The Premier League is back this weekend with a storming round of matches and fear not as it’s not a new season but the end of the international break till next year.
Matchweek 12 begins as Leicester host European champions Chelsea in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off before three managers make their club debuts in the 3pm games.
Liverpool then face Arsenal at Anfield before Man City and Evertonclash on Sunday, followed by Spurs hosting Leeds.
With club football now uninterrupted for the next few months, here is 4 reasons to get excited for the Premier League’s return.
1) NO INTERNATIONAL BREAK UNTIL MARCH
Take a sigh of relief. This international break is the last one of 2021 – and there isn’t another one scheduled until late March.
What does this mean? As opposed to the stop-start calendar we’ve had so far in September, October and November – we’ve squeezed in three international windows in 10 weeks – clubs can now plan on their own terms, unaffected by outside influences as games come thick and fast – where seasons really get on track.
2) Steven Gerrard, Eddie Howe and Dean Smith all make fresh managerial bows
Steven Gerrard is back and who would have seen this coming two weeks ago? Dean Smith sacked, and his replacement being none other than Steven Gerrard, who couldn’t resist the Premier League challenge after a successful three-year stint in Scotland with Rangers.
Gerrard’s first task is to stop the rot – Villa have lost their last five in the league. It’s sure to be a mammoth occasion at Villa Park as the home crowd welcome their new manager.
Coincidentally, it didn’t take long for Dean Smith to get back on the horse as Norwich City came calling. A tough task no doubt, but Smith does have time on his hands to turn things around. And in a strange twist of fate, his first match in charge will be against the side who consigned him to the sack two weeks ago: Southampton.
Elsewhere, Eddie Howe takes his first match in charge of Newcastle United, at home to newly-promoted Brentford.
After all the furore surrounding Steve Bruce, and their stumbling hunt for a replacement, this is the true beginning of the Saudi-led consortium’s ownership of the Magpies. Newcastle are joint-bottom currently, already five points from safety.
Howe has to hit the ground running and rejuvenate a squad still winless and short on confidence. How this one turns out remains to be seen.
3) 100 GAMES IN 44 DAYS AND FESTIVE MAYHEM WITH FANS!
With December approaching comes the annual influx of games.
In December comes the final two rounds of group-stage European football as well as 10 rounds of Premier League fixtures from now until the FA Cup third round in the second weekend of January.
That includes two midweek rounds, and three over the festive period and guess what? As opposed to last season, when every club bar 2,000 at Liverpool had no spectators present for the traditional Boxing Day matches, this season will see a return of full capacity stadiums basking in the Christmas spirit.
We missed it last year. The quick turnaround in games too means every club will host at least one game in and around Christmas time.
It’s often a period where squad depth and resilience is tested to the maximum. Last season, it was when Manchester City sparked their winning run which led them to the title and now we wait to see who will take the advantage this time round?.
4) AN OPEN TITLE RACE
After 11 games, just six points splits the top five clubs, with Chelsea holding a three-point lead at the top from Manchester City.
Those two are the favourites, with Liverpool a clear third. Third-placed West Ham and Arsenal are also galloping up the league table and some Hammers fans are understandably getting rather excited.
In Some seasons, a clear favourite always emerge by December. Thankfully, that won’t be the case this time round – and we should have a captivating race on our hands as we head into the New Year.
And we wait to see who will be crowned the champion come May 2022.