Previously, on ‘The Premier League’

    While La Liga in Spain is waiting till the end of next week to resume, and the German and Italian leagues are simply waiting until next year, the Premier League will storm back to life on Monday. Even in the unprecedented year of a World Cup held in November and December, English soccer was unwilling to compromise on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, the one day on the calendar when it knows it owns every fan’s attention.Never mind that it comes just eight days after the final in Qatar. Or that going from France vs. Argentina to Southampton vs. Brighton comes with a degree of whiplash. The players who were involved in the semis and final of the World Cup will take some time off now, but for everyone else, it’s back to work.In case you lost track of where we were this season when it went on hiatus five weeks ago, here’s a quick reminder.Previously on “The Premier League”:Arsenal (first place) was surprisingly good, Chelsea (eighth) was surprisingly bad. Liverpool wasn’t the title contender everyone thought it might be. But Manchester City, lurking in second place, certainly was, thanks in large part to a goal scoring Doomsday device named Erling Haaland — he has 18 goals in 14 games. Six different clubs, meanwhile, have already changed managers this season. And there could easily be another six shake-ups before the campaign ends in May. All of which amounts to a high ambient level of drama in soccer’s most popular league.The World Cup only created more chaos.No club paid a higher price for things that were out of their hands over the past than Arsenal, whose first-choice Gabriel Jesus, sustained a serious knee injury while playing for Brazil in the group stage of the tournament. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hasn’t given a time frame for his return, but Jesus is expected to be out for at least several more weeks following his surgery. No one on the squad had been involved in more scoring this season, with his five league goals and six assists.The injury to Jesus means that Arsenal will likely head back into the transfer market in January in search of a temporary replacement, right as a schedule crunched by the World Cup break begins to take its toll.“We’re going to have big congested periods, and it is going to be very important how healthy the team is, how fit it is, and how much rotation can help you sustain the levels that we want,” Arteta said.While many of his teammates were in Qatar, being bussed around the desert, playing to tepid atmospheres and catching colds from the airconditioning, Haaland had time to take a vacation and still return to Man City for an extra two weeks of practice and physical work. Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah was in the same position. And even though City manager Pep Guardiola warned that a couple of the players who didn’t travel to the World Cup might lack sharpness — specifically Haaland and Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez — they proved him wrong on Thursday night as they all scored in City’s 3-2 victory over Liverpool in the League Cup. “Everyone came back with a very good mentality and ready to start again,” Mahrez said.Well, not quite everyone. There’s one Premier League star who left for the World Cup in November and might not be seen again at the top level of English soccer. That’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who was cut loose by Manchester United during the first week of the tournament while he was away with the Portuguese national team. He’s currently looking for work and is considering the most lucrative contract in sports history from the Al Nassr club in Saudi Arabia.United, meanwhile, sits in fifth place, three points behind Tottenham Hotspur, and considers the matter closed. Ronaldo, who had scored 18 league goals for the club last season, had managed just one this year and spent more time in a war of words with manager Erik ten Hag than on the pitch. United noted Ronaldo’s exit in an 81-word item in its match program on Wednesday night in the “Worth Knowing” section.“We look to the future,” Ten Hag added.-The Wall Street Journal

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