The Africa Cup of Nations 2021 will be played in the winter instead of the summer. The hosts Cameroon requested the change to avoid extreme weather conditions that might disrupt the tournament.
The new schedule means that AFCON 2021 will start on January 9 and end on February 6. That’s right in the middle of the English Premier League season and will certainly hit some clubs hard.
In this article, I will assess the potential effects and determine which English teams will suffer the most from the decision.
Liverpool Will Take the Hardest Hit
Liverpool is the first club that immediately comes to mind when we talk about African players. Superstars such as Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita look certain to miss plenty of games during the tournament.
They play for some of the stronger countries on the continent, so there’s a huge chance for a deep run in the Africa Cup of Nations 2021.
Also, there’s no reason to expect that any of them won’t be part of the squad next season. Jurgen Klopp will have to handle the absence of two of his top forwards and that will be a problem.
Crystal Palace to Miss a Bunch of Key Players
Next in line is Crystal Palace. The club currently employs Wilfried Zaha from the Ivory Coast, Cheikhou Kouyaté from Senegal, Jeffrey Schlupp and Jordan Ayew from Ghana, and Bakary Sako from Mali.
That’s a long list of important players. Some of them might not be with Palace next season but at least several will stay and will be sorely missed during the Africa Cup of Nations.
Leicester Will Be in Trouble
The next EPL club with plenty to lose during the 2021 AFCON is Leicester. The likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Daniel Amartey, Fousseni Diabaté, Rachid Ghezzal, and Islam Slimani are owned byt the Foxes.
Most of them are not in the plans of Brendan Rodgers but Ndidi and Iheanacho’s absence will be felt. The midfielder has been one of the revelations of the season, while the striker often serves as a spark from the bench.
Arsenal Could Suffer
The next side that could be in trouble is Arsenal. Nicolas Pepe plays for Ivory Coast and will likely feature in the Africa Cup of Nations 2021. His absence alone is not that troublesome but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be on duty too.
The Arsenal skipper could leave the club in the summer and there’s a chance that Gabon won’t qualify, so the risk is not that big.
And yet, the worst-case scenario would see the Gunners trying to cope without two of their best attacking players.
The Rest of the Field
The rest of the English clubs should be fine during the Africa Cup of Nations 2021. They either don’t have that many players from the continent or don’t rely too much on the ones they have.
What could change, though, is the transfer window. The value of the African players might drop in the upcoming summer because the clubs will know they could be away for a month or so during the season.