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Arsenal can begin Premier League with a bang as stars miss World Cup

Arsenal can begin Premier League with a bang as stars miss World Cup


Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo has signed a one-year contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2021.

The 44-year-old joined Wolves last May and helped the club win the Championship with 99 points and secure promotion to the top flight for the coming season.

"We have a team and we are in the Premier League, and we are now in year two," the Portuguese manager told Wolves' website. "In year two we know the challenge is even more difficult, but we have something that we hold on to -- we have our own identity.

"We need to bring in players and we will do so, but it is very difficult to find the right ones, because the quality that we have already is high."

First-team coaches Rui Pedro Silva, Rui Barbosa, Antonio Dias, Joao Lapa and Julio Figueroa have also signed contract extensions while Ian Cathro joined as a coach on a three-year deal last month.

Santo has bolstered his squad with six recruits in the current transfer window, including Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Mexican striker Raul Jimenez and defender Willy Boly.

"The way we did it last year was absolutely amazing -- I cannot thank the supporters enough. But at the same time I humbly ask, let's do it again. Together we are stronger," Santo added.

Wolves begin their preseason fixtures against Swiss club FC Basel later on Tuesday.

Tottenham have nine, Manchester United have seven, Manchester City have seven too, Chelsea have five, Liverpool four and Arsenal just one. No, not relegations in their history, or managerial changes in the past 20 years, but players remaining at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

It, is, counter-intuitively, a good thing looking ahead to the start of the new season. Arsenal's sole representative going into the final five days is Danny Welbeck. He has played only 11 minutes for England so far -- the lowest of any outfield player in the squad -- and likely won't command a place in Arsenal's first XI at the start of the season in any case.

By contrast, Mauricio Pochettino could almost field an entire first team of his players who are still engaged in World Cup competition: Hugo Lloris, Kieran Tripper, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Dele Alli and Harry Kane. All nine players will be in Russia until the end of the week, whatever the results of their various semifinals.

From then it will be four short weeks until Spurs play their opening game of the season. All nine of those players will require a decent break after their mental and physical World Cup exertions and there is the small matter of a transfer window to squeeze in too with the window closing on Aug. 9 this year in the Premier League. Kane has famously never scored a goal in August anyway but Tottenham find themselves at risk of starting the season in slo-mo.

If Arsenal's low level of participation in the World Cup can be put down partially to chance, and partially to the fact that they are simply lacking in top-level players compared to their Premier League rivals, the question of their transfer preparation cannot be attributed to luck. This is simply down to good business.

New signings Bernd Leno and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have already been taking part in preseason training in London Colney; Stephan Lichtsteiner isn't far behind; and according to reports a deal is set to be swiftly concluded for Lucas Torreira now Uruguay have been knocked out, bringing Arsenal's senior dealings to an impressively early conclusion. This has not always been the case at Arsenal -- a club who have played their part in more than a few hectic transfer deadline days. But there will be no frantic scrambles this year.

Thankfully so. Arsenal need as much preparation time as possible. Unai Emery is trying to put his own imprint on a team still emerging from the shadow of a 22-year reign and his English, while improving, still needs some work. Communicating new ideas and strategies to a squad grounded in Wengerism might not be a smooth process. But Arsenal can at least say they have given themselves the best chance to make a fast start.

Liverpool have recruited decisively in signing Fabinho and Naby Keita to reinforce their midfield, Manchester United have also added two in Fred and Diogo Dalot, but Tottenham and Manchester City, with such big contingents still out in Russia, are yet to make any new signings at all. At Chelsea the situation is even more pronounced: they still haven't signed any players or a new manager, leaving them in the farcical situation where Antonio Conte has returned to take preseason training despite waiting for Maurizio Sarri to replace him.

What appeared to be a truly daunting start to Emery's Premier League career looks somewhat less so now. Manchester City travel to Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend four weeks after the World Cup final in Russia. Pep Guardiola is reportedly keen to give his World Cup players three weeks off after their campaigns end so John Stones, Kyle Walker, Fabian Delph, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy are all set to return after the Community Shield against Chelsea on Aug. 5. Guardiola will have a week to prepare for Arsenal -- a week in which City will also have to finish up their transfer business which is currently alarmingly underdeveloped.

After City, Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Aug. 18 for their second match. It is almost impossible to say how bad a state their opponents will be in, but it will take quite an effort to extricate Chelsea from the mess they are currently dealing with.

The upshot for Arsenal is that all the ingredients seem to be in place to make a fast start in 2018-19. Emery's nightmare introduction to English football has had the edge taken off it -- thanks in part to luck and design.

Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport