The Premier League returns on Saturday, as matchweek 12 will get underway with Leicester City taking on Chelsea at 7:30 a.m. EST. Before the “beautiful game” returns, let’s take a look at a few things to watch for as the busiest time of the year gets underway for Premier League clubs.
- Has Mikel Arteta Figured it Out?
Arsenal Football Club are on great form. After starting the season 0-3 and in last place, Arsenal quickly climbed out of the cellar and now sit in fifth place with 20 points. In their past five matches, Arsenal has taken at least a point from all of them, having three wins and two draws in those five games. In his second full season in charge, has manager Mikel Arteta figured it out? This is some of the best football we have seen played by Arsenal in a while. The team is finally starting to come into its own, spearheaded by academy product Emile Smith Rowe who has four goals and two assists in his 11 appearances this season.
However, over Arsenal’s three game win streak, and the past month, they haven’t played any top teams, with Brighton being the highest placed team they faced in the past month, currently sitting in seventh. In their match against Brighton, Arsenal drew 0-0. Arsenal’s next month is a bit more difficult with matches against Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, and West Ham. After this next month we will know a bit more on if Mikel Arteta’s rebuild will be successful.
- Can Manchester United Get Back on Form?
Manchester United have had serious struggles since the end of September. Other than their drubbing of Tottenham on Oct. 30, United have been on awful form, taking a point in only one other league match, on Oct. 2 in a 1-1 draw against Everton. Notable matches in their league skid are a 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford to rival Liverpool, and a 2-0 Manchester derby defeat to Manchester City.
Coming back from an international break could be a rest that is much needed for Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his squad. However, United has some difficult matches coming up, as the Red Devils are traveling to Stamford Bridge on Nov. 28, and taking on Arsenal at Old Trafford on Dec. 2.
United currently sit in sixth with 17 points. They have time to turn it around, but it will be a struggle as nothing seems to be going right in the club right now. With rumors that Solskjær will be sacked at the end of the season circulating, if Man U can’t turn it around soon, this season can become a lost year pretty quickly.
- Will Anyone Pull Away in the Title Race?
Currently, first place and fifth place are separated by six points. The title race is wide open this year, but the favorites are first place Chelsea, second place Manchester City, and fourth place Liverpool. As we approach the holiday season, the fixtures become very congested, which will separate the pretenders from the contenders. Will this be like the 2019/2020 season, where Liverpool used this time to completely pull away from anyone near them? Or, will it be more like the 2018/2019 season, where Liverpool and Manchester City were in a heavyweight fight until the last day of the season?
Chelsea have the best defense in the league, and get goals from all over the pitch. Man City and Liverpool have elite offenses and special players. A sleeper team like West Ham, who sit in third with 23 points can continue to contend if they stay healthy and keep up their great form. This title race should be very exciting, and it is something to watch for the next few weeks to see if anyone separates from the pack.
- How Does Antonio Conte’s System Look
Antonio Conte has now had a couple of weeks to get settled at Tottenham and has had more training sessions with the squad. However, he is still in the process of getting to know every player and seeing how they fit in certain roles. In Spurs’ return this weekend, and in the few weekends after, don’t necessarily look at the result, but look for improvement and style of play. Tottenham need a serious rebuild, which I have talked about for a while, see below.
Now with Conte in charge, the rebuild is likely underway. A completely new system will be implemented, one that we do not completely know yet. What we do know is that Tottenham will play with wingbacks, but after that we don’t know how the midfield and attack will be set up. In these next few matchweeks, look to see what Conte’s preferred system is with Spurs? A 3-4-3? A 3-5-2?
- Can Newcastle Pick Up Form?
Newcastle were recently bought by a Saudi investment group, making them the richest club in the Premier League by a wide margin. However, things are not all sunshine and flowers for the Magpies as they currently sit in 19th with five points. Newcastle look lifeless, and are in serious danger of being relegated. Over the international break, Newcastle appointed former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe as the man to take charge of the club. Can Howe pull the club close enough to the safe zone so that when the new owners give him money in January it isn’t such a steep climb back?