The African Cup of Nations is set to disrupt the Premier League season in January and February as multiple big-name stars head off to the Ivory Coast to represent their national teams. 24 countries have made it through qualification, which wrapped up last week: Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Namibia, Egypt, Guinea, Ghana, Angola, Algeria, Tanzania, Mali, Gambia, Zambia, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Mauritania, Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal and Mozambique.
The tournament is set to run from January 13 to February 11 this year after initial plans to host the biennial event in June and July were knocked back due to concerns over adverse weather conditions in Cote d’Ivoire. As a result, the likes of Manchester United’s Andre Onana (Cameroon), Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey (Ghana) will be out of action for the busy winter months.
Nottingham Forest are the most affected by AFCON with as many as eight players up for selection. Their long list includes Moussa Niakhate (Senegal), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast), Willy Boly (Ivory Coast), Ola Aina (Nigeria), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Ibrahim Sangare (Ivory Coast), Taiwo Awoniyi (Nigeria) and Emmanuel Dennis (Nigeria).
Meanwhile, West Ham could have up to four playing in the Ivory Coast in four months’ time: Nayef Aguerd (Morocco), Mohammed Kudus (Ghana), Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast) and Said Benrahma (Algeria).
Besides Onana, Manchester United are also likely to be without new signing Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco). His departure will make the sale of Scott McTominay a particularly difficult proposition in January given the Red Devils’ lack of depth at defensive midfield in his absence.
Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast) and Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia) are also in contention to be named in their respective AFCON squads. Arsenal will miss Partey and Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) while Chelsea won’t be able to call upon the services of striker Nicolas Jackson (Senegal).
Jackson’s AFCON break means the Blues must bring in reinforcements up front in the January transfer window as Christopher Nkunku may still be sidelined by injury. Manchester City and Newcastle United are the only two teams in England’s top flight that don’t have a single African player in their first team and so won’t be affected by the tournament.
Tottenham, on the other hand, are set to take a real hit to their formidable midfield with Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal) and Yves Bissouma (Mali) almost certain to be on the plane to the Ivory Coast in January.