The season ahead presents a challenge for clubs and coaches like no other and the way they pilot their players through the World Cup period could prove the difference between success and failure.
About a quarter of all Premier League players will be bound for Qatar in November, representing their countries on the biggest stage in what could become a campaign crammed with more than 60 games, while the majority will not be involved.
Clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea are braced to lose well over half of their senior first-team squad of 25. Others, such as Newcastle, Everton and Southampton, could be barely hit. Either way, it serves up problems.
Manchester City are braced to lose over half of their first-team squad for the Qatar World Cup
‘This World Cup could be the difference between where teams finish in the Premier League,’ says Ade Mafe, a former Olympic sprinter turned fitness guru, who spent 10 years on the coaching staff at Chelsea before a spell at Millwall.
‘It is unique, an unprecedented situation and it will come down to who manages it the best. It could be a season where you see a team spring a surprise.’
In the last round of international fixtures, earlier this month, there were about 150 players called from clubs from England and Wales, with about 80 per cent from the Premier League, the rest from the EFL, to represent the 32 nations at the World Cup in Qatar.
Some were called-up, released and replaced. Some countries, including England, called more than the 23 they will take to the tournament.
The figures will shift as more players change clubs, end or start loans or make transfers, pick up injuries or drift in and out of form and favour, but can be expected to be broadly similar by November.
They indicate that almost 20 per cent of the 782 players travelling to Qatar are likely to come from English football, and close to a quarter of the 500 players registered in the senior squads of the Premier League clubs next season will go on World Cup duty.
Fitness guru Ade Mafe (above, left) says how clubs prepare for the tournament will be crucial
This still leaves more than three quarters of Premier League players under the control of their clubs, and those who left will come drifting back at different times, leaving coaching teams with the puzzle of how to navigate the void.
There will be time to rest but they will also have to stay fit, perhaps a mini pre-season or a warm-weather training camp. Most importantly, they will need to play games to keep them sharp and competitive.
That could be with the Under-23s or in ad-hoc friendly fixtures.
‘There’s no substitute for games,’ says Mafe, now a personal trainer in west London. ‘You can do so much in training but you need to give them games for that extra 10 per cent. All clubs will be looking to arrange friendlies as a way of keeping them up to speed.’
Within this, will be the psychological balance of the players. There will be those who hoped to be in Qatar but failed to make the cut and require a different training plan to those who have known for months and are looking forward to a few days in the sunshine with their families.
Harry Kane will lead the line for England, and stars playing in November face countess fixtures
Premier League clubs have the sports science departments and staffing levels to deliver highly-detailed bespoke programmes and modern elite players rarely struggle with self-motivation when out of competition.
For some, this erratic schedule may present an opportunity. Mo Salah started last season in explosive form only to fade understandably as the rigours of chasing four trophies caught up with some of Liverpool’s players.
Next season, with Egypt failing to qualify for the World Cup finals, he has a rest built into his season, a chance to recharge and be refreshed when the Premier League returns in Boxing Day.
Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez, Andy Robertson, Dejan Kulusevski and Jorginho are among the big-name stars certain they will not be in Qatar because their countries failed to qualify.
Those who travel to the World Cup will split into two categories, those who play regularly and those who do not. The clubs will be less concerned about those playing. They will maintain their rhythm, and recover between games.
Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp may also be hit hard and coaches will be keen to avoid injuries
Those ending up on the fringes are perhaps the cause of greatest concern for the clubs. They are beyond their control and could return having not played a game for six weeks. Will they be in the mental and physical condition to hit the ground running again?
‘If I was working in a club now, my main focus would be on the liaison with the fitness coaches of the different international teams,’ says Mafe. ‘Those guys will be responsible for conditioning and training our players for an extended period.
‘Every player is different, has different needs and I’d want to make sure they know what we want for our players. That will be easier with some national teams than others.
‘The other thing is that I’d want to be sure we were arranging friendlies before we start again.’
Mohamed Salah started last season explosively, but he later faded fighting across four fronts