Arsenal lead the way in Premier League title race

Football Thursday November 30, 2023 By: Harry Howes

As we edge towards the busy Christmas period, Arsenal are the stars on top of the Premier League tree. Mikel Arteta’s side aren’t quite as free-flowing in attack as they were last year but they’re starting to grind out results.

The summer signing of Declan Rice has added a new dimension to their midfield and the England international was instrumental in their 1-0 win over title rivals Manchester City back in October.

However, there are concerns about their firepower up top and the fitness of Gabriel Jesus is an issue. There’s every chance they’ll fade away towards the end of the season again and they’ve got a tricky run of fixtures on the horizon, with games against Aston Villa, Brighton and Liverpool coming up.

City are just a point behind the Londoners but they haven’t quite been at their exhilarating best despite the continued goalscoring form of Erling Haaland. Kevin De Bruyne has been a huge miss in midfield, alongside John Stones who has been limited to just a few appearances.

The champions have drawn their last two games, following up a thrilling 4-4 draw at Chelsea by picking up a point at home to Liverpool. Defeats to Arsenal and Wolves will have disappointed Pep Guardiola and while they remain the favourites to defend their crown, a couple of injuries could derail their campaign.

Liverpool are sitting pretty in third and are looking to bounce back from a disappointing fifth-place finish last time out. They’ve looked strong so far, with summer signings Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai providing a much-needed presence in midfield.

Their only defeat came in controversial circumstances against Tottenham but they have been guilty of throwing away cheap points, most notably in a shock 1-1 draw at newly-promoted Luton.

Can Aston Villa make the Champions League?

Rewind a month or so and all the talk was about Tottenham mounting a title challenge despite losing Harry Kane over the summer. Ange Postecoglou has reinvented the north London side into a fearless, attacking machine.

Yet a few poor results has seen them fall away in recent weeks, with injuries to James Maddison and Micky van de Ven leaving them short. They’re still within touching distance of the leading pack but they’re on a run of three consecutive defeats, including at the weekend against top-four rivals Aston Villa.

Villa are the season’s surprise package and have been imperious since Unai Emery took charge just over a year ago. The Spaniard is getting the best out of Ollie Watkins, whose seven Premier League goals has earned him a recall to the England squad.

It remains to be seen how they’ll cope when the Europa Conference League knockout stage starts but with a solid defence and a prolific attack, they’ve got all the ingredients to maintain their promising start.

Despite appearing to be in a constant crisis, Manchester United are just six points off the top of the league. Erik ten Hag’s side have won three on the bounce but they face a tricky run, with Newcastle, Chelsea and Liverpool to come in their next four.

The battle to beat the drop

Before the season started, you’d be forgiven for writing off Luton and even suggesting they were in danger of breaking Derby County’s infamous points record. And while the Hatters have hardly set the world alight, they’ve been anything but pushovers.

Last year’s play-off winners earned their first ever home Premier League win at the weekend as they saw off Crystal Palace to add to previous good results against Everton and Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Everton find themselves in the bottom three following their 10-point deduction. While many people still expect them to be fine, they still need to get the results and keeping Dominic Calvert-Lewin fit could be key to their survival.

While Luton have made themselves tough to beat, the same can’t be said of their fellow promoted sides. Sheffield United and Burnley have struggled to adapt and have won just once each so far.

Will Haaland win another Golden Boot?

There are no prizes for guessing which two players lead the way in the race for the Golden Boot. Last year’s winner Haaland tops the charts with 14 goals from his first 13 games. Just behind the Norwegian on 10 is three-time winner Mohamed Salah.

It seems unlikely that the pair will be caught, with Son Heung-min and Jarrod Bowen on eight, while Watkins and Wolves star Hwang Hee-chan are on seven.

Also on seven are Newcastle duo Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak. The pair have both struggled with fitness this season, which adds to the Magpies’ injury woes. Despite their packed medical room, Eddie Howe’s side are only five points off the Champions League spots and will fancy their chances of repeating last season’s heroics.

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