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A Premier League season unlike any other has been suspended for six weeks to make way for the World Cup with Arsenal enjoying a five-point lead at the top of the table.

The Gunners, who haven’t won the title since ‘The Invincibles’ unbeaten season in 2003/04, haven’t even managed to finish in the top four for the past six seasons.

Mikel Arteta’s men are well on their way to a Champions League return, but Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United have some catching up to do if they want to climb back into the top four.

Here are all the talking points from the last Premier League weekend before Christmas!

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– Arteta’s Arsenal project pays off –

The third anniversary of Arteta’s appointment as Arsenal boss will take place during the World Cup break.

Arsenal have been through a series of ups and downs from winning the FA Cup in 2020 to finishing eighth in consecutive seasons.

But the patience shown by the Spaniard is paying off in spectacular fashion as Arteta turned a young squad into title contenders.

And his side are even exceeding their expectations, as he said after the 2-0 win over Wolves. “Yes (they are), but I take it day by day and not even game by game. I understand that the better we do things on a daily basis and we are committed to doing these things better, each individual will contribute to the team improving and that is what we want to do.

He added: “It’s great to be where we are and we’re enjoying this moment. Now we have a big break and we have to reflect on what we are doing and prepare for the post-World Cup. Our goal is to play better as a team every day, to have better tools to do what we want. I can say that it has been phenomenal to work with these players and this staff.

City may regret the decision to sell Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to the Gunners as they have added title experience to a collection of promising stars.

No team has ever failed to win the league after taking 37 points in their first 14 games.

But Arsenal have not won the title each of the last five times they have topped the table at Christmas (1951-52, 1986-87, 1989-90, 2002-03 and 2007-08), so the race is not is not finished.

The real test still awaits, especially with two fascinating clashes against City to come, but Arsenal’s early season pace has set up another intriguing title battle.


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Stunner Willock downs Chelsea | 00:43

– Newcastle goes up earlier than expected –

The traditional top six were well aware of the threat Newcastle will pose in the years to come, backed by the seemingly endless wealth of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

But the Magpies are well ahead of schedule as they battle for a top four spot.

Eddie Howe’s men took 22 points from a possible 24 to enter the break in third.

When Howe was appointed a year and a week ago he inherited a 19th-placed side, having won no games in their opening 11 games of the Championship season. But in the 2022 calendar year, Newcastle’s tally of 68 points is fourth best among any Premier League side – just seven points behind Manchester City.

With Champions League wealth a realistic target, Newcastle are set to splash their newfound wealth again in January.

But Howe’s best work so far has been reviving the careers of players who arrived at St. James’ Park long before the influx of Saudi money.

Miguel Almiron won Player of the Month for October, while Callum Wilson’s form earned him a call into England’s World Cup squad.

Ahead of their meeting at the weekend, Chelsea manager Graham Potter praised his opposition manager, saying: “I think Eddie has done a fantastic job.

“He improved the players who were there, improved the team with very good recruitment – they spent money to strengthen the team.

“I could talk for half an hour about how good Eddie is as a person and as a coach. I have huge admiration for him, and he has galvanized the team, and there is fantastic support there at St James’ Park.

Even though their form is waning in the new year, Newcastle are the new force in English football that is not going away.

Tottenham claim victory against Leeds | 00:43

– Leicester turn things around –

What a month it was for Brendan Rodgers and his Foxes. Stuck on October 9, the team chained a dazzling series of four wins and a draw in six games – with five clean sheets – to climb to 13th place. The Foxes are now four points out of the relegation zone, but with a host of struggling teams under them – and better goal difference than the four teams immediately above them on the ladder.

Their last win was a 2-0 march past a dismal West Ham, which only puts manager David Moyes under more pressure.

Besides the World Cup, Leicester’s attention turns to January and the future of midfielder Youri Tielemans.

Tielemans is out of contract at the end of the season and has rejected a barrage of contract extension offers, but he is in high demand – with Arsenal hoping to land him at the end of the season on a free transfer. But the north London club are reportedly considering a £25million bid in January to bolster Mikel Arteta’s title charge. However, Rodgers dismissed talk of Tielemans leaving after his World Cup campaign with Belgium.

“It’s not something we think about [selling Tielemans] and nothing the club said we had to do,” Rodgers said. “We don’t want to offload our best players, that’s for sure.

“So there has been no indication or indication that we need to generate the money and move it forward. But, of course, there is a business side of the club that they are going to look at.

“We have a number of players out of contract at the end of the season. My goal has been to work with him and get out of the situation we find ourselves in. So everything else is not really mentioned from my point of view.

Man United TEENAGER wins in the end! | 00:43

– Haaland takes England by storm –

Arsenal’s success in keeping City top of the table is all the more impressive against the backdrop of Erling Haaland’s explosive start to his career in England.

Pep Guardiola’s men won back-to-back titles largely without a proven striker, but got the man they wanted to be Sergio Aguero’s long-term successor in the imposing Norwegian.

Haaland, who scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund before moving to Manchester, dismissed any suggestion he might struggle to adapt to City’s style.

The 22-year-old at one point netted a hat-trick in three consecutive league games at home amid an 18-goal streak in his first 13 Premier League games.

A ligament injury in his foot has slowed that pace in recent weeks but Haaland will be rested and refreshed after the World Cup break as Norway failed to qualify for Qatar.

Brentford steal victory over Man City! | 00:49

– Star masterclass after the English snub –

Will Gareth Southgate regret his decision not to name Ivan Toney in England’s World Cup squad? On proof of Brentford’s superb 2-1 victory over Manchester City, perhaps. Toney bagged a brace and came close to a hat-trick, intimidating the City defense with confidence and panache.

It was a performance that showed his confidence hadn’t taken a hit from missing the Qatar side, and capped it off with a 97th-minute winner.

He had the most touches of any Brentford player and the most assists among their outfielders – a truly rare stat for a striker against the champions.

Coach Thomas Frank said: “Fantastic, I can’t congratulate him enough. How good he is, his emotional intelligence with his teammates and everyone around the club. But also, what a player! What an attacker! He scored two, he probably should have scored one more. A hat-trick here, I thought was only for Haaland.

Brentford’s first away win of the season was also one of their biggest ever.

Frank called it: “One of the most satisfying wins we’ve had, I think the playoff final will always be the one that takes us to the promised land. But, of course, it’s up there.

“According to some people at the club, this is probably the biggest result ever, against one of the richest clubs in the world and we have one of the lowest budgets in the division. We are just one bus stop at Hounslow.

A bus stop with a brilliant football team, of course.

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