Happy returns: will early World Cup exits benefit Premier League clubs?

“If they all go out of the competition early and can train with us, that would be absolutely outstanding,” Jürgen Klopp joked of his Liverpool players before the World Cup. The German was lucky that just seven of his squad were called upon to travel to Qatar, although only Darwin Núñez has exited before the quarter-finals. The Uruguayan is one of 73 Premier League players no longer involved in the World Cup, leaving 61 in Qatar for their managers to worry about.

Many clubs have enjoyed warm-weather training and have played or are to play friendlies to prepare for the Premier League’s Boxing Day return. But most of this will be done without their World Cup players, which could make a difference when the competitive action begins.

Four of Arsenal’s 10 World Cup players have been eliminated but they have also lost Gabriel Jesus for a lengthy period after the Brazil striker required surgery on a knee injury picked up in Qatar, while Ben White has returned to England for “personal reasons”. The loss of Jesus will cause problems for Mikel Arteta and the club have not publicly stated a timeframe for his return.

Manchester City have been more fortunate. Belgium and Germany did not make it out of the group stage, allowing Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan to prematurely hop aboard a luxury plane. They will be joined soon enough by Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri, who can regale Erling Haaland with stories of their failed tournaments. However, that leaves 11 City players still in Qatar.

De Bruyne looked tired by the weight of keeping Belgium together, so Pep Guardiola will be pleased his playmaker is back. With Liverpool to come in the Carabao Cup on 22 December, he would not mind a few more going out in the quarter-finals. Anyone who makes it to the last four is in effect in Qatar for the duration, with a third-place playoff a week on Saturday, 24 hours before the final.

City’s rivals at Old Trafford are still getting plenty of postcards with skyscrapers and camels on. A mere four of their 14 callups have received a Qatari exit stamp on their passports and one of those is Facundo Pellistri, who is yet to feature under Erik ten Hag, and another is Hannibal Mejbri, who is on loan at Birmingham. The remainder of the squad was taken to southern Spain, minus Jadon Sancho. Anthony Martial, David de Gea and Scott McTominay were joined by a group of teenagers, coming together to lose 4-2 in a friendly against Cádiz.

Bournemouth’s two representatives were back after the group stage as Kieffer Moore and Chris Mepham could not help Wales to more than a draw against the USA. It was a similar story for Crystal Palace as Joachim Andersen and Jordan Ayew made swift returns.

For those still in Qatar, managers will be pleased that after an intense period where teams were playing every three days, there have been longer breaks to aid recovery. Players being overworked in Doha’s heat before an intense period over Christmas will not be the desired outcome for clubs.

The Guardian columnist Karen Carney has written of how it would take her six months to recover from a major tournament because of the physical and mental exertion. It is unlikely she is alone in that. Managers do not have time to wait on their players to recover their equilibrium when they will be required to be fit and firing for the second half of the season. For Spain’s players, who felt they had a chance of winning the tournament, a shock defeat at the hands of Morocco in a farcically subdued fashion may leave them needing to have their confidence rebuilt.

Some of those have barely kicked a ball in anger for a month, spending most – if not all – their time in Qatar on the bench. The Spain goalkeepers Robert Sánchez and David Raya, of Brighton and Brentford respectively, have enjoyed a watching brief and are short of match action. The effects on an outfield player of enduring a period without action will be interesting because they may not be fully up to speed upon their return. Leicester’s Wout Faes did not get on the pitch for Belgium and he could be called upon on 20 December for a Carabao Cup match.

Once players make it back to England, not only will they be required to reintegrate into their clubs, they will need to reacclimatise. It will be a big adjustment for body and mind to swap 30C for frosted windows and freezing temperatures for training.

As players return in dribs and drabs in varying degrees of physical and mental readiness, coaches face a very tough period of assessing their troops and planning for an unrelenting schedule. Those that do it best could be the ones achieving their goals come May.