The 2022/23 Premier League campaign resumes on Boxing Day and there is plenty of action to be excited about again.
When the Premier League came to a halt because of the World Cup break, Arsenal stretched their lead to five points at the top of the table from second-placed Manchester City, who were shocked 2-1 by Brentford at the Etihad Stadium.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool also registered wins in their final games before the break. With the league set to recommence next week, here are ten things to look forward to on matchweek 17.
- Can Arsenal maintain their lead at the top?
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal find themselves at the top of the Premier League at Christmas this season, with five points separating them from second-placed Manchester City.
The Gunners will find encouragement by the fact of the matter that the team who sit at the apex of the pile on Christmas usually go on to win the Premier League title. Despite losing Gabriel Jesus—one of their key performers during the first half of the season—to a knee injury for up to three months, Arteta and his boys will be in a buoyant mood when welcoming West Ham at the Emirates Stadium.
- Can Bournemouth provide a stiff test to Chelsea?
Graham Potter’s Chelsea resume their Premier League campaign with a home game against Bournemouth.
The Blues picked up just two points from their last five Premier League games to drop to eighth on the table and, to say Graham Potter’s boys need a solid start after the World Cup hiatus is an understatement.
Gary O’Neil will be taking charge of his first Premier League match as Bournemouth’s permanent manager, after overseeing three wins and a draw in his 11 games as a caretaker boss. For the good work O’Neil has done since replacing Scott Parker at the club, Bournemouth could prove to be a sticky team to face for Chelsea upon the league’s resumption.
- Alejandro Garnacho’s chance to pick up from where he left off
Alejandro Garnacho announced himself as a Manchester United player in incredible style before the World Cup break, scoring his first Premier League goal which also turned out to be an injury-time winner against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The 18-year-old winger’s winner sparked wild celebrations among players and fans at the away end of the Craven Cottage. Now with the World Cup done and dusted, Garnacho should have the motivation to go again for Man United.
Garnacho was United’s most in-form player before the break and, with Jadon Sancho still away, Anthony Elanga out of form and Marcus Rashford having just returned from Qatar, the teenage sensation has the chance to pick up from where left off.
- Can Julen Lopetegui pile pressure on Frank Lampard?
Julen Lopetegui got his Wolves reign off to a winning start in the Carabao Cup, but needed two late goals to spare his blushes against League Two outfit Gillingham. He was given a worrying baptism by Gillingham, but the real tests lie ahead in the Premier League.
Lopetegui’s first Premier League game as Wolves boss comes away to Everton, who find themselves just a point above the relegation zone. Frank Lampard went into the break under huge pressure and finds himself in a spot of bother given the fans have turned against him.
Just one win in the last five games has also fuelled unrest for Lampard’s position at Everton. So, it is perhaps the best time for Lopetegui and Wolves to face the Toffees at Goodison Park.
- Nottingham Forest targeting another big upset
Nottingham Forest went into the break by eliminating Tottenham from the EFL Cup and clinching a 1-0 league win over Crystal Palace. They are set to resume their Premier League season with a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
Forest boss Steve Cooper bringing some much-needed pragmatism to his side has paid dividends, but it will be difficult against Man United, who have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham at home this season.
Any kind of result would be a huge bonus and Forest will hope that, with Erik ten Hag’s side not having first-choice centre-backs—Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez— back in time for the game due to their World Cup exertions, their chances of achieving an upset will have increased a bit.
- Can Erling Haaland hit top gear?
Erling Haaland has laughed off any detractors that he would d be able to adapt to the Premier League demands since arriving at Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund. He has a staggering 18 goals in just 13 league games.
However, Haaland’s incredible start to life in England was tainted somewhat as he missed some games just before the mid-season break through injury. The Norwegian has had his fair share of injury problems in his fledgling career, something that Man City must make a priority to address.
Now refreshed and raring to go, it will interesting to watch if Haaland can hit top gear right away when City face Leeds United at Elland Road.
- Can Aston Villa stifle Liverpool?
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have been hibernating at home and will be highly motivated to help Liverpool get their season back on track when they face Aston Villa at Villa Park on Boxing Day.
Unai Emery couldn’t have asked for a better start to life as the Aston Villa boss, winning his opening two league games against Man United and Brighton. But facing a reinvigorated Liverpool side will be some task for Emery, who will be without his first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez because of his World Cup-winning campaign with Argentina.
The Spaniard, nonetheless, has a squad that can trouble Liverpool and exploit their defensive frailties on the counter attack. How he sets his Villa team up to stop the Reds from playing their natural game will be intriguing to watch.
- How can Southampton buy a goal?
Nathan Jones’s first game in charge of Southampton had ended in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield before the mid-season pause. And one thing Jones would have gauged during his short time at Southampton is that his side desperately needs goals to avoid relegation.
Southampton have only scored 13 goals in 15 games, out of which Che Adams with four strikes is their top scorer. Forwards such as Adam Armstrong, Moussa Djenepo and Mohamed Elyounoussi have contributed to just one goal, leaving the Saints with a lot to be desired.
A silver lining might come in the form of Brighton’s defensive record under Roberto de Zerbi—14 goals conceded in eight league games. Brighton have stunned Man United and held Liverpool to a draw in games away from home this season, but if Southampton can stay defensively strong and dominate possession, they can breach their defence on Monday.
- Can Newcastle United continue its roll?
Newcastle United went into the World Cup break on a high with five Premier League wins in a row, climbing up to third in third in the table as a result.
Averaging almost two goals scored per game, the Magpies have been excellent this season with Eddie Howe getting the best out of his squad. The upward trajectory is keenly felt among the Geordies and only one defeat in the league so far speaks volumes for the team Eddie Howe is building.
On Boxing Day, Newcastle could move into second place for the time being with a victory against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
- Can rested Miguel Almiron flourish again?
We haven’t seen Miguel Almiron in action for a month now and it’s easy to forget just how confident and exciting the forward has been for Newcastle United this season.
Almost unplayable at times, Almiron has been a big part of the Geordies’ rise to third in the league. The Paraguay international’s transformation from being a trickster and hugely frustrating player to one of the first names on the manager’s team sheet has been remarkable, and seven goals in his last eight games back it up.
Against a Leicester City side that has leaked goals for fun this term, Almiron has a great opportunity to pick up his form from where he left off.