Tottenham‘s squad appears to be the one affected most by the tournament, with their players racking up 4,813 World Cup minutes in Russia according to FIFA.
Manchester City‘s players accounted for a similar total, 4,588, while Chelsea’s players featured for 4,042 minutes and Manchester United’s squad played for 3,959 minutes in total.
Manchester City had the largest World Cup contingent, with 16 of their players featuring among the 32 squads, ahead of Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, who each sent 12 players to Russia.
Mourinho’s angst unjustified
Manchester United’s nightmarish summer tour has been marked by frequent complaints from Jose Mourinho, lashing out at the club’s players, transfer policy, and the pointless nature of their US friendlies.
But a particular focus of Mourinho’s ire has been the World Cup, which he claims has decimated his squad – despite the numbers not backing him up.
He blamed the tournament for the injury suffered by Nemanja Matic soon after he returned from a post-World Cup break, and told the media that the depleted nature of his squad made United’s friendly schedule pointless.
“The majority of the players that played are not going to play – some of them are not even going to belong to the squad,” he said.
“This is not our team, this is not our squad – not even 30 per cent of it.”
However, Mourinho’s complaints about the impact of the World Cup on United’s preparations are hardly backed up by evidence.
Manchester United may have been unfortunate with crucial players featuring in the latter stages, such as Paul Pogba and in particular Romelu Lukaku, who is almost irreplaceable in Mourinho’s system.
But they could equally benefit from Alexis Sanchez and Eric Bailly’s absences from the tournament, and the early exit of David De Gea’s Spain at the last 16 stage.
Spurs could be hardest hit
Spurs, with Harry Kane, Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli among others who played well into July, look to be most at risk from post-World Cup exhaustion, especially considering their small squad and lack of signings so far this summer.
Manchester City, too, have suffered from a weakened squad for their summer friendly schedule, with 16 players enjoying post-World Cup breaks – but Pep Guardiola has been predictably more upbeat about the prospect of blooding youngsters in the club’s friendly games.
Arsenal and Liverpool benefit
Arsenal (1,923 minutes) and Liverpool (2,545 minutes) may be in line to benefit from other sides’ fatigue, with stars like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Naby Keita from countries which failed to reach the tournament.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will perhaps do better than these statistics suggest, with fringe players, such as Kenneth Omeruo, and goalkeepers, less at risk of fatigue, accounting for many of their World Cup minutes. Players such as Alvaro Morata, Pedro and new signing Jorginho have had a restful summer after missing out on the tournament.
Of the teams outside the big six, Leicester had the most representatives at the World Cup, with nine, including new signing Ricardo Pereira.
Meanwhile, towards the bottom of the table, Bournemouth, Watford, and newly-promoted duo Cardiff and Fulham were able to head into pre-season with a full contingent, after none of their players were included in World Cup squads.
For the second season running, Press Association Sport research showed that the Gunners relied on their own academy graduates for more playing time than any other team – 7,933 minutes in all.
And this time around, they also used the most individual players developed in-house, an honour previously held by Manchester United.
United, whose academy produced the most Premier League players and playing time in the division overall, ranked second in terms of using their own graduates with Everton occupying the final podium spot in the study.
At the other end of the scale, Burnley did not call on a product of their own academy until the final two minutes of the season, when Dwight McNeil came on as a substitute against Bournemouth.
The study tracked the playing time of every player in last season’s Premier League, along with the club or academy where they finished their youth career.
Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi continued to fly the flag for Arsenal’s homegrown brigade, while Jack Wilshere’s return from a loan spell at Bournemouth boosted their figures – the sometime England midfielder, though, was released at the end of the season and joined West Ham.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles stepped up from a solitary minute in the Premier League in 2016-17 to play 993 minutes last term – and the first Arsenal player born after Wenger took charge was joined in that niche category by Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah.
Francis Coquelin made it eight homegrown players, though the midfielder’s playing time was limited by the form of Mohamed Elneny.
The chasing pack
Twelve months previously, the study showed 10 United academy graduates featuring in Jose Mourinho’s Premier League team.
Many of those only featured late in the season, though, when Mourinho shuffled his pack to focus on the Europa League – Joel Pereira, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Josh Harrop and Angel Gomes each failed to crack 100 minutes.
McTominay was the only one to establish himself in 2017-18, playing 694 minutes to join Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard as regular contributors while Axel Tuanzebe featured for two minutes.
Southampton were the other team to reach five players but only James Ward-Prowse featured regularly, meaning Everton and Tottenham were next up in terms of playing time.
The Toffees re-signed Wayne Rooney from United – like Wilshere, he has since moved on – and also gave regular action to Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny, with Beni Baningime adding to the tally. Harry Kane led a Spurs contingent also featuring Danny Rose, Harry Winks and Kyle Walker-Peters.
Manchester City compiled some impressive statistics as they swaggered to the Premier League title, but playing time for academy graduates was not among them.
The previous season’s only contributor, Kelechi Iheanacho, was sold to Leicester before the season started and none of his fellow prospects managed even the equivalent of a full match, though hopes are high for Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz.
They, along with Lukas Nmecha, combined for 152 minutes – only Bournemouth, with 74 minutes from Jack Simpson, and Burnley ranked lower.
The latter pair were two of five clubs to use only a single player developed in-house – though Brighton’s lone representative, Lewis Dunk, was a Premier League ever-present. Adrian Mariappa played 2,385 minutes for Watford while Connor Roberts accounted for all of Swansea’s 288-minute tally.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed the impact of new manager Maurizio Sarri, saying “the team looks better with every minute.”
Sarri replaced fellow Italian Antonio Conte earlier this month after a protracted managerial saga, but has quickly left his imprint on the squad.
“It’s been really good since the first day,” the Spainiard told Goal. “We’ve been learning his methods and I think the team looks better with every minute.
“We know we don’t have a lot of time to prepare for [the new season] so we have to work hard to pick up the movements we want to do.
“I think we saw a good team against Inter and we have to play collectively to get the results.”
Last season’s FA Cup winners will have an earlier start to the season than most, as after their final preseason clash, against Arsenal on Wednesday in Dublin, Chelsea face reigning Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday.
“We are improving and we have to keep learning in the games that we have on Wednesday and then on Sunday against City,” the 28-year-old said.
“We know we can still improve, we have room for improvement and we want to work on that aspect.”