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Chris Sutton’s 12 big talking points ahead of the return of the Premier League

I once starred in a Christmas advert. For some reason, they dressed me up as the Grinch. How dare they! I’m no cold-hearted, Christmas-hating Ebenezer Scrooge.

My decorations went up on November 15 this year before I flew out to Qatar, I’ll have you know! But we’re not only celebrating the holiday season. 

We’re also readying for the restart of the Premier League season, and here are my 12 takes on the big return. Yes, you guessed it, one for each day of Christmas.

The Premier League is back on Boxing Day following an extended break during the World Cup

Arsenal are top of the table but will face pressure from the pack trying to chase them

Arsenal are top of the table but will face pressure from the pack trying to chase them 

1. Which Premier League boss should send Gianni Infantino a Christmas hamper?

Which club will be happiest after the World Cup? It’s a stretch to say they’ll be sending Infantino a hamper full of Salt Bae steaks wrapped in gold leaf, but Liverpool will be pleased with how the tournament in Qatar played out. 

Manchester City’s outfield players appeared for 4,538 minutes at this World Cup. Liverpool’s appeared for 1,409 minutes by comparison. They largely had a rest, Mohamed Salah included, and can go again.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side largely had a rest over the last month during the World Cup

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side largely had a rest over the last month during the World Cup

2. And who’d send him a lump of coal?

Arsenal will be the angriest. They’ve lost Gabriel Jesus at the worst time. He was one of the most high-profile injuries to come out of the World Cup and now manager Mikel Arteta is having to look to the January transfer window for a short-term replacement.  

Something tells me that Manchester City, having seen how selling Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko turned Arsenal into title contenders, will not loan them Argentina World Cup hero Julian Alvarez.

Arsenal will be the angriest with how the World Cup went due to Gabriel Jesus' injury

Arsenal will be the angriest with how the World Cup went due to Gabriel Jesus’ injury

3. Can Arsenal still win the League?

Yes. But will they? No. I still think Manchester City will win it. Arsenal have lost Jesus, as I mentioned. That’s a huge blow.

Sure, he hasn’t scored since October 1. That’s 11 games without a goal for Arsenal. But Jesus is a team player, a tone- setter for the press, a relentless runner. Eddie Nketiah has some big boots to fill.

Meanwhile, City striker Erling Haaland has had a lovely month of doing nada.

Jesus' injury sustained while away with Brazil is a big blow to Arsenal's title hopes this season

Jesus’ injury sustained while away with Brazil is a big blow to Arsenal’s title hopes this season

4. If City were being filmed by Amazon, what would we see them doing?

I don’t think we’d see them doing anything differently to what they have been doing. Pep Guardiola won’t be panicking. 

He’ll trust the process, 100 per cent. He’ll believe it will ultimately prove successful.

There’s a long way to go this season. If we were heading into the final eight games, then Manchester City would be nervous. But we’re not even halfway through the season. We’re 14 games down, 24 to go.

Pep Guardiola won't be panicking just yet despite their five-point deficit to leaders Arsenal

Pep Guardiola won’t be panicking just yet despite their five-point deficit to leaders Arsenal

5. Is Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the best gift for Manchester United?

Absolutely. Manchester United will be so much better off without Cristiano Ronaldo. This is the best turn of events that could have happened to them. 

Ronaldo undermined Erik ten Hag. He was a troublemaker. People will point to his 18 Premier League goals last season. 

Nice total, but United regressed with him. It was all about Ronaldo. Now it can be about the team.

Cristiano Ronaldo undermined Erik ten Hag and Manchester United are better off without him

Cristiano Ronaldo undermined Erik ten Hag and Manchester United are better off without him

6. Will Harry Kane suffer a World Cup hangover at Spurs?

He’ll take his anger and disappointment out on a fair few Premier League defences.

Harry Kane had a good World Cup but many will remember Qatar 2022 for his second penalty against France going into orbit.

That’s football. It happens. Kane is a natural goalscorer with a good head on his shoulders.

I saw Alan Shearer’s mental strength first-hand when we formed the SAS at Blackburn. When he had a bad game — rare though that was — he didn’t let it affect him. He couldn’t wait for his next chance to go out there and score and win.

It was the same with Henrik Larsson at Celtic. Kane carries that same special trait. The next time Tottenham win a penalty, I’m sure Kane will bury it.

Harry Kane's mental strength will allow him to bounce back from his missed penalty

Harry Kane’s mental strength will allow him to bounce back from his missed penalty

7. Can Jude Bellingham’s bromance with Jordan Henderson help Liverpool sign him?

What would give Liverpool more of an advantage is if they finish in a Champions League spot. That’s a must. 

Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson might be besties but Bellingham doesn’t want to play for a club in the Europa League. He wants to be among the elite.

Liverpool have regressed a little, whereas this 19-year-old wants to go to a club that is moving forward. 

That makes the rest of this season huge for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool if they want to win the race for Bellingham.

Liverpool need a top-four finish if they have any chance of signing Jude Bellingham (right)

Liverpool need a top-four finish if they have any chance of signing Jude Bellingham (right)

8. Newcastle in the Champions League – will it happen?

I wrote a column earlier this season saying Newcastle could crash the Premier League’s top-four party. 

They have an experienced manager in Eddie Howe who has improved their players. 

They’re strong at the back and carry a threat going forward. After 15 games, they’re third. That’s no accident.

Newcastle are third in the table and could well qualify for next season's Champions League

Newcastle are third in the table and could well qualify for next season’s Champions League

9. If Didier Deschamps fancies a new job, which boss should start worrying?

Brendan Rodgers was the Premier League’s most under-pressure boss after Leicester’s awful start to the season. Now Frank Lampard will be the one looking over his shoulder.

Everton are a strange club. They’ve hired managers who have been there and done it, such as Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, but they couldn’t get a tune out of the players.

Lampard needs a strong start when the season resumes on Boxing Day, especially as they face relegation rivals Wolves. 

From speaking with Everton fans, they’re still willing Lampard to do well. But that can change if results don’t improve. Fancy it, Didier?

Frank Lampard will be looking over his shoulder if Everton's form doesn't start to improve

Frank Lampard will be looking over his shoulder if Everton’s form doesn’t start to improve

10. Is it Forest, Southampton and Wolves for the drop?

Nothing’s certain. We’ve got a few twists and turns to go yet. But Bournemouth will finish in the bottom three, despite Gary O’Neil impressing enough to get the full-time job. 

And Southampton and Nottingham Forest will join them in dropping down to the Championship.

Bournemouth (pictured), Southampton and Nottingham Forest will drop to the Championship

Bournemouth (pictured), Southampton and Nottingham Forest will drop to the Championship

11. Which player is a must-buy in the New Year sales?

This lad called Leo Messi did all right. Sadly, as much as we’d love to see him in the Premier League, that isn’t going to happen. 

I could say Enzo Fernandez, 21, who was a game-changer in midfield for Argentina. Or Sofyan Amrabat, the Moroccan who was my player of the World Cup.

But I’m going to say Alexis Mac Allister. It’s looking like a masterstroke by Brighton to tie him down to a new deal weeks before he left for Qatar. 

Messi inevitably won man of the match in the World Cup final. But Mac Allister was outstanding.

He’ll cost a pretty penny now that he’s signed a long-term contract, mind!

Alexis Mac Allister will be a wanted man following his impressive displays for Argentina

Alexis Mac Allister will be a wanted man following his impressive displays for Argentina

12. Who, so far, are Player, Young Player and Manager of the year?

Player of the Year? Haaland. Young Player? Haaland. He’s already got 18 goals in the Premier League. Ridiculous. As for manager, I’d give it to Arteta.

Man City's Erling Haaland should win both the Player and Young Player of the Year awards

Man City’s Erling Haaland should win both the Player and Young Player of the Year awards 

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