Forty days after the top division’s break for the World Cup in Qatar, Premier League football returned with a feast of Boxing Day matches. A whopping 25 goals were scored in the seven games played on Monday, with table-toppers Arsenal continuing their unrelenting form by defeating West Ham 3-1.
After losing at home, Southampton currently finds themselves at the bottom of the standings, and Everton was left in despair after losing late at Goodison Park. BBC Sport examines the major news items from the spectacular comeback of the Premier League.
No World Cup hangover for the Gunners
The conclusion of Monday’s game dispelled any concerns that Arsenal’s momentum may slow due to the World Cup break. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Eddie Nketia scored for Mikel Arteta’s team as they overcame the Hammers to win and increase their advantage to seven points.
Nketiah remarked, “Once we got one, we could all sense the energy in the stadium. There is a genuine sense of community and connection among the fans. Arsenal is seven points behind Newcastle in second place, but Pep Guardiola’s City, who are in third, can cut the gap to five points on Wednesday if they win at Leeds (kick-off 20:00 GMT).
Newcastle remains the real deal
With a stunning victory at Leicester, Newcastle moved a point ahead of the Premier League champions into the second position with City not playing until Wednesday. With only 32 minutes remaining, the Magpies were 3-0 ahead due to their dominance. A penalty by Chris Wood, along with goals by Miguel Almiron and Joelinton, gave the visiting supporters a Boxing Day to remember.
We’re going to win the league, the Newcastle fans were heard singing, but does manager Eddie Howe share that belief? Howe answered, “Anything is possible. The season is still in its infancy, so there are still plenty of opportunities for us.
Mixed start for new bosses
In the Premier League, several managers are still getting used to their new teams. Julen Lopetegui, Nathan Jones, and Unai Emery all had varying degrees of success in their Boxing Day matches. As Wolves rallied from behind to defeat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park, Rayan Ait-thrilling Nouri’s stoppage-time winner gave Lopetegui the perfect start.
The Spanish manager’s team moved up one spot, to 18th position, and one point below Frank Lampard’s Toffees thanks to the victory, moving them off the bottom of the standings. While Nathan Jones, who was in charge at St. Mary’s Stadium for the first time in the Premier League, had to endure whistles from the home crowd as his Saints were soundly defeated 3-1 by Brighton, Lopetegui basked in the praise of the visiting supporters.
Jones’ battle against relegation has gotten tougher because his team is now supporting the Wolves in the league standings as a result of their victory. After Liverpool won 3-1 away, Aston Villa was unable to bring holiday pleasure to Villa Park, and Emery suffered his first league loss in charge of the club.
Pressure grows on Lampard
Everton’s poor loss against Wolves has put the Toffees back in the relegation battle, despite Lampard’s claim that they “deserved” to win. Carton Cole, a former West Ham striker, remarked, “I kind of feel sorry for [Lampard] because he understands what he wants from his squad,” on Final Score.
But before they can start scoring more goals, he needs to improve and gain a little more solidity in midfield. They rarely create, so when they do, they don’t include it in the goal. You need a ferocious striker there. While not yet concerned for Lampard, ex-England striker Dion Dublin said on BBC Radio 5 Live that “another couple of defeats” and Lampard’s time at Everton might be up.
A cracker to kick things off
The day’s tone was established by the early kickoff four-goal thriller between Brentford and Tottenham. Before Harry Kane led the comeback in his first match after missing a penalty in England’s 2-1 World Cup quarterfinal loss to France, Vitaly Janet and Ivan Toney set the Bees on track for their first victory over Spurs since 1948.
With a curling finish, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tied the score at 2-2. Neither team was able to score the game’s winning goal, with Harry Kane headed one against the crossbar. Thomas Frank, the manager of Brentford, commented, “What a game to reopen the Premier League with,” while Antonio Conte, the manager of Tottenham, said, “It was a thrilling game.”
How did VAR fare?
According to BBC Sport last week, Howard Webb, the new Premier League referees boss, wants to simplify the refereeing process and enhance the present VAR system. So how did Monday’s application of the technology go?
Referee Michael Oliver gave a penalty for William Saliba’s tackle on Jarrod Bowen in the late-night match between leaders Arsenal and struggling West Ham, and Said Benrahma scored from the spot.