African players have held influence over the Premier League title race in the recent history of the competition. Star men such as Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Michael Essien, and Didier Drogba have excelled in England’s top flight for their respective clubs.
Unfortunately, the Africa Cup of Nations happens to occur right in the middle of the English domestic season. As a result, the clubs with African stars will be greatly affected between January and February 2022 when the tournament is on. We’ll now look at the sides that will suffer the most without their key men.
The Reds will be cursing their luck about the timing of the AFCON. Both Salah and Mane will be playing for Egypt and Senegal, respectively, in the competition, leaving Jurgen Klopp without his two most influential players in the final third. Midfielder Naby Keita will also be in action for Guinea.
The absences of these men will be undoubtedly reflected in the football betting odds for the Premier League title, with the Reds currently being backed behind Manchester City for the crown at 6.00 along with Chelsea. Losing both Salah and Mane for a month will be tough to contend with, although, should Roberto Firmino pick up the slack, then Klopp and his side should be able to cope.
The fixture list has been kind to the Merseysiders, in that they will potentially be facing only one title challenger, Chelsea, while the duo are away. Although both players are extremely important, Klopp and his team may just be able to ride out the storm without them.
The Foxes have been outstanding in the Premier League as of late, punching above their weight to finish in the top six. The Champions League has eluded them in the past two seasons, and the absences of two of their most important players could seriously jeopardise their next campaign. Wilfred Ndidi has been a standout in the middle of the park since his move from Genk in 2017. He stepped into the void left by N’Golo Kante and has excelled for the Foxes.
Ndidi along with Kelechi Iheanacho will be in action for Nigeria in the tournament as they bid to win the AFCON for the fourth time. Iheanacho enjoyed a breakout season for Leicester in the 2020/21 term. The 24-year-old scored 19 goals in all competitions, including a key effort in their FA Cup semi-final win over Southampton. Leicester have games against Norwich, Brighton, and Burnley in January, and Liverpool in the first week of February. Brendan Rodgers’ men will miss their talented duo but will back themselves to beat their opponents in the first month, at least, without them.
The Gunners have had a tough time competing for a top-four place even with their full complement of players. During the AFCON, they will have to fare without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, and Thomas Partey. Aubameyang was not at his best in the 2020/21 season but still scored 15 goals in all competitions. Pepe developed in his second season in England and notched 16 goals in the final third.
Mikel Arteta’s men will have to cope without the presence of the duo, thinning their attacking options. It will place Alexandre Lacazette under pressure to perform along with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka. Unfortunately for Arsenal, they play both Manchester City and their North London rivals Tottenham while their players are away. It could play a significant role in their bid to compete for a Champions League spot or even a place in the top six.
These three clubs will suffer more than most without their key men. How they perform without them could determine whether they are able to achieve their goals in the coming term.