·14 September 2023
·14 September 2023
GIVEMESPORT VIDEO OF THE DAY
A competition that a lot of Premier League managers over the years have made complaints over timing, the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations is set to begin on January 13 2024, leaving teams scrambling around already to work out ways to cope with missing players.
Some teams are set to be affected more than most however, and below is a list of exactly who is missing, with a couple of sides likely to be without multiple key players during the new year. The Premier League is set for another mid-season shake-up when January comes around...
Arsenal have already had to deal with both Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey leaving for AFCON previously, and must do so again when the tournament rolls around in 2024. The Gunners already look light in that holding midfield position given the former hasn't played in months, and the latter is currently out with an injury. Declan Rice remains the one true player who can fill in that number six role, and Mikel Arteta will be desperately hoping he can stay fit in January.
Don't be surprised if the Gunners dip into the transfer market for some potential midfield cover whether on loan or on a permanent deal to see them through those first couple of months of the new calendar year. While Elneny and Partey may not even feature in Arsenal's strongest eleven these days, they're massively important to the squad, and their participation at AFCON will leave Arteta concerned.
Just the one player for Aston Villa will be missing, and that's Bertrand Traore. The Burkina Faso international isn't a regular in Unai Emery's side, but has offered an option off the bench, and in the packed schedule during the winter months, will certainly be depended on. However, if Villa can stay clear of injuries and everyone stays fit and well, the winger may not taste too much action.
It's exactly why Emery might not be too worried about losing the former Lyon man to the Africa Cup of Nations. The likes of Leon Bailey and summer signing Moussa Diaby can both play out wide and offer a left-footed option like Traore, so it should be a case of as you were with Villa when January comes around for them.
In his first season in charge of Bournemouth, Andoni Iraola will need to deal with the issues a mid-season Africa Cup of Nations causes, with his side set to suffer from it as well. Three of his attacking players - Dango Ouattara, Antoine Semenyo and Hamed Traore - are all in line for international duty once we head into 2024, although it's the latter two's absence that might be a cause for concern for Iraola.
Both Semenyo and Traore have been involved in the match-day squad for all five games this campaign, featuring in four and three of those matches respectively. More than anything, the duo provide some much-needed quality going forward whether that's off the bench or from the start, and when the schedule gets even more packed over the winter, they will be of tremendous use.
Another side badly affected by the Africa Cup of Nations, is Brentford, with Thomas Frank set to be without two of his key men from his attacking ranks. Both Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa are set to be away on international duty in January and severely deplete their manager's options up front. Star striker Ivan Toney is of course serving his ban for betting breaches at the moment, while his first eligible game back - providing he is fit and well - will be against Tottenham on January 30.
That will mean the Bees will be without their top three attacking options for at least a couple of weeks once the new year comes around, although that could potentially extend if Toney isn't deemed match-fit. It all means Frank faces a major headache on how he sets his line-up, and who could potentially come in and do a job.
Brighton have four players heading to the Africa Cup of Nations, although Roberto de Zerbi may not be too concerned by it. Tariq Lamptey and Carlos Baleba are the two higher-profile names set to be missing for the Seagulls, but neither of them are established first-team stars. The former has made just the one appearance all season playing 13 minutes of football, while the latter has yet to feature given his late arrival in the summer transfer window.
Meanwhile, Simon Adingra, who has played just 35 minutes of football, and Samy Chouchane are the other two members of the Brighton squad who are also set to be ruled out of contention for any games in January. De Zerbi therefore should be able to safely navigate the competition without too many issues.
Like their two other promoted counterparts, Burnley will have to deal with the player availability issues AFCON can cause. Vincent Kompany's side will have to make do without their starting number nine Lyle Foster, who has started the Premier League campaign in fine fettle with two goals in three games.
Meanwhile, Anass Zaroury's debut in the top-flight got off to an inauspicious start when he was sent off late on in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City at Turf Moor on the opening day and has since missed the Clarets' previous few games. That absence has given Kompany a taste of what he will be missing when AFCON gets going, so the Belgian will no doubt already be plotting ways to get the best out of his team.
Chelsea's summer transfer window has massively changed how they might have been impacted by AFCON. The Blues had the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech in their squad and they all would have been missing come January. However, Todd Boehly's rebuilding work means all three were let go, and now Mauricio Pochettino only has to deal with the one absence: Nicolas Jackson.
The striker has hardly set the world alight at Stamford Bridge, spurning a number of great chances and actually ranking first in a list of worst finishers in the Premier League this season. However, given the complete lack of options outside of him in this current Chelsea squad, Pochettino will badly feel his absence come January. Given the levels of spending from Boehly and co though, you can just imagine Chelsea will already be plotting ways to bring in a new centre-forward.
Crystal Palace are set to be without three key first-team stars, with Jordan Ayew, Jeffrey Schlupp and Cheick Doucoure all in line to be on AFCON duty in January. The first two have featured in all five games this season across all competitions, while Doucoure has featured in four, and are important members of Roy Hodgson's side. Schlupp is currently retired, but reports over the summer indicated Ghana manager Chris Hughton would be meeting with him in a bid to convince him back, and if he does, then he will certainly be involved at the upcoming tournament.
Both Schlupp and Doucoure operate in midfield and may be big misses, although Ayew's absence could be offset by Michael Olise who has missed the early weeks of the Premier League campaign thus far with an injury. Their absences at the same time will rob Palace of some serious options across the pitch.
Having featured in all five of Everton's games across all competitions, Idrissa Gueye is a vital member of Sean Dyche's starting line-up, being that experienced holding midfield option in the team. A veteran of the Senegal squad - he has over 100 caps for his country - Gueye will be looking to go all the way when AFCON gets started, leaving his manager back home with a problem.
James Garner could be tasked with sitting deeper in midfield when Gueye does make his way to AFCON in January, although Dyche may also contemplate moving the likes of Amadou Onana and Abdoulaye Doucoure there too if absolutely necessary. Whatever the case, the Everton manager will be desperate for his midfield lynch-pin to return as soon as possible.
Fulham boss Marco Silva will have to deal with a trio of summer signings being unavailable during the new year, with the likes of Alex Iwobi, Calvin Bassey and Fode Ballo-Toure all set to be missing. The Cottagers have already lost Aleksandar Mitrovic in the summer, and are having to try and replace his guarantee of goals somehow, so the last thing the club needed was for three potentially key players being out for a few weeks.
Bassey and Ballo-Toure missing as part of the defence would be a key blow for Silva, although it is an area the side have a few options already. Even still, the Fulham boss will be hoping all three of his players involved at AFCON return soon.
Liverpool will only have one player missing due to AFCON, but it's arguably their best player - Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international will be hoping to fire his country to success in the competition, but while he looks to do that, Jurgen Klopp will once again be needing to do without him. One thing in the Reds' favour is the sheer amount of options at the manager's disposal, with a number of high-profile and expensive attackers Klopp can choose from to replace his talisman.
Liverpool of course have already had to deal with both Salah and previously Sadio Mane heading off for AFCON, so this is certainly nothing new. And if there's one manager who can deal with it and keep the Reds' winning machine ticking over, then it's Klopp.
Embarking on a remarkable campaign in the Premier League, Luton boss Rob Edwards will be without two key players due to AFCON; Issa Kabore and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. The former of course arrived on loan from Manchester City in the summer and has been a permanent fixture in the back-line at Kenilworth Road this season, while Mpanzu has been equally important in the middle of the park.
The 29-year-old's story of rising with the club from non-league to the Premier League has been well-spoken about, and amid just two caps for DR Congo, is likely to play a more prominent role when he goes and plays for them in Africa's biggest tournament. Even Luton fans surely won't begrudge the midfielder going off and realising another dream of his when January comes round.
Having signed both Andre Onana and Sofyan Amrabat in the summer, Erik ten Hag has added a couple of headaches to his Manchester United squad when January rolls around. In the case of missing his first-choice goalkeeper, the Dutchman will have to rely on another new signing in Altay Bayindir, and given he is unlikely to have played any significant minutes before the new year, that will be a big risk.
Amrabat meanwhile has yet to make his debut for the club, but as a ball-winning midfielder, is great cover for Casemiro, and also gives Ten Hag the option to play with two sitting midfielders. January is likely to be a busy schedule with the FA Cup third round getting underway as well, so the pressure is on United to make sure they're still firing on all cylinders.
If there is one manager who won't be happy with AFCON's timing, it's Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper. He is set to be without seven players during the competition, and all of them are regulars within the first-team squad. In fact, four of the players who are set to be missing form part of his back-line, with two full-back options in Serge Aurier and Ola Aina, and the centre-back pairing of Willy Boly and Moussa Niakhate.
That's not to mention the midfield duo of Ibrahim Sangare and Cheikhou Kouyate also being ruled out, while arguably the most significant loss of the lot, is Taiwo Awoniyi. The Nigerian striker is Cooper's first-choice front-man, offering pace and power through the middle and causing defences up and down the country in the Premier League plenty of problems.
Another one of the newly promoted sides, Sheffield United are also set to be without a couple of players come January. Ismaila Coulibaly - who has yet to play in the Premier League this season but has featured in the Carabao Cup - is one of the two to be missing with summer signing Anis Slimane also likely to be ruled out.
The duo haven't forged an impression in the top-flight just yet, with Slimane playing just ten minutes on the opening day against Crystal Palace before suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for the next couple of weeks. Given the Blades are likely to be fighting against relegation, Paul Heckingbottom could do without a couple of his midfield stars being missing.
Ange Postecoglou's first season in charge of Tottenham will see his mid-season plans disrupted by AFCON, with the north London side having to deal with two key midfielders in Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr being unavailable for selection. Given that both have already established themselves as key parts of this new-look Spurs team under their Australian manager, it will be a massive blow to lose them both at the same time.
Senegal are likely to be among the favourites to win the competition once again so Bissouma's return may be delayed, although Sarr's Mali may struggle to get too far given the teams they will be competing against. It might just be that Postecoglou could have one of his key midfielders back sooner rather than later in January.
One of the teams most impacted by the upcoming AFCON, David Moyes will be left scratching his head as to how he shuffles his pack and keeps West Ham ticking. The Hammers will be without attacking pair Mohammed Kudus and Said Benrahma, versatile winger Maxwel Cornet, and centre-back Nayef Aguerd. Perhaps just as pertinently, all four of them play for nations expected to compete for the trophy, so West Ham may not even get them back early.
If Kudus hits the ground running at the London Stadium, Hammers fans will be ruing his early departure with Ghana to AFCON, while Aguerd has already established himself as a vital part of the back-line. Moyes faces a difficult job ensuring things just don't fall apart while the quartet are away on international duty.
Amid a struggling start in the Premier League, the last thing Gary O'Neil would have wanted is for some mid-season disruption, but that's exactly what he'll be getting when both Rayan Ait-Nouri and Boubacar Traore are unavailable for him. Representing Algeria and Mali respectively, the duo will be at AFCON potentially looking for some respite from the difficulties back in the top-flight.
The January transfer window being open while the tournament is underway may offer O'Neil a path to strengthen his squad in light of those absences, although given how they have started, new signings were likely to be on the agenda anyway. Out of the two, Ait-Nouri will perhaps be the bigger miss, although Hugo Bueno and Jonny should provide enough depth to cover for him.