Africa Cup of Nations

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

I know what you are thinking…”didn’t we have an African Cup of Nations (ACON) last year too?”. You’d be correct in your assessment…from this year onwards, the ACON is moving to odd years (2013, 2015, 2017 etc) so that it does not clash with the FIFA World Cup. While this is undoubtedly a treat for football fans, it serves up a recurrence of a headache that laid out a number of Premier league Managers only 12 months ago.

While there are always last-minute call-ups before the tournament, here is a list of the Premier League clubs who are set to be without some of their African players. The potential impact of losing these players is examined and the players who gain to benefit are highlighted.

Arsenal – 1 (Gervinho)
Likely Impact – 2/10. With Podolski, Giroud and Walcott all able to play in the strikers position, it is expected that Gervinho’s absence will not be felt at all. After a bright start to the campaign, Gervinho has become a peripheral figure and Arsenal will have plenty of cover in his absence.
Possible Benefactors – None, since he is not a first team regular. However, I would expect Walcott and Giroud to have slightly more game time each.

Aston Villa – 1 (El Ahmadi)
Likely Impact – 2/10 Karim El Ahmadi was a Villa regular until game week 9, but since then he has not been able to keep his place and it is doubtful that he will be missed as he heads to the tournament with Morocco. However, given Villas curent dreadful form, I feel that the Villa management would have been happier had he stayed behind.
Possible Benefactors – Having played just a handful of minutes since game week 9, it is doubtful that anyone will benefit from his absence.

Chelsea – 2 (Mikel, Moses)
Likely Impact – 3/10 – Despite both Mikel and Moses being great players, I think Chelsea will not miss either of them (no disrespect intended to either player when I say that.) Chelsea have a wealth of attacking options and so Moses will not be missed too much. Regarding Mikel, I feel that Benitez has been very smart to blood David Luiz in the defensive midfield position. It’s a little unfair to say that Luiz has been blooded – after all he is a superb defensive midfielder from before his time at Chelsea. However, he has not really played in this position for his current club. Overall, the impact of losing both players might have been higher had Chelsea not the incredible squad they currently have.
Possible Benefactors – I think Luiz is guaranteed game time for Chelsea in midfield and he will clearly relish playing in a more advanced position. Moses has played intermittently for Chelsea in recent gameweek, but I expect no single player to benefit from his absence. Instead, Oscar and Demba Ba will see more game time in addition to the other Chelsea attacking options.

Fulham – 1 (Diarra)
Likely Impact – 1/10 Minimal. Mahammadou Diarra is way down the pecking order at Fulham and he is a bit-part player at best.
Possible Benefactors – None, he is only a fringe player and his game time is minimal.

Liverpool – 1 (Assaidi)
Likely Impact – 1/10. Although clearly one for the future, Assasidi has played less than an hour for Liverpool in the league this season and his absence will not be noted.
Possible Benefactors: None, he is a fringe player at the club.

Manchester City – 3 (Y. Toure, K. Toure, Razak)
Likely Impact – 8/10. There is no question here that the loss of Yaya Toure for the best part of six weeks will affect Roberto Mancini’s Eastlands side. Of all the players heading to the African Cup of Nations, he will be the biggest loss for any side. City struggled terribly without him the last time he played in the tournament and it would be easy for them struggle again this season without the Ivory Coast powerhouse. His brother Kolo will not be missed as much given the fact that 19-year-old Matija Nastasic has clearly taken the centre back role alongside club captain Vincent Kompany. Expect Lescott to deputize when required. Abdul Razak as played 3 minutes all season and therefore the effect of his absence is unnoticeable.
Possible Benefactors – Mancini will need to solidify his team while Yaya Toure is absent, which will see him rely on two solid midfielders. It is likely that James Milner, Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia will be the men to step up to the challenge. From a fantasy perspective, it is James Milner who catches the eye. Priced at just £6.1 million, he could be a good differential for those looking to part company with Reheem Sterling and is cheap Manchester City cover. However, as we go into the second half of the season, I am not certain that any of Yaya’s replacements will do enough fantasy wise to warrant inclusion in your midfield. Lescott will get more gametime, but again, not enough to warrant inclusion in your teams.

Newcastle United – 1 (Tiote)
Likely Impact – 7/10. With Newcastle devoid of so many superb players due to injury and Demba Ba joining Chelsea, the last thing Alan Pardew needed was to lose his dynamic midfield enforcer Cheick Tiote for up to 6 game weeks. Mind you, it could have been worse had Senegal qualified as Papiss Demba Cisse would also be trading the black and white for the plain white of Senegal. Nevertheless, the loss of Tiote at this time is a massive blow for Newcastle.
Possible Benefactors: With the club down to bare bones, it is hard to predict who will get game time in Tiote’s stead, but with injury doubts hanging over Perch, it looks like Vernon Anita looks set to deputize. Whoever it is, I would not expect them to garner many points and are therefore not a fantasy football option. Personally, I expect Newcastle’s defense to suffer without Tiote. He is superb at reading and breaking up attacks in the Newcastle half and I expect opposing teams to really test Krul and company over the coming weeks.

Queens Park Rangers – 1 (Diakite)
Likely Impact: 2/10 Harry Redknapp will be incredibly relieved that their talisman Adel Taarabt will not be going to the African Cup of Nations, but he will be without the services of Samba Diakite. It seems that Redknapp is still settling on his starting team, and Diakite has played 2 of the last 4 games. However, his absence will not have a major effect on his plans as has plenty of capable players to choose from.
Possibe Benefactors: We can only speculate as to who will get more game time as a result of Diakite’s absence, but it is doubtful that this player make much of a splash on fantasy radars! I expect Redknapp to turn to Shaun Derry who can be relied upon to give his best.

Southampton – 1 (Mayuka)
Likely Impact – 1/10. Mayuka has been a fringe player at best at the club and his absence is not likely to be felt.
Possible Benefactors – It is possible that Jay Rodriguez will see more game time, but with Rickie Lambert playing so well, it is hard to look past the Englishman up front. Given the incredible value offered by the likes of Nathaniel Clyne and Jason Puncheon in midfield, many managers will try to avoid having a third Saints player in their team.

Tottenham Hotspurs – 1 (Adebayor)
Likely Impact – 3/10. After a superb season last year (17 goals and 12 assists), it is hard to believe that we are looking at the same player this year. He seems to be devoid of confidence and is finding it difficult to keep his starting position.
Possible Benefactors – Andreas Villas Boas have recently stated that he sees Clint Dempsey purely as a striker, and I would expect that he will be given a chance to slot in alongside Jermaine Defoe in the Spurs attack. This front line, in tandem with Bale and Lennon on the wings, could be exactly what Tottenham need right now. It is fair to say that if this partnership flourishes, then Dempsey could solidify his starting place for the rest of the season and I expect the American to do everything in his power to do what is needed.

West Bromich Albion – 2 (Mulumbu, Odemwingie)
Likely Impact – 6/10 The loss of Mulumbu will be a blow to WBA. After being voted the club’s player of the year in 2011, he has played 90 minutes in all but three games this season. Not a major fantasy points scorer himself, he does a lot of hard work allowing his team to play solid attacking football. Peter Odemwingie isn’t playing as much as he would probably like, given the form of Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku, but he has been given more opportunities as of late, but with no goals or assists since late November, he is less of a blow than Mulumbu.
Possible Benefactors – It will be interesting to see how Steve Clarke manages without Mulumbu’s defensive qualities. In addition, both Yacob and Reid are both doubts for the upcoming gameweek 22 which leaves the team low on defensive-minded midfielders. James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans could all deputize, but I feel it will be Dorrans who will play in the absence of Mulumbu. Brunt has been played in this position before but did not fare well and Morrison’s skill set lends to more attacking play. Regarding the absence of Odemwingie, I feel that both Lukaku and Long will get more game time over the next month.

Wesh Ham United – 1 (Maiga)
Likely Impact – 2/10 Maiga is a decent player but is only used as a substitute towards the end of games. With Carlton Cole doing well and Vaz Te taking his opportunity, I cannot see West Ham missing Maiga too much. Remember, Andy Carroll is also due back and will probably take Cole’s place on his return.
Possible Benefactors – It is highly dependant on the return date of Andy Carroll. If Carroll returns soon, he will take Carlton Cole’s place alongside Kevin Nolan and Cole will play the last 20 minutes of most games. If his return is delayed, then I can see Vaz Te and Carlton Cole sharing a little more game time. Either way, I cannot see this affecting West Ham too much.

Wigan Athletic – 1 (Kone)
Likely Impact 6/10 – Arouna Kone has been nothing short of a revelation since joining from Levante for a fee of £3.5 million in the Summer of 2012. With 6 goals, 5 assists and 6 bonus points this season, he has settled very well into English football. With Wigan currently in the relegation zone, the last thing they would have wanted was to lose their targetman, but that is the position that they find themselves in. Franco DiSanto is struggling with form and it would seem that Wigan are facing a serious battle to claw their way out of their current predicament. They have Fulham, Stoke and Chelsea all away from home in their next five, and with McManaman and Boselli their only other strikers in the FPL game, it seems like they will be lucky to muster any attacking threat. But hope is not lost. Roberto Martinez has a final card to play in the form of an incredibly shrewd loan signing from Manchester United. Step forward 18-year-old Chilean forward Angelo Henriquez.
Possible Benefactors – It seems fitting that we end our report with Wigan, because in Angelo Henriquez, we may have unearthed a possible diamond and a player who could benefit the most from the ACON departures. He is being likened to Javier Hernandez given his pace and ability to steal a yard, and it seems that Martinez is certainly excited by his latest signing. Now there is no guarantee that he will start, but the signs are that he will. Martinez is a believer in giving youth a chance and Henriquez has the perfect platform to show Sir Alex Ferguson that he deserves a squad place for next season.

It seems that Manchester City, West Bromich Albion, Newcastle United and Wigan are the teams that could be most affected by the tournament. City struggled without the undeniable talents of Yaya Toure, but their fixtures over the next 6 games are pretty decent. It will be interesting to see how they fare, but I expect City to lose points in one of the games they are expected to win. I fear for Newcastle without Tiote – they have tricky fixtures over the next six and are still coming to terms with the sale of Demba Ba to Chelsea. West Brom will need to dig deep to overcome a very tough short-term schedule, but I think they have enough quality to deal with the loss of both players. Finally Wigan will gamble on an 18-year old looking to make a name for himself. Interesting times ahead for all.

From a fantasy perspective, I feel that Henriquez, Dempsey and Luiz will benefit the most, and should be monitered closely. Demba Ba, Oscar and James Milner.

The likes of Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted that, while other managers are lying in bed fretting who will fill the voids left in their team, he can enjoy the fruits of an unaffected squad. Perhaps with a glass of red. Because, given the effect that this tournament will have on his immediate rivals, red could be the colour of choice.

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