The Analyst’s Guide to the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup.
English football has become an increasingly cosmopolitan affair over the past two decades, so the impact and destabilising effect of mid-season tournaments such as the Africa Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup weigh hugely on Premier League challengers and relegation strugglers alike.
As luck would have it, on this particular occasion, the two coincide with each other to give already pressured Premier League coaches another management headache to contend with.
So what does that mean for the stressed and beleaguered Fantasy managers out there? A tactical rethink certainly. The absences of marquee names and key players will no doubt impact team selection, but greater still will be the capacity of these tournaments to throw club sides and teammates out of sync.
Who’ll provide the goals without Wilfried Bony banging them in for Swansea? How will City plug the sizeable Yaya Toure shaped midfield hole? Can Leicester City even get a result without flying wide men Schlupp and Mahrez? We’ll soon find out.
The Africa Cup of Nations runs from the 17th of January to the 8th of February with players departing for the tournament as early as the 5th. In terms of Gameweeks, that period will encompass Gameweek 21 to Gameweek 25.
The Asian Cup meanwhile, gets underway from the 9th of January and ends on the 31st or Gameweek 21 to 24. All involved players have already met up with their national squads.
Aston Villa: Chris Herd (Australia)
Crystal Palace: Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo), Adlene Guediora (Algeria), Mile Jedinak (Australia)
Everton: Christian Atsu (Ghana)
Hull City: Mo Diame (Senegal) (injured)
Leicester City: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)
Liverpool: Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)
Manchester City: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
Manchester United: N/A
Newcastle: Mehdi Abeid (Algeria), Papiss Cisse (Senegal), Cheick Tiote (Ivory Coast)
Queens Park Rangers: N/A
Southampton: Sadio Mane (injured) (Senegal), Emmanuel Mayuka (Zambia), Maya Yoshida (Japan)
Stoke City: Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal)
Swansea City: Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast), Ki Sung Yueng (Korea)
Tottenham Hotspur: Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria)
West Brom: Youssouf Mulumbu (DR Congo), Jason Davidson (Australia)
West Ham: Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Diafra Sakho (Senegal)
Who is most affected?
Newcastle United are possibly hardest hit with three players – Cisse, Tiote and Abeid – all taking part in the African Cup of Nations. Losing three first team players, coupled with management upheaval and a significant injury pileup does not bode well for the Magpies. Furthermore, given that these players are representing Senegal, Ivory Coast and Algeria – three competition favourites– means that they could easily be out of the picture for the entire duration of the tournament.
Swansea too look certain to struggle without the services of their top goalscorer and a key creative force. The absence of Bony and Ki could have debilitating repercussions on Swansea’s prospects for the next month – if anything their departure will heap further pressure on the likes of Sigurdsson and Fabianski who carry a huge selection rate among Fantasy and PlayON managers.
Crystal Palace and Leicester are also two sides who will more than likely struggle and could look to the transfer window to bolster their shortcomings. The respective losses of Jedinak and Bolasie, Mahrez and Schlupp will severely impact these sides over the coming weeks. On the other hand, despite the substantial losses of Sakho and Kouyate, West Ham look well placed to navigate their losses, thanks in part to the squad depth at Upton Park and also Alex Song’s omission from the Cameroon squad.
As it happens, the traditional powers of Premier League football are perhaps the least affected of anyone. Manchester City and Liverpool will miss the Toure brothers certainly, but Chelsea, United and Arsenal suffer no squad losses whatsoever.
With these tournaments getting underway in the coming weeks and the January transfer window rearing its ugly head, get set for a strange and unpredictable month in the Premier League.
* Update Mane (Southampton) and Diame (Hull) are out of the ACON, however, their injuries are severe enough that they will remain out for the duration of the competition.