I was thinking about the teams and players who are featuring in the final four of the World Cup.
Croatia have just one player who plays in England (Lovren, I think, please correct in the comments) and France have just four (Lloris, Pogba, Giroud, and Kante). I’m not counting players who have ever played in England because that would be a bit higher (N’Zonzi, Modric) but just players who are currently under contract with an English football team.
Belgium have 10 of their 21 players playing in England (Courtois, de Bruyne, Fellaini, Kompany, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Hazard, Lukaku, Chadli (WBA), and Dembele). Januzaj and Vermaelen used to play in England and Batshuayi is still under contract with Chelsea.
None of the players on the English team play outside of England. So, that’s an additional 21. That means of the 84 players in the final four, 36 players play in England. Obviously, that’s tilted a bit because of England, but if we just take the other three teams 20 of the 63 players on those teams either currently play for an English Premier League team or have played for an English Premier League team.
The Premier League has more players in the World Cup final four than ever before.
Arsenal have just one. Danny Welbeck. I would like more. I like to watch my favorite players play football. However, it turns out that this may be a blessing in disguise and it also turns out that the early season fixtures for Arsenal may be a lot easier than we thought they would be when the fixtures list was announced.
There is a little over a month before the opening matches of the Premier League season. Arsenal’s first match is against Man City. They still have Kevin de Bruyne, their best player from last year, in the World Cup for another week. They also have Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Delph, Jesus, Kompany, and Stones all still going forward. Kompany and Stones didn’t feature much last season but de Bruyne, Walker, and Sterling were three of City’s six most-used players.
In the fixture the following week, Arsenal play Chelsea. Chelsea have Courtoise, Kante, and Hazard all still in the tournament with minor players, Willian, Cahill, Giroud and Batshuayi all still with their respective teams as well.
Those are just the teams that Arsenal face in the first month. But there’s a good chance four of the five other teams in the “top six” will get off to a slow start as well.
Manchester United are going to be without Pogba, Lukaku, Fellaini, Young, Lingard, Rashford, and goalkeeping superstar David de Gea had a cripplingly poor tournament.
Tottenham Hotspur will miss Kane, Alli, Vertonghen, Trippier, Dier, Dembele, Rose, Alderweireld, and Lloris. Eriksen and Davinson Sanchez are also just returning a few days earlier than the others. Tottenham and Man U play each other on August 27th. That could be the first game for a lot of the players listed here.
Liverpool have it easier than most. They should have Salah back soon and Firmino was kicked out of the tournament this week. Henderson is still in the tournament but they have plenty of midfield cover for a midfielder who his teammates don’t even pass to.
There was a lot of moaning about the fixtures list when it was first announced but now, with Arsenal in full training (minus Ozil and Welbs), it looks like Arsenal might have a chance to get off to a hot start against top opponents. And in a season where a single point is probably going to be the difference between 4th and 5th, this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.