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How the AFCON will Affect this EPL Football Season

As the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) approaches, football fans around the globe are not only gearing up for a thrilling tournament but also contemplating its potential affects on the English Premier League (EPL). The tournament this year attempted to avoid conflicting with European football but due to bad weather in the Ivory Coast – it will be doing just that. Let’s delve into what the AFCON will mean for the EPL & the EPL standings.

Player Exodus:

The biggest effect that AFCON has on major tournaments such as the EPL is that it renders many players of African nationality unavailable for their club teams. The AFCON this year is set to take place from Jan. 13th to Feb. 11th, almost an entire month. There are many star African players that play in the Premier League and are crucial for their teams, such as : Salah, Onana, and Partey, just to name a few. It is easy to see how the absence of any of these players could make their teams struggle.

Tight Race in the EPL Standings:

The current race for the EPL title is close, teams are neck and neck in the standings and if things continue this way, any small difference can make the difference. Let’s take a look at Liverpool for example, Salah has consistently been one of their top G+A players for so many of the last couple of seasons. Even right now, in this current season, Mohamed Salah is the leading scorer for the team, scoring 19 in 12 as reported by SportsLoci Football Stats. This is not a player who’s absence will be felt lightly by the team, for context, the next player to have scored the most goals for the team is Darwin Núñez and Diogo Jota who both have 5 goals to their names. Given all that, let’s say Liverpool for the next month, without Salah, struggle Infront of goal and sporadically drop points in the EPL? There is at the time of writing of this article : only 6 points separating them from 5th place Spurs.

Not all EPL Teams affected the Same :

The AFCON tournament and the player absences caused by it will not have equal effects on every team in the EPL. Some teams will be heavily hit such as Nottingham Forest who currently stand to lose 5 players : Serge Aurier, Willy Boly, Ibrahim Sangaré, Moussa Niakhaté, Cheikhou Kouyaté.  Others such as Liverpool discussed above, will only lose one player, but that player will be their star player. Most teams will miss between 2 and 3 players crucial to their squads. While only Luton, Manchester City and Newcastle will be the teams that lose none. It is interesting to see how teams manage such gaps in their squads.

Strategic Squad Rotation for EPL Teams:

This period of one month when the AFCON will be taking place, will be the perfect time for EPL managers to reach into their bag as they say. With missing players come opportunities for others and creativity on the side of the managers. Beware for potential rising stars getting chances during this time in your favorite EPL teams, and expect changes in how managers field their players, especially for the teams more heavily impacted by the AFCON about to start soon.

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