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05 March 2024

The potential beneficiaries and losers as Premier League resumes


The Premier League resumes on 26 December after a six-week break to accommodate the World Cup in Qatar.

For some top-flight clubs, an enforced hibernation will have offered the chance to reset, rest key players or get those on the treatment table closer to fitness.

However, others will be braced to deal with the emotional and physical hangover from the tournament as players return either brimming with confidence or nursing an injury or the baggage of costing their team at a key moment.

BBC Sport looks at who might benefit or lose out when the English top flight gets back under way.

  • R&R for Haaland as Arsenal's Jesus suffers injury blow

While the world did not get to see the Premier League's most potent striker in Qatar, Manchester City will hope that a mid-season holiday helps Erling Haaland maintain his explosive form.

With 18 goals in 13 league games and another five in four Champions League appearances, much could depend on the fitness and freshness of the Norway international as City target domestic and European success.

If the prospect of a goal-hungry Haaland isn't terrifying enough for defenders, then Riyad Mahrez should also be raring to go for City after his Algeria team failed to qualify and fellow forward Julian Alvarez returns to England on the crest of a wave after being a central figure in Argentina's triumph.

In contrast, Arsenal's five-point lead at the top of the table appears distinctly more vulnerable after a knee injury ended Gabriel Jesus' tournament prematurely.

The Brazil forward has been a transformative signing for the Gunners this term but now faces a significant spell on the sidelines as Mikel Arteta's team face a challenging sequence of matches, beginning with a home game against West Ham and a trip to Brighton, with fixtures against Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United to follow before the end of January.

  • Mixed emotions for Kane, Maguire and Salah

Tottenham's top-four ambitions are likely to rest on Harry Kane not suffering any emotional burnout from the anguish of his penalty miss against France, as England went out in the quarter-finals.

Spurs boss Antonio Conte may also rue Richarlison picking up yet another injury after impressing for Brazil, while Son Heung-min's struggles for form continued in the Middle East.

At the other end of the pitch, things look slightly more positive given Cristian Romero's status as a world champion, and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' run to the final.

Meanwhile, Liverpool fans will be hopeful that Egypt forward Mohamed Salah's absence from the tournament allows him to shrug off any early-season sluggishness - to help his club get their top-four push back on track.

Reports have suggested that Diogo Jota could be available again for the Reds by early February, to help compensate for the loss of winger Luis Diaz, who is expected to be out until March after reinjuring his knee during a warm-weather training camp in Dubai.

Manchester United welcome back a World Cup winner in Argentina's Lisandro Martinez, while other members of their back four should return in a positive frame of mind - albeit in the knowledge their workload over the coming weeks may need to be adjusted.

Erik ten Hag has called on Harry Maguire to reproduce his England form back at Old Trafford, Diogo Dalot starred for Portugal and Raphael Varane, who has been steady and solid if prone to injuries, helped France into the final.

  • Rice, Mac Allister & Martinez's stock rises

Declan Rice's public admission, while on England duty, that winning titles at club level has become a top priority is only likely to heighten transfer speculation around the West Ham midfielder's long-term future.

However, manager David Moyes will at least be pleased that none of his players have any significant fitness concerns, with Hammers defender Nayef Aguerd impressing during Morocco's route to the last four.

Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister enhanced his reputation with a string of superb displays for Argentina - and with three years left on his present deal, his club look well placed to repel prospective suitors as they chase a European spot.

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery will also be satisfied to have got all his outfield players back several weeks before the resumption of the top flight, while the standing of his goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez has risen after his heroics in Argentina's success.

The World Cup arguably came at a good time for Chelsea boss Graham Potter to reset the season after three consecutive Premier League defeats but it has been a mixed bag for his players.

Raheem Sterling lost his England place, Mason Mount is no longer a starter, while Kai Havertz will carry the burden of Germany's failure.

However, in the downtime, key players such as Reece James, N'Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana and Ben Chilwell have been able to make progress in recovering from injury, and are expected back in January, if not sooner.Guardiola and Arteta's juggling acts

Between them, Manchester City and Arsenal had 26 players in Qatar. For City boss Pep Guardiola and his Gunners counterpart Mikel Arteta, that could mean some additional juggling in terms of selection.

  • Guardiola may face the greater balancing act.

 Between them, featured for 4,628 minutes in Qatar - Arsenal's played just 1,699 minutes.

The players of Tottenham (3,692), Chelsea (3,588) and Manchester United (3,585) also all had more than twice as many World Cup minutes as the Gunners.

Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the general secretary of players' union Fifpro, has warned about the impact the busy schedule could have on the physical and mental health of players.

"We've seen some players who before the World Cup played 10, 15 matches in a row without a proper recovery time - which we consider to be at least five days between matches," he told the PA news agency.

"It's not just the physical recovery, it's also the mental ability to readjust, to get yourself ready for the remainder of the season - which of course, when you play a tournament in the middle of a season, is very different."

City's England contingent of John Stones, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker all return with reputations intact, though Kalvin Phillips and Jack Grealish will be determined to get more minutes on the pitch.

Conversely Kevin de Bruyne failed to lead Belgium's golden generation of out their group and Ilkay Gundogan's Germany were also in the departure lounge early, although that may prove beneficial to Guardiola's side later in the season.

Defender Manuel Akanji looked far less stable in the Switzerland side trounced by Portuguese team-mates Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias and Spain's Rodri and Aymeric Laporte probably did not envisage a last-16 defeat by Morocco.

Gabriel Martinelli should rejoin Arsenal from Brazil duty with plenty of energy and enthusiasm after being used sparingly by the Selecao.

The same applies to Ben White, whose involvement with England ended early for personal reasons, while fellow defender William Saliba barely left the France substitute's bench.

Mikel Arteta's other big positive is that Martin Odegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mohamed Elneny and Kieran Tierney should all be rested after their nations failed to qualify for the World Cup, although the absence of Jesus may not be easily remedied.

  • Maddison could offer Leicester lift

A fit James Maddison would give Leicester a boost prior to Monday's trip to Newcastle with the 26-year-old midfielder not playing a single minute for the Three Lions in Qatar.

Further down the Premier League, Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been able to use his time to recover from knee, hamstring and shoulder issues.

And Jordan Pickford's excellent performances will also have been source of great encouragement for manager Frank Lampard.

The availability of Kyle Walker-Peters, who has been out with a hamstring problem, could be a welcome boost for Southampton's new manager Nathan Jones.

A new era at Wolves begins under Julen Lopetegui, who will hope to get Pedro Neto back from an ankle injury to buoy a squad that looks set to be reinforced in the January transfer window