Manchester United MUST get rid of Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea need to regroup from eight injuries, while Arsenal should splash cash to add squad depth for title push… what every club needs once the Premier League returns after the World Cup
- The Premier League is now on shutdown until Boxing Day due to the World Cup
- But every top flight side will be working hard behind the scenes ahead of return
- While some sides will be pleased with their season so far, others have work to do
- Sportsmail looks at what every team needs during the break for the World Cup
Like a switch, the Premier League lights have gone off now until Christmas as the World Cup engulfs the football sphere and takes the entire spotlight.
But while many of us consume the 32-team extravaganza in Qatar, Premier League clubs will be doing all they can to make the most of the break from now until its return on Boxing Day.
Whether your team is flying high and enjoying a cracking start or struggling near the bottom, Sportsmail looks at what every Premier League club needs during the World Cup break.
Arsenal have been the early pace-setters in the Premier League following an excellent start
Top of the table, swatting teams aside with ease. Now is the time for Arsenal to put their feet up with a nice hot blanket this winter and enjoy the World Cup.
Wrong. Standing still is going backwards in a highly competitive arena such as the Premier League and the Gunners must now build on their five-point lead at the summit by getting their ducks in a row for the transfer window.
The first XI has already proven itself as one of the best in the league, thanks much in part to the summer recruitment. But with games to come thick and fast after the World Cup they need squad depth, highlighted by their League Cup defeat by Brighton where a much changed side were beaten 3-1.
Cover in central midfield as well as in attack after Brazilian duo Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli would be ideal for Mikel Arteta’s men.
It’s icebreaker time down at Villa Park. The new manager bounce has brought Aston Villa back-to-back wins over Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively.
But now is the time for Unai Emery to really get to know his squad before they return to top flight action on Boxing Day. They have a few players going to the World Cup including Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez as well as Poland defenders Matty Cash and Jan Bednarerk.
For the rest it’s a case of getting to know the new boss and the former Arsenal manager will be relishing the prospect of getting his players to understand what he wants from them without the interruption of matches coming thick and fast at the club.
What Bournemouth need most is quite obvious – although their performances without a full-time manager have been incredible this seasons given their circumstances.
Even in more stable days under the last permanent manager Scott Parker, many expected the Cherries to struggle upon their return to the top flight this term following a lack of investment over the summer.
But having thrashed Everton 3-0 before the World Cup break they sit in a tidy 14th spot three points clear of relegation under the caretaker management of Gary O’Neil, and that’s about as much as they could have wished for.
Now though is the perfect time for the south coast club to appoint a new manager to replace Parker who was axed in August. O’Neil is naturally in the running but former Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has also been linked.
Former Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has been linked with taking over at Bournemouth
Not many teams have it more comfortable than Brentford who head into the World Cup break inside the top 10 of the Premier League after turning up at champions Manchester City and sneaking a smash ‘n’ grab victory.
They will be though without a few of their stars at the World Cup. At least six will be away including three from with Denmark in the shape of Mathias Jenssen, Christian Norgaard and Mikkel Damsgaard.
Thomas Frank though may try and find ways to focus on how to manage his team in the second half of the season.
In the second half of last term, form dropped off a cliff after Christmas and it can be argued only the signing of Christian Eriksen prevented them from slipping into a relegation battle. Overall though, life is good for the Bees in west London.
Opportunity knocks for Brighton and it’s up to new manager Roberto De Zerbi to drive that point home in the lead up to the Boxing Day return.
Last season under Graham Potter they achieved their highest ever finish with ninth place – but there is now potential for more.
Despite Potter’s exit, De Zerbi has them still among the big boys in the league battling for Europe and it’s not a ridiculous prospect considering they have only recently just destroyed Chelsea 4-1. Can they really keep up this form for the rest of the season though? It’s up to De Zerbi to inspire the confidence in his side to do just that.
Get your cliche bingo cards out kids and tick this one off – the honeymoon period is well and truly over for new boss Graham Potter.
Already he is feeling the heat from fans following a bad run of form that has seen them lose four from their last five matches.
But most problematic for Potter is his huge injury list, and that won’t have helped his settling in period. Ruled out before the World Cup break, the list is large reading: N’Golo Kante, Ben Chillwell, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Carney Chukwuemeka, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Wesley Fofana and Reece James – all on the treatment table.
Nearly three quarters of that list are first-team defenders and then you have a goalkeeper too. Potter needs answers to turn around the Blues form – but ideally he needs his best players to be able to do this as well.
Reece James is one of several Chelsea players looking to return from injury before Boxing Day
Palace’s last two games before the international break sum their season up. Up and down. As impressive as they were to win 2-1 at West Ham United, they then collapsed to defeat at then bottom side Nottingham Forest to leave Patrick Vieira scratching his head again.
In fact if you could pick the average team in the Premier League right now, the Eagles would be your bet, they are perhaps slightly below par in front of goal with 15 goals but they look in good enough shape at the back, conceding just 18.
Vieira’s building a decent side at Palace so perhaps key for the former Arsenal star is trying to work out how to unlock some consistency once the Premier League resumes.
It looks like another unhappy Christmas is on the way for Everton, who are facing up to a second season potentially battling relegation.
Frank Lampard came in towards the second half of last term and just managed to keep the Toffees up, but form hasn’t kicked on and by the time they return to action on Boxing Day they will be just one point and place above the bottom three.
Keeping goals out hasn’t been a problem. Indeed, only the top three have a better defensive record of 17 goals conceded. But scoring them has been a huge issue – only Wolves have scored fewer than their 11.
Lampard’s World Cup job is simple then. Find a striker. Whether that is through his scouts, playing Football Manager or taking a punt on a star breaking through in Qatar – just try and sign anyone who looks closely like sticking the ball in the net.
One point from nine doesn’t look like the best of records heading into the break, but when you factor two of those were against the Manchester clubs and both came with last-gasp goals to fall to defeats, Marco Silva will be rather pleased with the contribution of his side so far.
Nineteen points from just 15 games is already near enough halfway to hitting that magic 40-point safety mark as the Cottagers look to avoid Premier League relegation for the first time in a decade.
Only Haaland, Harry Kane and Ivan Toney have scored more goals than Aleksandar Mitrovic’s nine this term, so keeping him fresh for the rest of the season would be ideal. Therefore that means hoping for an Serbia exit would work in Fulham’s favour.
By contrast the Cottagers might be most beneficial from England doing well at the World Cup. With no players in Gareth Southgate’s team, they instead have American duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream, as well as Dan James and Harry Wilson at Wales competing in England’s group.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goals have been key to Fulham’s impressive start to the season
Jesse Marsch’s side have blown hot and cold all season, sometimes it happens in just one match for instance like their most recent topsy-turvy 4-3 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur. Defence is clearly a concern then.
What Marsch does have the luxury of though is having the biggest build up and preparation of many teams this term in trying to create a game plan against Manchester City who they face on Boxing Day.
With a fully fit Erling Haaland raring to go against a defence that has already conceded 26 goals, the time for training drills to combat the Norwegian is now. Getting a win or even a point could be the difference between another last-day Premier League survival or relegation.
Credit has to go to Brendan Rodgers. He looked doomed at the start of the campaign having lost many key stars and not had much to replace them with, leading to the Foxes hitting rock bottom.
A winless eight games has been followed by six wins from nine though as the Leicester board’s patience for sticking with the Northern Irishman is starting to pay off.
Rodgers will perhaps be one of the more frustrated managers by the break given the form his side were hitting, and he will just be watching the World Cup hoping star man James Maddison can come through the tournament without any form or fitness issues.
Leicester in fact may be a club where an ‘England crash and burn exit’ might be exactly what they need over the next few weeks.
Time to hit that reset button like never before at Liverpool. By their high standards it’s been a dreadful pre-World Cup run where already they look out of the running for the league title.
Jurgen Klopp at least can count on some of his key stars not going to the World Cup and that includes Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz who he hopes can click to form a partnership just as lethal as the one the Egyptian had with Mohamed Salah.
The Reds though will have one eye on boosting a struggling and ageing midfield in the January window, and the World Cup may lead him to short-term answers regarding that issue.
Sixth and 15 points down on Arsenal, they need a rethink and the two weeks away in Dubai to refocus their ambitions this term will be needed.
Liverpool will be hoping a Dubai training camp can build a partnership between Mohamed Salah (right) and strike partner Luis Diaz
Five points behind Arsenal in the title race following a shock home defeat by Brentford might be the result that leans towards City having a radical think over the next few weeks to get their Premier League bid back on track.
Yet, this few weeks could be crucial in determining what happens next summer when Pep Guardiola is out of contract.
Defeat against Brentford saw City put in one of their worst performances under Guardiola and it is understood he will now jet to Abu Dhabi to meet with club chiefs over his future plans.
The key to his renewal is seeing a hunger to succeed in his players, and whether he can motivate them to improve. City’s priority then might be long term thinking and trying to keep hold of Guardiola.
No prizes for guessing what Manchester United’s focus will be on over the next few weeks, following Cristiano Ronaldo’s extraordinary attack on the club after his interview with Piers Morgan.
The bridges appear to be well and truly burned now. So United’s focus should be now getting the Ronaldo situation sorted once and for all – and getting it sorted quick.
Too much of their season has already been centered on the forward being in and out of the team or what he does or doesn’t do during and after a match. Erik ten Hag’s side need to just move on from the whole saga.
The sooner they offload the Portuguese forward, the better. But are there any takers?
Cristiano Ronaldo has launched an extraordinary attack on the club ahead of the World Cup
Newcastle flying high near the top of the table again. A refreshing blast back to the brilliant days under Bobby Robson with Alan Shearer in attack from two decades ago.
Or do we go one better? Is the potential to match Kevin Keegan’s mid-90s ‘Entertainers’ on the cards?
Eddie Howe has done an excellent job so far in his year at St James’ Park but why stop at the top three? The money will be there to spend in January and there will always be room for improvement.
It’s time to strike while the iron is hot for the Magpies. There are not many greater tickets in town right now to attract some of the world’s emerging talents or even existing stars ready to buy into Howe’s project.
It’s been a rocky road back in the top flight for Nottingham Forest who have been backwards and forwards on whether to axe boss Steve Cooper and working a back-room reshuffle all on top of a summer where they signed nearly a whole squad of players.
What they need over the next few weeks is some stability and some sort of organisation that makes the City Ground more like a football club again and not a soap opera.
If any club in the Premier League needed an extended pre-season to get their ducks in a row it’s Forest – and now is their perfect chance to do just that and hope it can help them pull out of a relegation battle after Christmas.
What timing for Nathan Jones. He has the incredibly rare luxury of landing a mid-season Premier League job and getting a mini pre-season to help him prepare for it.
It had all gone stale under Ralph Hasenhuttl before he was axed earlier this month, and while Jones wouldn’t have been grateful for his first match to be at Anfield, where his side went down 3-1 at Liverpool – he will now have crucial time to judge his squad away from having to prepare for games.
Southampton’s focus should be on the January transfer window though to help Jones and his mission to lift them out of the bottom three following the club’s run of just one win in 11 games since August.
Curious times down at Tottenham. A look at the league table and all should be well for the north London outfit sitting fourth in the league and in good shape to continue a push for a Champions League place.
Yet, fans are becoming frustrated. Too often the team fall behind after putting in a dismal first half display after another, leaving them with a catch up job to do in the second halves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But is it sustainable?
Some form of alarm clock to help the team wake up in the first half may be ideal for Antonio Conte but, without the jokes, Spurs do need more options to provide attacking threat from wing-back – and getting their January recruitment right will be key to their season.
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham side have struggled to get going in the first halves of games
West Ham United
It’s not going to plan this term for West Ham United who after a couple of seasons flirting for a Champions League place have all of a sudden found themselves in a relegation battle.
David Moyes is coming under pressure following a run of just one league win in five that leaves them just one point above the bottom three heading into the World Cup break.
As concerning as their form is, now is the time to call for calm at the London Stadium. Moyes has not turned into a bad manager overnight and he has a good selection of players at his disposal. Motivating his stars ahead of the second half of the season will be key – and perhaps a striker in January to boost that goals column tally of just 12.
New manager and new ideas are need quickly at Molineux, because right now they are in huge danger of sinking like a stone towards the Championship.
It’s clear as day to see their problem – goals. Or a severe lack of them. In all competitions they have won just three matches – all of them 1-0.
Across the season they have found the net an appalling eight times in the league. Nearly only averaging a goal every two games. Erling Haaland alone has over double their tally!
Whether it’s getting a tune out of Diego Costa or getting a new striker in, new boss Julen Lopetegui has to use this time to get a new Plan A for the attack.
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