How Will Africa Cup of Nations Affect Premier League?
Africa Cup Of Nations
The Africa Cup of Nations commences on Saturday with most countries’ players having already left their clubs to prepare for the biennial tournament.
Premier League managers and those of a Fantasy Football persuasion, despite signing internationals from African nations, will no doubt bemoan the departure of key players – and some clubs will feel their absence more keenly than others.
The Chase For The Top 4
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is one of the most high-profile players who’ll be absent from the Premier League, as he’ll be representing Senegal in Gabon. Defender Joel Matip, so impressive since his arrival at Anfield in the summer, made clear that he didn’t wish to be selected by Cameroon.
Nigeria’s failure to qualify has been beneficial to some of the sides battling at the top of the Premier League. The reinvigorated Victor Moses at Chelsea, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho will remain in England after the not-so Super Eagles missed out on qualification for the second consecutive tournament. Kenya also failed to make the last sixteen which means Tottenham will retain the services of Victor Wanyama.
However, Arsenal will miss Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny while Yaya Toure will remain in Manchester having retired from duty with favourites and holders Ivory Coast.
Eric Bailly will be missing from Old Trafford as he’s joined up with Les Éléphants, but Jose Mourinho’s side have coped admirably without the defender during his spell out through injury.
The Relegation Battlers
Of those battling relegation, Sunderland are arguably hardest hit with Didier N’Dong, Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri representing Gabon, Ivory Coast and Tunisia respectively.
Are Leicester City in a relegation battle? They’re only six points clear of the drop-zone and their survival prospects won’t be helped by the absence of African Footballer of the Year Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani, who are both in Algeria’s squad. The loss of Daniel Amartey to Ghana won’t be as keenly felt, particularly with the recent capture of Wilfred Ndidi. The former Genk midfielder and his new Foxes team-mate Ahmed Musa are others who’ll miss the tournament due to Nigeria’s failure to qualify, as is Sunderland’s Victor Anichebe.
Leicester’s Jeffrey Schlupp has been heavily linked with Crystal Palace in recent days and has been left out of Ghana’s squad for the tournament.
However, Palace will be without Wilfried Zaha – now representing Ivory Coast having made two friendly appearances for England.
They also lose Mali’s Bakary Sako, who has been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park anyway this month.
Basement club Hull City will be without Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady and DR Congo’s Dieumerci Mbokani as they battle to avoid the drop.
If Leicester are battling relegation, it could be argued that West Ham and Watford are too. The Hammers will lose Senegal’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Ghana’s Jordan Ayew for the tournament, while Walter Mazzarri’s side will be without Morocco’s Nordin Amrabat and Algeria’s Adlene Guedioura.
Senegal’s Idrissa Gueye will be a big loss to Everton’s midfield, despite the imminent arrival of Morgan Schneiderlin, while Toffees fans will not be surprised that Arouna Kone did not make the cut for Ivory Coast.
Stoke City will have a few absentees this month with Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Bony, Senegal’s Mame Biram Diouf and Egypt’s Ramadan Sobhi all selected for the tournament.
Finally, Southampton’s record signing Sofiane Boufal will be in action with Morocco while Bournemouth’s Max Gradel is off to represent Ivory Coast.