English football has gone into hibernation for the next six weeks as the first ever winter World Cup cranks into action.
By Monday night, with only Ecuador still to reveal their squad, 132 players from the Premier League alone have been called up for the tournament, across 27 of the 32 competing countries — ranging from 16 call-ups for Manchester City, to just two for the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.
But while competitive matches may have ended, work has not ceased entirely. From warm weather training camps in the Middle East, to high-profile friendlies in Australia, every club has drawn up a plan to ensure their players who are not in Qatar stay fresh.
We run the rule over each Premier League club, plus those our experts cover in the Championship, to track who is doing what before football resumes in earnest just before Christmas.
Players going: Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli (both Brazil), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), William Saliba (France), Matt Turner (USA), Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Bukayo Saka (all England), Thomas Partey (Ghana)
Arsenal’s non-World Cup players will be given a couple of weeks of holiday. They will return to London Colney for some training on home turf before heading to Dubai in early December for a winter training camp. This is aimed to replicate the successful trip last season when families were invited, to make the tour a combination of relaxation and retuning. Arsenal are due to play friendlies against Lyon and AC Milan while in Dubai.
Any players whose nations drop out of the World Cup after the group stage, or in the early knockout rounds, will make the short trip from Qatar to UAE to join the group on tour. There they will be allowed some family time and a short break before being re-integrated into the squad.
When they return to London, Arsenal are planning for another warm-up game for the restart at the Emirates on the same weekend as the World Cup final.
Those players not travelling to the World Cup will be given 10 days off before a round of friendly fixtures begin. One of the fixtures already scheduled is against Cardiff City for the Peter Whittingham Memorial on November 30.
Villa then jet off to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp in early December. The aim is for Unai Emery to get some more time with the players on the training pitch but also get to know them better in an environment away from Bodymoor Heath. Discussions around friendly games in UAE are also taking place, with one match already set up against Brighton, who are staying in the same resort.
Villa have also scheduled a friendly against Emery’s former club, Villarreal, on December 15 ahead of the Boxing Day return to Premier League action.
Those players not participating in the World Cup will get two weeks away from the training ground to reset. The players will then return to the Vitality Stadium on November 28 for two days’ training before setting off for Dubai.
Bournemouth fly out to Jalalabad, Dubai on November 30 where they will undergo a week-long training camp. The club’s plan has long been for a new manager to be appointed during this window to impart his playing style and familiarise himself with those not participating in the World Cup. The players are used to intense warm weather training having gone to the Algarve and Marbella during pre-season under Scott Parker. But with a new manager and style to get to grips with, this training camp is likely to be more physically and mentally demanding.
There will be friendly games, too: Bournemouth are set to face Royal Antwerp on December 4 in Jalalabad and also planning to have two more friendlies once they return to the UK but their opponents are yet to be confirmed.
Members of Brentford’s squad who are not going to the World Cup, including Yoane Wissa, Frank Onyeka and Vitaly Janelt, will be given a couple weeks off to rest.
Pontus Jansson, Aaron Hickey and Thomas Strakosha are all currently out injured and they will step up their recovery process during this period with the aim of being fit for Brentford’s first Premier League match after the tournament against Tottenham at home on Boxing Day.
Players and staff will then return from their holidays at the beginning of December to move into the club’s new training facility. The Robert Rowan Performance Centre is based on the same site at Jersey Road as their old training complex, but with vastly updated features.
Thomas Frank’s side will then fly out to Spain for a week and build up their fitness by playing a couple of friendlies, but their opponents have not been announced yet.
Players going: Kauro Mitoma (Japan), Leandro Trossard (Belgium), Robert Sanchez (Spain), Alexis Mac Allister (Argentina), Tariq Lamptey (Ghana)
The players not on World Cup duty with their countries have been given time off until Monday November 28, when they will return to training. Roberto De Zerbi’s reduced squad will regroup for a warm weather training week in Dubai at the beginning of December, which will include at least one friendly game.
Brighton are also using the break to spruce up the Amex with upgraded branding and signage.
Projects include work starting on a new tunnel club (a hospitality experience in the tunnel area with seats behind the dugouts), and preparations for new food, drink and entertainment outlets outside the ground.
Players going: Mateo Kovacic (Croatia), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Denis Zakaria (Switzerland), Christian Pulisic (USA), Hakim Ziyech (Morocco), Kai Havertz (Germany), Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling (all England), Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly (both Senegal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain)
The players in Graham Potter’s squad not involved in the World Cup will be given time off to refresh their bodies and minds before gathering for a warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi.
Despite heavy Chelsea representation at the tournament in Qatar, Potter will have a reasonably sized group to work with — perhaps even bolstered by Reece James and Wesley Fofana, who have been continuing their rehabilitation from knee injuries just up the coast from Abu Dhabi in Dubai.
No friendlies have been officially confirmed yet but Chelsea are expected to play at least one match, probably against Premier League opposition.
Patrick Vieira has handed his players some time off during the break, but they will travel to Turkey for a friendly with Napoli, and host Botafogo at Selhurst Park. The Brazilian side are owned by John Textor, the Palace director and General Partner and will make the trip on Saturday December 3. Palace are also in the process of arranging a home friendly with Spanish side Real Valladolid later in December.
Those injured players, including James McArthur, Nathan Ferguson, Chris Richards and Jack Butland will be part of the squad going abroad, as Vieira seeks to work on some of the issues that have concerned him, including the failure to be clinical in the final third.
“The players will have a couple of weeks off and then a mini pre-season before getting ready for the Fulham game (on Boxing Day),” Vieira said. “It will be really important. That’s why we will bring everyone, even the injured players. It’s important to spend time together and go even more into the tactical details to improve ourselves as a team.”
Everton will head to Australia later this month to take part in the Sydney Super Cup. Those not involved at the World Cup will play games against Celtic on November 20 and Western Sydney Wanderers on November 23.
The squad will then be afforded some time off before returning to training ahead of the Premier League’s resumption on Boxing Day.
Manager Frank Lampard revealed on Friday that the current plan is to play a series of friendlies, most likely behind closed doors, ahead of that opening game back at home to Wolves.
Marco Silva’s squad does not have a huge number of players likely heading to the tournament but key personnel, such as Aleksandar Mitrovic, Joao Palhinha, Harry Wilson and Antonee Robinson, are set to play in Qatar.
In the meantime, those not on international duty will be given a two-week break. The squad will then head to Portugal, like they did during the summer pre-season, for a week-long warm weather camp. It is likely they will play at least one game while they are away, however that is expected to be behind closed doors.
They will then return to Motspur Park to resume preparations for the return of the Premier League. As part of that, Fulham will face West Ham United on Saturday, December 17 at Craven Cottage, a week before they face Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
As of a few weeks ago, Leeds United’s plan was to give their non-World Cup players two weeks off and then head to San Francisco for a tour in the backyard of their minority shareholder, 49ers Enterprises.
Then came defeats to Leicester City and Fulham, resulting in a surge of pressure, and their intentions changed almost overnight. A fortnight off became one week off, followed by a week of individual fitness plans. The squad will come back together to train en masse on November 28. Jesse Marsch is due to spend a very short amount of his time off in Peru, which he is visiting for a friend’s wedding.
In terms of friendlies, the club have been talking about playing three before they resume the Premier League season against Manchester City on December 28. One of those matches will be against Real Sociedad at Elland Road on December 16. They are also discussing training and playing in Spain, although that proposed trip is still to be confirmed.
Leeds could have had numerous call-ups for the World Cup but in the end, only three players were selected — Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams for the USA and Rasmus Kristensen for Denmark. That means Marsch will have most of the club’s squad with him through the break.
Leicester are giving their remaining players a two-week break before returning for a warm-weather camp in Abu Dhabi. Then they will return to the UK to play a couple of friendlies at their Seagrave training ground. It is unclear yet whether these will be behind closed doors.
Then they recommence the season with their Carabao Cup fourth-round tie with MK Dons before the return of the Premier League on Boxing Day against Newcastle United.
Leicester have three players away with Belgium – Wout Faes, Timothy Castagne and Youri Tielemans, Danny Ward with Wales, Papy Mendy with Senegal, Daniel Amartey with Ghana and James Maddison with England.
After being granted a few weeks off, Liverpool players and staff will regroup for a training camp in Dubai. They are scheduled to fly out on December 4.
During their stay, Jurgen Klopp’s side will play friendly matches against AC Milan and Lyon.
Dubai was selected because of its elite training facilities and favourable climate as well as its proximity to Qatar, which is just an hour’s flight away. Liverpool players in action at the World Cup will link up with the squad once their involvement in the tournament ends.
“It’s so important to start fast after the World Cup and Dubai has to create that,” says assistant manager Pep Lijnders.
Klopp will have a strong group to work with from the start of the camp. After Roberto Firmino was left out by Brazil, Uruguay’s Darwin Nunez is the sole Liverpool attacker going to the World Cup. Mohamed Salah’s Egypt and Luis Diaz’s Colombia failed to qualify, while Diogo Jota won’t feature for Portugal due to a calf injury. Diaz should be fit for the camp following a knee problem, but Jota’s rehab will continue into 2023.
Prior to the trip to Dubai, each of the players have been given individual fitness programmes to keep them ticking over.
Liverpool will fly back to Merseyside ahead of the fourth round of the Carabao Cup in the week before Christmas.
Players going: Manuel Akanji (Switzerland), Ederson (Brazil), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Ilkay Gundogan (Germany), John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish (all England), Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva (all Portugal), Nathan Ake (Netherlands), Aymeric Laporte and Rodri (both Spain), Julian Alvarez (Argentina)
No Premier League club have more players travelling to the World Cup than City (16), so Pep Guardiola stands to be the manager who will watch events in Qatar most anxiously. Those members of the squad who are not involved are being granted a two-week holiday before reconvening to travel to a week-long warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi.
Striker Erling Haaland will be allowed to report back later than his teammates, as he will feature in one of the two international friendlies Norway have scheduled in the coming week.
Players who are knocked out of the World Cup early will be granted time off by Guardiola. “It depends on the finish, if they arrive at the final or if they go out in a group stage,” Guardiola said. “Every player will be treated on how they finish. But I want to give them some days off to refresh a little bit.”
Players going: Antony, Casemiro, Fred (all Brazil), Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Raphael Varane (France), Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford (all England), Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo (all Portugal), Facundo Pellistri (Uruguay), Tyrell Malacia (Netherlands), Lisandro Martinez (Argentina)
Manchester United will fly to Andalucia for a week of warm-weather training, where they will first face Cadiz CF on Wednesday, December 7, before a second friendly against Real Betis on Saturday, December 10 at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville.
The camp will give Erik ten Hag the opportunity to work closely with a number of academy graduates and fringe players in his squad. Second-choice full-backs Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are among those who could bolster their United chances before the opening of the January transfer window.
“We have to train them during those six weeks and we have to give them the right programme so they stay in the right fitness levels, but also they stay in the right shape and also in the team style,” said the United manager.
“We made a programme to do that, as optimum as possible. So, we will train here (at Carrington) for one week, or eight or nine days, and then we will have a short break. Then we will train and go to Spain for a training camp for one week.”
Newcastle’s non-internationals will be given a fortnight away from formal training. During the first week, they will be granted holiday, then during the second they will be given personally tailored training programmes to undertake in their own time but they will not be required to do those at Benton. For the remainder of the World Cup break, however, Eddie Howe will oversee what he describes as a “mini pre-season” schedule to ensure his players remain at peak fitness.
In terms of training camps, a return to Saudi Arabia is planned, with Newcastle having visited Jeddah in January, a trip which spurred them to survival last season. This time, however, Newcastle are heading to the capital, Riyadh, from December 4-10. Part of the rationale for the trip, beyond team bonding and to have warm-weather sessions, is that substantive building work can be completed at the training ground, which is being revamped. Part of the Benton Centre is essentially a building site and, with the players away on holiday and then on a training camp for a few weeks, significant progress can be made, and it is hoped the renovations will be finished during the first half of 2023.
Newcastle have scheduled three friendlies, including with overseas opposition and a Championship side, though they have only publicly confirmed two of those, against Saudi Pro League champions Al-Hilal on December 8, and Rayo Vallecano at St James’ Park on December 17. Howe does not believe players can go six weeks without playing and then suddenly be expected to return to a hectic Premier League schedule. “It’s a very unusual season and to have such a big break in the middle, it’ll have a big bearing on the season, more than people realise at the moment,” Howe said in July.
Many of Nottingham Forest’s players boarded planes on Saturday night, either to go on holiday or join up with their international squads ahead of the World Cup.
Those who are not heading off to Qatar have been given some time off, following a mentally and physically demanding start to life in the Premier League. But Forest will play a number of friendly games during the break, including a match to mark the centenary of Valencia’s Mestalla stadium. Forest were the first European side to visit the Mestalla for an official game — in the Fairs Cup, in September 1961.
Forest will have a short training camp in Spain while they are there for the game, which will take place on Friday, December 16 (6.30pm UK time).
The club are also finalising the details of another training camp, expected to be in Athens, at the home of sister club Olympiacos, who they will play in a friendly on December 10.
Southampton were set to travel to Miami for a warm-weather training camp during the World Cup in Qatar. Former manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had approved the trip but his sacking means the trip is up in the air due the appointment of Nathan Jones and no fixtures having been scheduled in the States.
Speaking after Southampton’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, Jones confirmed Southampton will play games during the World Cup break and has not ruled out a camp away from Staplewood, either in Miami or somewhere closer to home. Players will have one or two weeks off before they return to training, with club staff also given a break.
Players going: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Ivan Perisic (Croatia), Richarlison (Brazil), Ben Davies (Wales), Hugo Lloris (France), Eric Dier, Harry Kane (both England), Rodrigo Bentancur (Uruguay), Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal), Cristian Romero (Argentina), Son Heung-min (South Korea)
The majority of Spurs’ key players are off to the World Cup, including eight of their starting XI against Leeds, plus three others. Those who are not going will be given two weeks off until November 28. The club did look into flying overseas for a training camp but have instead decided to stay in London and use what is one of the best training facilities in world football, albeit one without much sunshine for the next few weeks. Head coach Antonio Conte is not happy that some non-World Cup teams have arranged friendlies.
“Honestly, we told the players not involved in the World Cup that they could stay at home,” Conte said. “Instead, at the last moment many national teams decided to play two friendly games. For this reason, now after the game against Leeds, the players that go to the World Cup, they go with the national team. The others will continue to have training sessions and then to go with the national teams to have friendly games. Then they’ll have days off to recover.
“Before, our idea was to try to find a solution to go away from London and to stay in a place with sun, but in the end it was difficult to find this type of solution. For this reason we continue to stay here, having training sessions and using our training ground.”
Spurs will look to organise two or three behind-closed-doors friendlies for those left behind.
The players in David Moyes’ squad not involved in the World Cup will be given time off before returning to training on December 1. As it stands, there are no plans for a training camp abroad when the players return.
There will, however, be friendlies — first against League One side Cambridge United on December 6 and then Fulham at Craven Cottage on December 17.
The World Cup break is arguably more vital to Wolves than any other Premier League club with new head coach Julen Lopetegui having started work at Compton Park.
But he will have to wait for more than a week to work with any of his players, who all departed immediately after their final pre-break game against Arsenal on Saturday.
Those players not travelling to join up with World Cup squads will return in around 10 days to meet Lopetegui and his coaching staff, with the World Cup players returning at various stages between now and Christmas depending on how they get on in Qatar.
Midway through the break, Lopetegui and his players will spend a week near Marbella at a warm-weather training camp in preparation for their return to action. They are hoping to arrange at least one friendly in Spain.
Players going: Connor Roberts (Wales)
Vincent Kompany is giving his players an extended period off after the intense Championship schedule.
They are expected to return towards the end of the week beginning November 21 for testing before returning to full training at the start of the following week. As the Championship returns earlier than the Premier League, Burnley did not organise a training camp abroad; instead, they will stay at Barnfield Training Ground.
Kompany is keen to use the training time, which has been low due to the fixture schedule, to continue to drill his methods into the players in detail. Only Connor Roberts is going to the World Cup so the Belgian will have practically his entire squad to work with.
Setting up a handful of behind-closed-doors friendlies has been discussed but nothing has been finalised yet before they return to league action against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday, December 11.
Players going: Josh Sargent (USA)
Players and staff were given a week off after the defeat to Middlesbrough on Saturday, although not everyone will have that freedom. International fixtures for Scotland involving Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean, and Chile for Marcelino Nunez, mean some Norwich players will be away on international duty for that first week while Josh Sargent is, of course, going to Qatar with USA..
The Championship resumes following the group stages of the tournament, on December 10. Should the US make progress, Norwich would be without Sargent, their top scorer, for their league return.
For the rest, Norwich have planned a warm-weather training camp in Tampa Bay, where Norwich have a longstanding partnership.
In between their training sessions — one will be made open to the public — players and staff will attend a ‘watch party’ for England’s group game with the US.
The Norwich squad will then return to the UK, where they aim to play at least one friendly behind closed doors against Championship opposition. That would be against a club Norwich have already played, although their opponents are yet to be decided.
Players going: Adam Davies (Wales), Iliman Ndiaye (Senegal)
The packed schedule means means everyone bar United’s injured players will be getting a break from the club’s Shirecliffe training base.
The plan is to have at least a week off, with some of the staff, including assistant manager Stuart McCall, heading to the Canary Islands for a short holiday. With the focus once training resumes during the week beginning November 21 on recharging batteries and getting the injured players fit, the squad will remain in the UK for what will effectively be a shortened pre-season. A couple of behind-closed-doors friendlies are pencilled in.
International friendlies have complicated Paul Heckingbottom’s plans to give his players some much needed rest. Among those who could be called up are Sander Berge (Norway), George Baldock (Greece), Anel Ahmedhodzic (Bosnia & Herzegovina), John Egan and Enda Stevens (Republic of Ireland).
Only Adam Davies (Wales) and Iliman Ndiaye (Senegal) have been called up to play in Qatar; if either team go beyond the round of 16 stage, United will be without them for the resumption of their Championship game on December 10 at home to Huddersfield Town.
Players going: Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)
Most of the squad have been given this week off: plenty of Slaven Bilic’s players are involved in international friendlies, even if they are not heading to Qatar. Watford will then head to Spain for a six-day training camp, which will include staying at a five-star resort on the Costa Blanca and training at the Pinatar Arena in Murcia. That camp could include a friendly against La Liga strugglers Elche on November 26.
Bilic may also have a new assistant alongside him during the break, with the club aiming to finalise the appointment of former West Ham defender Julian Dicks, who Bilic previously had on his staff at the London Stadium and West Brom.
Players going: None
Outside of Jayson Molumby and Dara O’Shea, who have been selected in the Republic of Ireland squads for friendlies against Norway and Malta, new West Bromwich Albion manager Carlos Corberan has a full complement of players to work with over the international break.
With the intense Championship schedule this year, he has given his players a week-long holiday where they can reflect on a three-match winning streak before returning to their Great Barr training ground. From there, the club have planned a short warm-weather training camp in Spain, where they are expected to play at least one friendly, though the opponent is yet to be determined.
Corberan is targeting this period to help build the squad in his image, with a focus on conveying values of commitment and hard work, as well as improving the players’ tactical understanding. There are also several players returning from long lay-offs, most notably Daryl Dike and Semi Ajayi, who will benefit from this break to return fit and firing for Sunderland on December 12, Albion’s first game back.
(Additional contribution by Nnamdi Onyeagwara; top photo pictures: Getty Images; design: Eamonn Dalton)