup. With those players slowly filtering back to their teams as their nations are knocked out, and fixtures coming thick and fast during a packed winter schedule, what can we expect from the season part two?
Normally after a World Cup, players would jet off on holiday and forget about football for a few blissful weeks, but this year, the sun of Qatar will soon be forgotten as players are forced back to the freezing UK and the roller coaster, fast paced football that is the Premier League. It’s no surprise therefore, that this unique winter break has affected the latest betting odds due to the uncertainty around how teams and players will cope with the after effects of the tournament.
Premier League Part Two
The next round of Premier League games is scheduled for the 26-28 December, with fixtures taking place a mere 8 days after the World Cup final for some clubs.
Game Week 17 Fixtures:
26/12/2022 – Brentford v Tottenham Hotspur
26/12/2022 – Crystal Palace v Fulham
26/12/2022 – Everton v Wolverhampton
26/12/2022 – Leicester City v Newcastle United
26/12/2022 – Southampton v Brighton
26/12/2022 – Aston Villa v Liverpool
26/12/2022 – Arsenal v West Ham United
27/12/2022 – Chelsea v A.F.C. Bournemouth
27/12/2022 – Manchester United v Nottingham Forest
28/12/2022 – Leeds United v Manchester City
City look like the team destined to suffer more than most when the season re-starts. Already five points behind Arsenal, the defending champions have the highest number of players at this year’s World Cup with 16.
With a week or mores rest guaranteed for players after exiting the tournament, and many of City’s squad expected to go deep with their countries, City will no doubt be without many of their most important squad members for several matches over an important and congested winter period.
Teams with most players at Qatar World Cup
- Man City 16
- Chelsea 12
- Man United 12
- Tottenham 10
- Arsenal 9
- Liverpool 7
- Newcastle United 5
If that wasn’t enough to contend with, Pep’s team have Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on December 22nd, a mere four days after the final in Qatar, plus a tricky F.A. Cup tie against Chelsea on January 7th, only two days after an away league game at Stamford Bridge.
City suffered a surprising home defeat to Brentford in their last game before the break and the Champions will be desperate to get back to winning ways, but with games coming thick and fast and a depleted squad, it’s not going to be easy. They can’t afford to drop any more points to leaders Arsenal, and any more slips ups will potentially see them slip out of the title race. However, they can at least take some solace from the fact that their star striker, Erling Haaland, has been spending the last five weeks resting up, before resuming his relentless pursuit of every premier league goalscoring record.
Arteta’s team were riding a wave of confidence pre world cup and the manager will be keen to see his team pick up where they left off, playing with the freedom and enthusiasm that sees them topping the league with only one defeat all season.
There’s no doubt the mid-season break effected Arsenal more than any other team in the league, and how they kick off the second half of the season will be key for them. An early set back will affect their momentum and potentially dent their confidence leaving them open to accusations of blowing the league yet again.
However, Arsenal fans can take heart from the fact they have only lost 9 players to the World Cup, and key man Martin Ødegaard remains rested, with Norway having missed out on qualifying. This Arsenal team feels different and more determined than previous versions, but they will be keen to get Brazilian duo Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus back into their ranks as soon as possible. With a favourable early fixture list and a five-point lead, Arsenal remain favourites for the title.
Perhaps the surprise of the season, Newcastle will not have wanted the season to stop any more than Arsenal, and they will be looking to continue where they left off, after climbing to third in the table. With only six payers on World Cup duty, the Geordie fans will expect their team to be better prepared and more rested than their title rivals, and despite key men Tripper, Wilson, and Guimaraes likely to be missing when the season re-starts, they could well benefit from the enforced mid-season break.
Momentum is key
Teams at both ends of the table will be looking to reboot their seasons come Boxing Day. Those stranded at the bottom will be rested and eager to draw a line under their early season form, while title contenders will look to push on and carry their pre-World Cup momentum into the second half of the season. Whatever happens, it seems that an unprecedented winter World Cup is destined to produce an unprecedented and unpredictable, Premier League finale.