What the Africa Cup of Nations means for Premier League players and their clubs

By Sir Hardly Anyone

As you may have noticed, the Africa Cup of Nations has begun.  A little later than planned, but it has begun.

What it means is that those players involved will not be available at the start of the season since they won’t have had a proper summer rest.   In this case for Arsenal that means that Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny will be discounted from the squad in August and probably well into September.

The competition was originally planned to be in Cameroon, but delays in getting their stadia ready, plus the continuing Boko Haram uprising and also the continuing problem in the Anglophone territories which declared independence under the name Ambazonia and began a civil war, meant they had the right to the competition removed.

On 8 January 2019, Egypt was chosen by the CAF Executive Committee as the host nation of the competition.  But then the tournament was also moved from the original dates of 15 June – 13 July to the later period of 21 June to 19 July to avoid the problems of playing and training caused by the observance of Ramadan.  

Altogether 21 players will miss the start of the Premier League season because of this competition, although it is interesting that few, if any, newspapers or web sites have actually listed the players who will be missing, let alone assigned them to clubs.    So, with us losing two players, I thought I’d live up to the name of Untold and take a look at the situation.

In the current tournament two clubs have lost three players – Crystal Palace and Liverpool.  Altogether 13 of the Premier League’s clubs have at least one player missing.   Here is the list


  • Mohamed El Neny (Egypt)
  • Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

Aston Villa

  • Ahmed El Mohamady (Egypt)
  • Jonathan Kodjia (Ivory Coast)

Brighton and Hove Albion

  • Leon Balogun (Nigeria)
  • Gaëtan Bong (Cameroon)

Crystal Palace

  • Cheikhou Kouyaté (Senegal)
  • Wilfred Zaha (Ivory Coast)
  • Jordan Ayew (Ghana)


  • Idriss Gueye (Senegal)

Leicester City

  • Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)


  • Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
  • Naby Keita (Guinea)
  • Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Manchester City

  • Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Newcastle United

  • Christian Atsu (Ghana)


  • Moussa Djenepo (Mali)

Tottenham Hotspur

  • Victor Wanyama (Kenya)
  • Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)

West Ham United

  • Arthur Masuaku (DR Congo)

Wolverhampton Wanderers

  • Romain Saiss (Morocco)

Players who are not involved in any international match can get up to six weeks off in the summer but four weeks is generally considered the minimum.   Of course a player will be able to play with far less break, but the chances of that player getting an injury later in the season are then enhanced.  And in such a case, because the body is not used to periods without training, there can be further reactions and the chance of additional injuries once the player starts training again.

The final of the Africa Cup of Nations will be played on 19 July, meaning that players involved then will not resume training until around mid-August, which is six weeks after the players not involved will have returned to their clubs.  They will then need about a month of preparation before they are truly match fit – although of course some may well be rushed back sooner if the club feel the need.

Obviously for Arsenal it depends how far Egypt and Nigeria go in the competition, but if either country reach the final then we might expect to see our players back in mid-September.

The competition is being covered on Eurosport in the UK.    The next competition will be held in 2021, and the three countries currently bidding for that competition are Algeria, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.  Bids from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zambia have been rejected.




One Reply to “What the Africa Cup of Nations means for Premier League players and their clubs”

  1. Nigeria and Egypt could reach the Afcon final in Egypt next month. And it’ll will delight me to see Nigeria my country lift the African Nations Cup once again despite that Iwobi and Elneny will surely miss the Arsenal preseason training and games. And further miss the start to the Premier League matches in early August deep unto the month of September for Arsenal.

    I consider both Iwobi and Elneny important players at Arsenal. Therefore, their missing matches for Arsenal for about 6 weeks after the new season begins from 8th August could constitute a lose to Arsenal. For, Iwobi as he’s known for his being an enterprising raiding player for Arsenal at the left wing position harassing the opposition teams to cause havoc to them to score or give assist and was mostly Emery’s first choice in the position last season can only be replaced as starter or substitute with Sead Kolasinac who doubles as left back moderately, and as a left wing back moderately too for Arsenal in the team. But so far into this summer transfer window, it has looked Arsenal are not going to sign a true and out left winger this summer. But instead, it’s a true and out right winger that us learnt the club is looking to bring in who will mostly be manning the right wing while Mkhitaryan will become an option and cover to him or be sold this summer. But in the meantime, Arsenal should sign a new top quality left back this summer who can double as left wing back efficiently for the club in anticipation to replace the aging and getting slower and slower Monreal with him. But whether the new signed left full back will be Kieran Tierney at Celtic FC that Arsenal will sign this summer is what I cannot tell.

    Elneny is a useful player for Arsenal who I think mostly plays to the coach instructions in the midfield passing the ball forward to his mates with some accuracy and defending as a DMF to breakup the opposition attacks to protect the back-four or back-three defense-line as the case may be. And he hardly gives the ball away to the opposition team players. But I hope to see him improved on his game for Arsenal next season by taking the bull by the horn to incurs into the opposition teams area/box to score or give assist. Not just once or twice but on numerous occasions for Arsenal particularly in the PL and in the other 3 competitions too.

    And I think some players playing at the ongoing Copa America will be missing for their clubs in the PL for weeks when the new season starts as they too will have extended summer break after they stopped playing just a week or two before next season’s campaign has started. Sanchez for Man Utd and some Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool players will miss the early part of next season for their clubs.

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