Qatar 2022 is certainly causing some disruption to the footballing calendar and ensuring that the fitness of Chelsea’s squad will be tested. The Blues will be set for some intense periods of football in the build-up to November’s World Cup, and Thomas Tuchel will have a nervous wait to see if his players can get through the tournament unscathed.
It was announced more than ten years ago that the World Cup would be held in Qatar and, as a result, the winter of the Northern Hemisphere. To avoid the summer heat, the pinnacle of the football calendar will instead get underway on November 21, with the final taking place in Doha on December 18.
On Thursday, FIFA announced that plans for every nation to name a 26-man squad has been approved – as was the case for Euro 2020 last summer. However, on this occasion, all of the group will also be able to be named within the matchday squad.
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A statement reads: “Given the need to retain additional flexibility due to the unique timing of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in the global calendar, as well as the broader context of the disruptive effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on squads before and during tournaments, the Bureau has decided the following … The maximum number of players on the release list has been increased from 35 to 55. The number of players to be included on the final list has been increased to at least 23 and a maximum of 26.
“The final matchday at club level for the 23 to 26 players nominated on the final list will be 13 November 2022. No more than 26 people (up to 15 substitutes and 11 team officials – one of these officials must be the team doctor) will be allowed to sit on the team bench. “
Edouard Mendy, Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Timo Werner, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, and Christian Pulisic are all likely to be at the World Cup this winter as well as those who were out on loan in the form of Ethan Ampadu, Michy Batshuayi, and Romelu Lukaku who is set to return to Inter Milan on loan himself. Each may benefit from greater options for rotation during the tournament but also may have the test of even greater competition.
The rule change may provide others with the perfect opportunity to make a late bid for the national purs squad or secure their place that had seemed uncertain.
Marcos Alonso has been in and out of Luis Enrique’s Spain squads over the past 12 months, but an extra spot could see him earn a more solidified place alongside Cesar Azpilicueta, having missed out on EURO 2020 not too long ago. The Spaniard’s future at Chelsea may be uncertain, but having been named among Spain’s latest group for the Nations League now may feel more confident about a trip to Qatar.
The larger squad opportunity may well give Gareth Southgate more inclination to visit Stamford Bridge next season as he forumlates his plans. Conor Gallagher’s bid to make the World Cup will no doubt have an impact on where he sees his future this summer, with Tuchel having already spoken to the midfielder about his first-team plans. Gallagher was in the Three Lions squad for the rest of Nations League fixtures but would probably be deemed on the fringes of selection by some. The extra bodies may secure his position.
Ben Chilwell’s return from injury will see him as a prime candidate to return to Southgate’s thinking. Still, the former Leicester star will just have a little more room for maneuver following the announcement. Even if his reintegration is slowly built like last season, there will be little reason to leave him at home if he is fit.
The extra room could also inspire a late push from some forgotten contenders. Ruben Loftus-Cheek went to the World Cup in 2018 and has produced some impressive performances in England colors. His chance of heading to Qatar has not even been spoken about, but a late push could be on the cards with the uncertainty of Jorginho’s future and N’Golo Kante’s injury issues. Likewise, it could provide the ideal opportunity for Trevoh Chalobah. The 22-year-old spent time training with Southgate’s side as an 18-year-old, and given England’s recent performances, there may be few confirmed spots in the backline. The England boss may be inclined to make use of a back three, and given Chelsea’s business thus far in the summer, Chalobah is set for an extended time as part of one.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s best chance to be on the plane to Qatar could be if he switches his international allegiance to Ghana after representing England at various youth levels. If he can recover from his injury issues and cement a place in Tuchel’s side at the beginning of next season, perhaps he could take advantage of the three extra spots, despite preferring to remain at Cobham to improve himself than make use of under-21 call -ups in the past.