Man United, Man City and Tottenham in bad shape from World Cup but Liverpool and Arsenal in good health

Alex Rea 24/07/2018
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There are those of us sat behind television and laptop screens wondering if we have enough of a break between the World Cup’s end and the Premier League beginning.

Consider how it must feel for the players who are about to embark on another 10-month campaign having had just a month off.

Even for a finely tuned athlete, the pause is short, not just from a physical perspective but mentally as well.

The top six in the English top flight are likely to be hurt most when domestic football hits play again and it could mean several stars are given an extended break to properly recover.

With that in mind, we examine which of the teams could suffer from a slow start and what their starting XIs would like without their World Cup ensemble using statistics taken from FIFA.com.

MANCHESTER CITY

This how a City XI would look without their World Cup stars

City tore teams and records apart en route to their fifth league title last term but naturally, given the quality in their ranks, they have been ripped apart by the World Cup.

With 16 members of Pep Guardiola’s squad featuring in Russia, no team had more representatives on duty and, of that group, seven were involved right to the tournament’s conclusion after reaching the semi-finals.

It means that despite the rich depth of talent at Guardiola’s disposal, the only first-team stars who will have been afforded a proper pre-season campaign are Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte.

The Catalan boss has even suggested those who are still exhausted from a near-12 month campaign take extra rest before resuming with the defending champions.

But given the options elsewhere, particularly in midfield, City fans will hope the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling return to the first-team fold with haste.

Despite the heavy workload for much of the squad, their start to the season is a little lighter than their rivals with, on paper, only Arsenal on the opening day their trickiest challenge up until October.

“We cannot forget what we’ve done but we start again. If they are ready they’ll help us and if not we’ll wait for them. If they are not mentally and physically ready, they won’t come back,” Guardiola said recently.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 16

John Stones (645 + 69.1km), Kevin De Bruyne (540 + 65.4km), Kyle Walker (495 + 50.2km), Raheem Sterling (454 + 49.3km), Gabriel Jesus (406 + 43.7km), Vincent Kompany (376 + 39.7km), Nicolas Otamendi (360 +38.9km), David Silva (327 + 37.5km), Bernardo Silva (238 + 28.8km), Fabian Delph (220 + 27.7km), Sergio Aguero (178 +19.9km), Fernandinho (155 + 19.6km), Danilo (90 + 9.6km), Ilkay Gundogan (59 + 7.7km), Benjamin Mendy (40 + 4.2km), Ederson (0)

Total minutes = 4,583

Total KMs = 511.3

CHELSEA 

Chelsea are still in good shape in their XI sans World Cup members

Guardiola won’t have much of an opportunity to reintegrate the vast majority of his squad but at least he’s not in Maurizio Sarri’s position.

There are 14 personalities the new Chelsea boss will quickly need to be acquainted with ahead of their league opener against Huddersfield.

However, the damage to the Italian’s first XI is not quite as severe as City, although much will depend on the futures of Belgium duo Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard.

The same notion is applied to World Cup winners N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud with all four linked to moves way. Granted, new faces would be brought in and Sarri would need reinforcements even despite the strength of his XI without the World Cup stars.

They do have plenty of ability in midfield through a trio of Jorginho, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas.

Even in attack Alvaro Morata brings plenty of firepower while defensively David Luiz and Marcos Alonso could lead a fortified backline.

Again, the fixture schedule is kind with Arsenal and Liverpool their standout tests in the first couple of months so providing Sarri retains his leading men, they will be in good shape to survive the early goings.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 14 

Thibaut Courtois (630 + 27.6km), N’Golo Kante (595 + 68.5km), Olivier Giroud (546 + 56.4km), Eden Hazard (518 + 56.9km), Willian (359 + 38.2km), Andreas Christensen (306 + 31.9km), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (274 + 29.8km), Victor Moses (270 + 29km), Willy Caballero (180 + 8.9km), Kenneth Omeruo (179 + 17.5km), Michy Batshuayi (113 + 12.7km), Gary Cahill (90 +10.4km), Antonio Rudiger (90 + 9.8km), Cesar Azpilicueta (0)

Total minutes = 4,150

Total KMs = 397.6

TOTTENHAM

Spurs are hurt badly when you take out their World Cup players

Spurs, to be blunt, are in deep trouble.

A concerning correlation of significance for both club and country means from the six Premier League sides examined here, none totalled more minutes (4,816) or ran more kilometers (515.2) than Tottenham’s assets.

Nine of their 12 representatives in Russia were involved right until the end and whereas with other sides their numbers are bloated by players not necessarily considered first team, that’s not the case for Mauricio Pochettino.

When you add in the Argentine’s philosophy is formed from an energy-sapping pressing style, the likes of Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen all getting significant game time for their nations could leave them jaded.

The past success of this Spurs team could have dire consequences for the immediate future because when you look at what’s left, their XI is depleted and threadbare.

Add in the context of starting the season with Wembley as their home again and clashes with rivals Manchester United and Liverpool early doors, the reading is decidedly grim.

Given they’ve yet to make a signing in this transfer window, perhaps Spurs fans would have appreciated a team of non-internationals as opposed to a side full of World Cup performers who are bound to be tired.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 12 

Kieran Trippier (580 + 67.6km), Harry Kane (573 + 62.7km), Toby Alderweireld (540 + 59.1km), Jan Vertonghen (540 + 55.4km), Hugo Lloris (540 + 25.1km), Christian Eriksen (390 + 51.8km), Davinson Sanchez (390 + 41.9km), Dele Alli (364 + 46.2km), Son Heung-min (270 + 28.7km), Eric Dier (248 + 33.5km), Danny Rose (203 + 22.9km), Mousa Dembele (178 +20.3km)

Total minutes = 4,816

Total KMs = 515.2

MANCHESTER UNITED

Jose Mourinho may complain but his side is strong without WC stars

Jose Mourinho is irate at the best of times but this summer the Manchester United boss has been decidedly despondent.

Indeed, his preparations have been decimated by the World Cup, although as you can see not quite to the extent of his belief they are the worst effected.

“We are not a team,” he bemoaned earlier this week. “We are a group of players from different teams, some are first-team players, some of them are from the under-23s, some are going out on loan, some are coming back from loan, some are from the under-18s.”

Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rahford, Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones are all likely to be absent for their season opener against Leicester City, but Mourinho does have a bit of depth to deal with the demise.

Alexis Sanchez’s visa problems won’t have helped the Portuguese’s mood, although the Chilean has looked sharp in pre-season – a rare luxury for the busy campaigner – so could be used in place of Lukaku as the spearhead.

The reliance on Anthony Martial in their preparations will be a concern, however, given Mourinho wants to move the Frenchman on.

The World Cup hangover is a headache but when managers like Guardiola spot a solution, Mourinho only sees the problem.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 11 

Paul Pogba (539 + 58.2km), Jesse Lingard (527 + 67.8km), Romelu Lukaku (476 + 41.2km), Ashley Young (462 + 47.9km), David De Gea (390 + 11.9km), Victor Lindelof (360 + 34.5km), Marouane Fellaini (316 + 39.4km), Nemanja Matic (270 + 35.2km), Marcos Rojo (225 + 23.7km), Marcus Rashford (211 + 25.8km), Phil Jones (180 + 19.1km)

Total minutes = 3,956

Total KMs = 404.7

LIVERPOOL

This Liverpool XI without WC players is very close to their strongest side

Jurgen Klopp places huge emphasis on pre-season because it is the only quality time he has with the squad before a punishing campaign begins.

The German is a thrilling tactician who requires hours on the training ground to implement strategical tricks and traps. His famed pressing philosophy has to be mushed into the minds of Liverpool players and they also need this time to get their fitness up to a level which allows them to press play on the ‘heavy-metal’ style.

The World Cup can be no excuse for the Reds not to challenge for trophies this season. From the top six, they had the joint least representatives and from their 10, only Croatia’s Dejan Lovren and England duo Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold made it further than the quarter-finals.

Granted, the front three is made up of all World Cup stars but Daniel Sturridge has been in fine fettle during pre-season while key signings Fabinho and Naby Keita have had ample time to assimilate.

Their players ran almost half of the total of City’s players in Russia and so with West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester to begin their season, Klopp’s side have the opportunity to signal their title-challenging validity early on.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 10  

Dejan Lovren (650 + 65.8km), Jordan Henderson (482 + 57.1km), Alisson (450 + 24.2km), Xherdan Shaqiri (351 + 36.7km), Sadio Mane (270 + 30.3km), Mohamed Salah (190 + 19.2km), Roberto Firmino (82 + 12.6km), Trent Alexander-Arnold (79 + 8.2km), Simon Mignolet (0), Marko Grujic (0)

Total minutes = 2,554 

Total KMs = 254.1

ARSENAL 

An Arsenal team missing their WC players is hugely competitive

This is said through hushed tones but do not sleep on Arsenal this season.

The squad has been left virtually unscathed by the World Cup with only Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka the first-team regulars from last season eliminated from the XI.

New signings Lucas Torreira and Stephan Lichtsteiner have a shorter bedding in period but Uruguay and Switzerland respectively didn’t go too deep in Russia so they will be available for the latter part of preparations anyway.

The defence is untouched, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang provide the gun and bullets and in Emery they have a coach who is set to employ a more direct style of football with a balanced squad to bring it to life.

The downside? The start of their season is tough as they face Manchester City and Chelsea first up but as you can see, they are two of the most depleted sides and with Arsenal at near full strength even without their World Cup members, the Gunners could profit.

Fatigue is a factor for every side in the top six aside from Arsenal and Liverpool going into the new season.

WORLD CUP PLAYERS = 10  

David Opsina (390 + 14.2km), Granit Xhaka (360 + 43.7km), Lucas Torreira (304 + 36.7km), Stephan Lichtsteiner (267 + 30.5km), Mohamed Elneny (244 + 29.6km), Mesut Ozil (180 + 20.2km), Joel Campbell (114 + 11.9km), Alex Iwobi (64 + 7.8km), Danny Welbeck (11 + 1.8km), Nacho Monreal (0)

Total minutes = 1,934

Total KMs = 196.4

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It will be a 'very exciting' season for Chelsea, says Ross Barkley

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Ross Barkley played against Perth Glory

Chelsea should prepare themselves for a “very exciting” season under new boss Maurizio Sarri, according to midfielder Ross Barkley.

The Blues have just returned from a productive pre-season trip to Australia, where the Italian took charge of his first match with a 1-0 friendly win over Perth Glory, which included a run-out for £52million summer signing Jorginho.

Sarri has plenty on his agenda as he looks to sharpen the squad’s focus for the start of the new domestic campaign, which will see the FA Cup holders face Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield on August 5.

The Italian, who replaced the sacked Antonio Conte on July 14, remains determined to keep hold of key men Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, as well as Brazilian midfielder Willian, a reported target for Barcelona.

While discussions over the futures of those players continue, the squad will prepare for the friendly against Inter Milan at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice on Saturday before a date with London rivals Arsenal in Dublin on August 1.

Midfielder Barkley will be hoping to be given another chance to impress in those games, having featured for most of the match in Perth.

The 24-year-old, who has seen his impact limited by injury since arriving at Stamford Bridge from Everton, is confident Sarri’s methods will help Chelsea make an impact again next season.

“It has been very interesting,” Barkley said on the club’s official website. “The style that he wants us to play, it is really exciting and very attacking, as well as being very organised.

“We have been understanding what he has been getting across in training, but the more we do it in training, the more we get used to it and I can see from the training sessions that this season is going to be very exciting.”

Chelsea begin their Premier League campaign at Huddersfield on August 11.

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Richarlison passes medical at Everton ahead of £40million-plus transfer

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Richarlison is set to reunite with old Hornets boss Marco Silva.

Final paperwork is being completed with the move likely to be concluded on Tuesday, Press Association Sport understands.

Richarlison will become Everton’s first signing of the summer and will be reunited with manager Marco Silva, whom he worked under at Watford.

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