The Africa Cup of Nations tournament is a go, and as a result, a number of Premier League players will be obligated to depart their club squads for the duration of their country's stay in the 2022 competition played in Cameroon.
The tournament was originally scheduled for the summer of 2021, but it was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were fears that it could be cancelled outright due to the rise in cases stemming from the Omicron variant, but the determination was ultimately made to move forward with the tournament.
AFCON 2021 will take place from January 9 to February 6, meaning players can miss up to a month of club soccer, plus any additional rest required following their stay in the competition. The tournament will be hosted in Cameroon, with six venues across five cities scheduled to hold matches.
Here are all the details on players departing the Premier League and what matches they could miss.
When do Premier League players leave for AFCON?
Clubs are not obligated to release players competing in the Africa Cup of Nations until January 3, meaning players were available for Premier League matches on New Year's weekend on Jan. 1-3, during which 16 of the 20 Premier League clubs had scheduled matches.
The first match of the AFCON competition takes place on January 9 between hosts Cameroon and Burkina Faso, with Ethiopia and Cape Verde also playing on opening day. The schedule then calls for three to four group stage matches held each day. The Round of 16 kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 23.
Players will return to their clubs once their country is eliminated, so the players will trickle back into Premier League action as the month progresses, with those players reaching the final seeing the longest absences.
Which Premier League players are leaving for AFCON?
A total of 16 of 20 Premier League clubs will experience a thinner squad for the coming month as players depart to compete in AFCON. Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Norwich City are the only four teams that will not be impacted.
After the 38 Premier League players were released, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Watford will be the hardest hit, all losing four players each, though Watford is refusing to release Ismaila Sarr. The Foxes seem to be the club with the most to lose, already very thin due to recent injury troubles. Arsenal will see a number of starters or critical squad players depart, while Liverpool will lose a pair of star attacking players.
Here is the full list of players leaving Premier League clubs after being called up for the tournament:
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
- Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
- Thomas Partey (Ghana)
- Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)
- Marvelous Nakamba (Zimbabwe)
- Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)
- Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt)
- Tarique Fosu-Henry (Ghana)
- Julian Jeanvier (Guinea)
- Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)
- Yves Bissouma (Mali)
- Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)
- Edouard Mendy (Senegal)
Hakim Ziyech is a regular member of the Morocco side but he was left out of the AFCON squad due to a rift with the national team head coach.
- Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
- Chiekhou Kouyate (Senegal)
- Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)
- Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)
- Jean-Phillippe Gbamin (Ivory Coast)
- Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
- Daniel Amartey (Ghana)
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria)
- Nampalys Mendy (Senegal)
- Wilfried Ndidi (Nigeria)
- Naby Keita (Guinea)
- Sadio Mane (Senegal)
- Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
- Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
- Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
- Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)
- Moussa Djenepo (Mali)
- Mohammed Salisu (Ghana)
- Peter Etebo (Nigeria)
- Adam Masina (Morocco)
- Ismaila Sarr* (Senegal)
- William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria)
Emmanuel Dennis was called into the Nigeria squad, but will not participate after the national team missed a deadline for informing Watford of his inclusion.
*There also seems to be a tug-of-war brewing between club and country over Ismaila Sarr. The Senegalese federation has issued a statement revealing that Watford will not be releasing Sarr for the competition.
- Said Benrahma (Algeria)
- Willy Boly (Ivory Coast)
- Romain Saiss (Morocco)
Premier League AFCON player call-ups by nation
Ivory Coast will have the most Premier League players on the squad than any other nation with seven. Ghana and Nigeria will have six EPL players each.
- Said Benrahma (West Ham)
- Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
Burkina Faso (1):
- Bertrand Traore (Aston Villa)
- Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)
- Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
- Mahmoud Trezeguet (Aston Villa)
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
- Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)
- Daniel Amartey (Leicester City)
- Tarique Fosu-Henry (Brentford)
- Thomas Partey (Arsenal)
- Mohammed Salisu (Southampton)
- Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace)
- Julian Jeanvier (Brentford)
- Naby Keita (Liverpool)
Ivory Coast (7):
- Eric Bailly (Manchester United)
- Willy Boly (Wolves)
- Maxwel Cornet (Burnley)
- Amad Diallo (Manchester United)
- Jean-Phillippe Gbamin (Everton)
- Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
- Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
- Yves Bissouma (Brighton)
- Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)
- Adam Masina (Watford)
- Romain Saiss (Wolves)
- Peter Etebo (Watford)
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
- Alex Iwobi (Everton)
- Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester City)
- Frank Onyeka (Brentford)
- William Troost-Ekong (Watford)
- Chiekhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace)
- Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
- Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
- Nampalys Mendy (Leicester City)
- Ismaila Sarr* (Watford)
*Senegal has revealed that Watford has opted not to release Ismaila Sarr despite being required to based on FIFA rules.
- Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa)