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Premier League: African questions and storylines on Boxing Day

02:01 WAT 25/12/2022
Salah Mahrez
The English top flight returns and the continent’s stars are bound to play a massive part in its comeback.

The World Cup provided excitement, but the Premier League’s return on Boxing Day has been anticipated since the hiatus in November.

Mohamed Salah returns to action with Liverpool, having missed the global showpiece in Qatar, as does Riyad Mahrez, whose Manchester City were beaten by Brentford before the break.

Atop the standings are Arsenal, whose start to this campaign is unprecedented, and Thomas Partey is going to have a say in the Gunners’ London derby against West Ham United.

  • Riyad Mahrez Manchester City Liverpool League Cup 2022-23

    Does Riyad Mahrez’s Liverpool goal bode well for struggling star?

    It has not been an enviable start to the 2022-23 campaign for the Algeria superstar, who was rooted to the bench for Manchester City’s final three league games before the World Cup.

    However, he returned with a bang against Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Thursday, taking his goal well for his first strike versus the Reds at the 15th time of asking.

    Whether that goal kickstarts Mahrez’s season remains to be seen, but Pep Guardiola will hope the wide attacker returns to the form that saw him produce consistently en route to successive Champions League finals.

  • Mohamed Salah

    Has World Cup break halted Mohamed Salah’s momentum?

    An inconsistent start to the season saw the Liverpool star blow hot and cold in front of goal, before showing signs of a return to his finest form with a decent-to-good run before facing Southampton.

    Salah may have been profligate in that 3-1 success over the Saints, but the form preceding that game at Anfield saw the Egyptian score three in the previous two games and four goals in five Premier League fixtures.

    If his goal in the Reds’ 3-2 defeat by Manchester City is anything to lean on, the goalscoring is set to continue when Liverpool travel to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

  • Joe Aribo Southampton 2022-23

    Joe Aribo’s questionable Southampton situation

    Aribo had a weird time under Ralph Hasenhuttl, featuring in several positions under the Austrian before the tactician’s departure.

    Under Nathan Jones, the situation seems worse, albeit after two games in all competitions. Aribo got only eight minutes off the bench in Southampton’s 3-1 loss at Liverpool before the interlude and was an unused substitute in Tuesday’s 2-1 EFL Cup victory over Lincoln City.

    Was Jones resting Aribo for Monday afternoon’s encounter with Brighton & Hove Albion? All will be revealed when the former Luton Town head coach’s XI is revealed.

  • Wilfred Ndidi - Leicester City

    Will Leicester City’s Africans pick up where they left off?

    Admittedly, it was a wretched time for Wilfred Ndidi and, in particular, Kelechi Iheanacho before the hiatus, but Daniel Amartey enjoyed a good run before the November break.

    The centre-back was involved in the Leicester revival that saw them go into the intermission as one of the league’s in-form sides, having looked to be hitherto involved in a relegation fight.

    Only Arsenal and Newcastle United picked up more points in a five-game period preceding the mid-season pause, so it will be interesting to see how Brendan Rodgers’ crew fare when they play host to the Magpies at the King Power Stadium.

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Chelsea 2022-23

    Koulibaly, Mendy and Aubameyang’s Chelsea blues

    Neither Kalidou Koulibaly nor Edouard Mendy has had a desirable 2022-23.

    The centre-back’s time at Chelsea has been mixed, while the goalkeeper’s error-strewn showings continued in Qatar.

    Koulibaly’s form appeared to improve early doors at the showpiece, but a calamitous performance in the 3-0 defeat by England in the round of 16 reminded fans of the West London club how unreliable the Senegal captain has been in 22-23.

    The pair have returned to training since the Lions of Teranga exited the World Cup, but it remains to be seen if we will witness their good versions when the Stamford Bridge outfit welcome bogey side Bournemouth to the Bridge next week.

    At the other end of the pitch, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s time at the Bridge precipitated schadenfreude owing to the striker’s struggles in front of goal. The Gabon superstar has not netted a Premier League goal since scoring in early October at Crystal Palace, with his last Chelsea goal of any kind coming in the Blues’ 2-0 win at AC Milan on October 10.

    That wretched run in front of goal has already seen supporters question the former Arsenal captain, whose time in North London ended underwhelmingly.

    Will that run without scoring end against the Cherries?

  • Thomas Partey Arsenal 2022.

    Can Thomas Partey’s irrepressible Arsenal march on?

    Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League table before the break, suggesting their early-season form was no flash in the pan.

    The Gunners are here to stay and, despite the injury to Gabriel Jesus, pack a punch across the pitch.

    Partey has been instrumental to the success of Mikel Arteta’s crew, and the Ghana superstar’s importance is unlikely to be rivalled in their unexpected title push.

    The former Atletico Madrid man may receive criticism at home but he is praised to high heaven in North London, a situation that is unlikely to change when the Gunners welcome West Ham United to the Emirates Stadium.