With all the coverage of Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony heading to the African Nations Cup, it might surprise you to hear it’s not Manchester City who are set to suffer most over the next few weeks.
Here are five teams who may need to find some creative solutions to fill some voids in their coming matches.
The Magpies have scored a goal every 53 minutes with their Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse on the pitch, but without him that figure rises to 112 minutes, so his absence poses a problem to caretaker-manager John Carver. He has scored more equalisers – five – than any other Premier League player, while his nine goals and three assists mean he has contributed to 48% of his side’s league strikes.
At least Newcastle can take consolation from the fact their opponents tomorrow have also been seriously weakened by the timing of the Nations Cup. Cisse’s compatriot, Sadio Mane, has scored four times for Saints this season and all of those goals have given his team the lead.
3. Crystal Palace
It’s not just the African Nations Cup that teams have to factor in – the Asian Cup is also draining Premier League talent in January. Southampton have three players absent in total – more than any other Premier League team – but Palace’s two absentees will arguably be more greatly missed. Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo) and Mile Jedinak (Australia) have contributed either by scoring or assisting to a combined 11 goals, half of Palace’s league tally this season. No wonder new boss Alan Pardew believes he has some January business to do.
The Foxes, like Palace, are missing two first-team regulars – Jeff Schlupp (Ghana) and Riyad Mahrez (Algeria). They’ve played a combined 33 games (compared to the Palace pair’s 28). Given the Foxes are struggling anyway, and these two have contributed to nine goals (45% of Leicester’s tally), there could be trouble ahead for Nigel Pearson.
5. Manchester City
We’ll put aside Bony, given his entire contribution was for Swansea and not his new club, but in Toure City are certainly missing something that no other player provides them. Toure is their second top scorer and the only City player to have struck more than one goal from outside the box this season – he’s bagged three – so Manuel Pellegrini will need to find another way to add that extra dimension to his side. It becomes ever clearer why he was so keen for Frank Lampard to stay.