The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has become a nightmare for the Premier League teams. Around 40 players have already scheduled trips to their national teams for the tournament, which will take place in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6.
Nobody can undervalue the importance of playing for their country’s national team, let alone in a tournament as rich in history as the AFCON: it’s 64 years old, and it’s held for the 33rd time. But it is January in all the leagues when the battle for domination in the table is fiercest.
The start of the year is a crucial time for Premier League teams. Exhausted after Boxing Day, they need to look for extra resources. The club managers usually handle them from the team’s reserves. But when a team’s leaders leave for a month, plans have to be rearranged considerably. That’s when bettors have to follow the news closely and those who want to try to make their first bets should choose gambling operators wisely. In both situations, bookmaker-ratings.com can help.
Meanwhile, let’s look at which of the teams will have the worst time with the start of AFCON and the departure of important players.
Many managers and teams realized the new conditions of the game, namely the return of fans in the stands and their support, only 3-5 rounds after the start of the championship. It took Mikel Arteta’s squad approximately that long to get on the winning track and stay on it. After a humiliating 20th place in the first three rounds for a team with such winning traditions as Arsenal, they have not lost in the next seven games and have climbed to sixth place.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who will leave to represent Gabon, has played a big part in this success. He’s a quick, technical targetman who will be almost impossible to replace, but Alexandre Lacazette will have to try.
On the wing, Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast) assisted the Gabonian in seven games. His absence from the team is more of a problem for the player himself because it’s more of an opportunity for England’s Saka and Maitland-Niles to prove themselves. Upon the return of one of the league’s most expensive transfers, there may not be room in the squad.
Thomas Partey (Ghana) is a genuine concern among the two central midfielders as Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) has featured only once this season.
This season’s leader will only send two players to the AFCON, Hakim Ziyech (Morocco) and Edouard Mendy (Senegal). The problem is that the importance of the goalkeeper alone to the Blues’ defense, his saves, and confidence could be a decisive loss in the title race during the January stretch of the season.
Largely thanks to this wall, Thomas Tuchel’s side had conceded the least in the league by the tenth round, only three goals. The closest pursuer, Manchester City, allowed six goals against their net.
Chelsea’s difficulties, on the other hand, seem exaggerated by what will happen to Liverpool. Leaving the team will be Mohamed Salah (Egypt), who is in the best form of his life, the equally tremendous Sadio Mane (Senegal), and Naby Keita (Guinea), who has finally found himself in Klopp’s team.
Diogo Jota can replace one of them for a month, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi will get more playing time, but it is difficult to see how significant the team’s losses will be. Speed, creativity, chemistry, an element of surprise that will undoubtedly affect Liverpool’s scoring. All the listed could well drop them from the title race they are currently participating in.
Other title contenders
It’s important to note two Manchester City sides that could influence the distribution of places in the top three. Cityzens will only send Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) to the AFCON. He is a great but replaceable player: he has been sent in more often as a substitute at the end of matches.
United can also benefit from the situation in January, as both of their players leaving for Ivory Coast, Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo, are not the main squad players.
Like Tottenham, led by new coach Antonio Conte and not sending anyone to the AFCON, both Manchester City teams could easily use this advantage to climb up the table.