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How the World Cup could affect us

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

As we know, the Premier League will have to have a break for the World Cup soon, thanks to FIFA deciding it was a good idea to allow Qatar to host the tournament. Let's have a look at how having to play the tournament in November and December instead of June and July as we usually would could affect us.

The six weeks without any Premier League football will be like another pre-season for clubs with the players not selected for the tournament still training with their clubs and most likely playing friendlies to help with their fitness. It will be particularly beneficial for players that have been affected by injuries as they can regain full fitness before the next round of games on Boxing Day, for us, this is the case for Alexander Isak, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie and Paul Dummett.

Isak scored two goals in three games after his club record £60,000,000 move from Real Sociedad before picking up a thigh injury. This coincided with Callum Wilson's return to fitness and with the 30 year old scoring four goals in seven games since then, he will have to fight for his place, especially if Chris Wood can kick on from netting in Sunday's 4-1 win at Southampton, but the break should benefit him and it means we won't have to worry as much about Wilson potentially getting another injury.

Earlier in the season, it seemed that Jonjo Shelvey would be out until after the tournament when he picked up up a hamstring injury but it's been good to see the midfielder come off the bench in recent games. However, we could really do with him being fit enough to play full games when we're back in action as our Boxing Day trip to Leicester City is followed by a home game against Leeds United on New Year's Eve and a trip to Arsenal three days later before the FA Cup third round the following weekend. We could also have a Carabao Cup fourth round tie in the week leading up to Christmas (meaning that Bruno Guimarães would probably be unavailable after playing for Brazil in the tournament, especially if they go far) and a quarter-final tie in the same round after the FA Cup third round weekend. Him being fully fit could also allow Guimarães to play further forward in the midfield.

Three weeks ago, Eddie Howe admitted that Matt Ritchie could be out until after the World Cup and that looks to be the case. Despite only making two competitive appearances so far this season, he could feature for us in the busy schedule after the tournament and his dressing room presence could help us but with his contract expiring next summer, he could be a player that leaves in January, having reportedly looked for a move away in the summer to be closer to his family down south. Paul Dummett is reportedly closing in on a return from a calf injury and could provide another option at left-back. Our two friendlies currently scheduled during the six week break or any cup ties we get shortly after the tournament ends could help him with his fitness and give us another option at left-back but bar a good run of form later on in the season, he will probably be away when his contract expires next summer (then again, he did sign a one year deal towards the end of last season despite only making two competitive appearances).

Having to play competitive games eight or nine days after the tournament ends (even less for those involved in the Carabao Cup fourth round) will certainly not help clubs with players unlikely to be fully fit after playing for their country whilst other players have been able to just focus on keeping fit. Bruno Guimarães has been named in Brazil's squad and Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schär will almost certainly be featuring in Qatar as well whilst Sven Botman, Dan Burn and Callum Wilson could also get called up. Schär will probably be back in good time to prepare for our return to league action (and a potential Carabao Cup fourth round tie) and feature in the friendly against Rayo Vallecano at St James' Park on 17 December (and potentially the friendly in Saudi Arabia against Al-Hilal on 8 December) but you'd think that Brazil, Holland and England would at least reach the quarter-finals, meaning that the rest of them could be there for longer whilst Brazil are currently the bookies' favourites to win the World Cup.

For obvious reasons, Pope should have no problems with being fit to play for us after the tournament but if Brazil's progress means that Guimarães isn't fully fit to play for us again straight away, it will be important to make sure that Jonjo Shelvey is fit to play full games again. With Emil Krafth injured long term (meaning that he was excluded from our 25 man squad for the first half of the season), Kieran Trippier also getting injured would leave us with only Javier Manquillo at right-back, the Spaniard only made his first competitive appearance of the season on Sunday so it will also be important to ensure that the he's fit enough for a full game in case Trippier gets injured in the tournament or isn't fully fit when we return to action.

If Wilson was to go to the tournament with England and came back not being fully fit (whether it was through injury or Gareth Southgate's side progressing well again), that could pave the way for Alexander Isak to return to the starting XI either for a Carabao Cup fourth round tie or for the league game against Leicester City. For the sake of him and Chris Wood keeping fit for us, it's probably a good thing for us that Sweden and New Zealand didn't qualify (although I'm sure both would rather be playing in the tournament, then again, it probably also saved Isak the disappointment of having to miss out through injury).

Fabian Schär, Sven Botman or Dan Burn having to miss games for us due to playing in the tournament (or getting injured) could open the door for Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Targett and possibly Paul Dummett and Jamal Lewis to get a chance to impress Eddie Howe and playing well in either the Carabao Cup or our friendlies could mean they play more games for us after the tournament.

Either way, with club football resuming so quickly after the World Cup, clubs will be hoping more than ever for a tournament that their players make it through without any injuries and it may well be the case that more fans will be more bothered about that than any particular countries doing well, a bit like when players have missed club games to play in the Africa Cup of Nations or Asia Cup. If we beat Crystal Palace on Wednesday, I think it could help us if we were to get an EFL side in the next round with the tie coming two or three days after the World Cup final so that being unable to play players that have been representing their countries in Qatar isn't so much of a worry for that round.

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