The Premier League takes an unprecedented six-week break in the middle of the season as the worldcup in Qatar takes centre stage.

With this weekend’s action finished now, the Premier League does not return until 26 December.

The worldcup starts on Sunday, 20 November with the final on Sunday, 18 December.

So how does the English top flight look now, who has the most players going to Qatar and who needs this break?

Arsenal are leaders by five points from Manchester City, the first time they will be top at Christmas since the 2007-08 season.

Their 37 points from 14 games marks their best-ever start. All seven teams to win 12 of their first 14 games have won the Premier League title.

Another good omen for the Gunners is the team that topped the table on Christmas Day have been champions in 10 of the last 13 seasons.

The bad omen for Mikel Arteta’s side is the last five times they have been top on 25 December they have failed to stay there come the end of the campaign.

You have to go back to 1947-48 for the last time they were top on both days.

Gunners legend Ian Wright said on BBC Match of the Day: “They have been in control of most of the games they have played this season, very confident. The aim was top four.”

Of course, teams will have played fewer games on Christmas Day than usual, so City will still fancy their chances of making up the deficit on the Gunners in the remaining 24 games.

Newcastle are in unfamiliar territory – sitting third, seven points behind Arsenal.

This is the first time since 2001-02 that they have occupied one of the Champions League spots on Christmas Day. They were top that season but finished fourth.

Magpies icon Alan Shearer said: “They are so organised and there is an understanding as a team of each other’s jobs – when to press, when to sit off, and their reaction when they lose the ball.

“What a job Eddie Howe is doing at Newcastle. Great times, they go into the break in third position and another really impressive performance.”

However, Shearer said his old side will not win the title this season.

Tottenham, one point behind Howe’s side, complete the top four. Manchester United are fifth, with Liverpool sixth on 22 points.

Graham Potter’s Chelsea have not won in five Premier League games and have dropped to eighth. They will probably relish the chance to have a break and go again.

Wright added: “Chelsea fans’ main worry is the constant changing of the formation. Seventeen goals in 14 games is not good, no team in the top half have scored fewer.

“They do need to give Graham Potter time – [Liverpool’s Jurgen] Klopp had time, we’ve seen what Arteta is doing with time. So hopefully he will get that time.”

Probably any team below Chelsea can consider themselves to be in the relegation equation.

There are just six points separating Fulham in ninth and Nottingham Forest in 18th.

Wolves are bottom – four points adrift of safety – so what are their odds of survival?

Only six teams have ever been bottom at Christmas and stayed up – with half of those in the first three Premier League campaigns.

Leicester City, in 2014-15, were the last team to avoid relegation from that position – before winning the title the following season.

But as the in-form Foxes showed just before this break came, a few good weeks can take you up to mid-table as they now stand in 13th place.

What could change over the break?

Two teams have made managerial changes just before the break – but could more happen before 26 December?

Julen Lopetegui takes over from Steve Davis as manager of Wolves on Monday – so these next few weeks will be effectively like his pre-season.

Southampton, who are second from bottom, also have a new manager, with Nathan Jones taking charge of their final game before the break, a 3-1 loss at Liverpool.

The bookmakers’ favourite to lose their job next is Everton boss Frank Lampard. The Toffees have lost their last three games to sit one point above the relegation zone.

Police were forced to intervene on Saturday after the 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth to calm some fans as the players went over to the away section at the final whistle.

“As good as the fans are for us, with the welcomes they gave us last year and the plaudits they gave us after the Crystal Palace game, you have to accept that they have a right to voice their opinion. And they have travelled down to Bournemouth to do that,” Lampard told BBC Sport.

The other boss under pressure is David Moyes at West Ham, who are only above Everton on goal difference.

Moyes admitted fans had the right to leave early and boo in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Leicester. Of the pressure on Moyes, captain Declan Rice said: “It’s nonsense. If you look at what he’s done for this club, how he’s brought us back from where we’ve been.”

A few weeks ago Brendan Rodgers at Leicester and Leeds’ Jesse Marsch were under immense pressure, but good form means neither should be worried now.

Former Premier League goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer expects the Premier League to have a different feel on Boxing Day.

Citing Unai Emery’s recent arrival as Aston Villa boss, where he has picked up successive league wins, Schwarzer told BBC Radio 5 Live: “There will be a number of clubs who will be looking at the situation of having pretty much a month off and having the ability then to do that mini pre-season, getting to know players.

“If they want to bring in a new manager, I could see one or two clubs probably looking at the possibility of doing that.”

Which teams will be worst affected by worldcup?

Champions Manchester City have the most players going to the worldcup with 16 – and 10 of the starting 11 for their 2-1 defeat by Brentford on Saturday will head to Qatar.

The only one who is not… is the Premier League’s top scorer Erling Haaland as Norway did not qualify. He could take real advantage of tired legs or back-up defenders come late December.

Manchester United will have 15 players heading to Qatar, should Hannibal Mejbri make the Tunisia squad as expected, with 12 for Chelsea and 11 for Tottenham.

Leaders Arsenal will have 10 players at the tournament.

But of the team that beat Wolves on Saturday, Gabriel, Oleksandr Zinchenko and captain Martin Odegaard are staying home.

If Newcastle are indeed in the title race, they could benefit from any worldcup fatigue as they only have five players going away.

Liverpool, in sixth, may also be fresher than many with seven players going to Qatar including only three of their 10 goalscorers this season. Top scorer Mohamed Salah’s Egypt did not qualify.

The teams with the fewest players going are Southampton – Germany’s Armel Bella-Kotchap and Ghana’s Mohammed Salisu – and Bournemouth, who have Chris Mepham and Kieffer Moore in the Wales squad. Leeds are next with three.

When are Premier League teams next in action?

OK so we said the Premier League is back on 26 December. But some top-flight teams could actually have competitive games just a day or two after the worldcup final.

The Carabao cup fourth round takes place on the week of 19 December – the day after the Sunday final in Qatar.

Traditionally, most of those games end up on the Tuesday or Wednesday, although Manchester City will host Liverpool on Thursday, 22 December.

Wolves, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Manchester United, Leicester and Brighton are also in action in that round.

Best and reliable bookie to bet on the World Cup is NaijaBet.


Credit @BBC News

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