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

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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


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.


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 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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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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