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analysis of African Cup of Nations impact on Chelsea (long)


MannyJello

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We've been hearing it a lot lately, about how January is going to be tough for the club because we're losing some of our best players to the African Cup of Nations. But what kind of impact will we really face? Here's an analysis.

Who are we going to lose?

We've got 4 players on the squad who will definitely be gone -- Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana), Jon Obi Mikel (Nigeria) and Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast).

When are we going to lose them?

FIFA allows the international teams to call up players for the ACN starting on Sunday, January 6, 2008. January 6 through 19 will be for training and for warm-up friendlies. Group stage matches for the ACN run from Sunday, January 20 through Thursday, January 31; the quarterfinals will be held on February 3 and 4 (Sunday/Monday); the semifinals will be held on February 6 and 7 (Wednesday/Thursday); the consolation match on Saturday, February 9; and the final on Sunday, February 10.

What club matches will they miss?

Our holiday matches will end on Tuesday, January 1, after we play Fulham. That next weekend, on Saturday, January 5, we have our 3rd round FA Cup match against QPR, and that could the last match where we have a full squad. I'll assume for the sake of argument that we beat QPR and advance to the next round.

The following matches fall into the training/warm-up period, where unless a deal is struck with the international association, we will be without our African players:

Tuesday, Jan. 8 -- 1st leg vs. Everton -- Carling Cup -- Win 2:1

Monday, Jan. 14 -- vs. Tottenham -- Premiership -- Win 2:0

Saturday, Jan. 19 -- @ Birmingham -- Premiership -- Win 1:0

The following matches fall into the ACN group stage period, where we will certainly be without our African players:

Wednes., Jan. 23 -- 2nd leg vs. Everton -- Carling Cup -- Win 1:0

Saturday, Jan. 26 -- 4th round knockout @ Wigan -- FA Cup -- Win 2:1

Wednes., Jan. 30 -- vs. Reading -- Premiership -- Win 1:0

It might be technically possible for a country to release a player to return to the club if they are knocked out of contention after the first two group matches, so there is some hope of having one or more of our players back for the Reading match.

The following matches take place in the ACN knockout/finals period:

Saturday, Feb. 2 -- @ Portsmouth -- Premiership -- Draw 1:1

Saturday, Feb. 9 -- vs. Liverpool -- Premiership

The following matches take place AFTER the ACN has ended:

Saturday, Feb. 16 -- 5th round knockout vs. Huddersfield -- FA Cup

Tue/Wed, Feb. 19/20 -- Knockout 1st leg -- Champions League

Sunday, Feb. 24 -- Finals vs. Tottenham -- Carling Cup

What are the chances of Ghana/Ivory Coast/Nigeria advancing far into the ACN?

Unfortunately, the chances are pretty good that these teams will make the knockout stages of the tournament. Bookmakers currently list Ghana as the odds-on favorite of the tournament, with Ivory Coast third choice, and Nigeria fourth choice.

Ghana's four-team group includes Morocco (rated a decent team), Guinea (not very good), and Namibia (in shambles, their coach just quit the team before the start of the tourney).

Nigeria and Ivory Coast are in the same group, so odds are that both of them will advance, and it would be almost impossible for both not to advance, especially since their other two opponents are Mali (below average) and Benin (hopeless minnows).

As expected, Ivory Coast and Ghana sailed through, collecting all 9 points in their respective group stages. Nigeria ran into a spot of trouble but squeaked through on goal difference. The scenario we anticipated developed: all four of our players advanced.

(The other groups include Egpyt, Cameroon, Sudan and Zambia; and Tunisia, Senegal, South Africa and Angola.)

How about our opponents?

Manchester United have no African internationals on their squad at all. Neither do Manchester City.

Aresenal will be stung slightly, losing Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, although they are expected to return Djourou from Birmingham around the Christmas period to fill in for him and partner with Gallas.

Liverpool will be only impacted slightly, losing Mali's Mohamed Sissoko.

Pompey will be hit hardest, losing Papa Douba Diop, Sulley Muntari and John Utaka, three of their midfield regulars.

Here's a full list from the BBC:

ARSENAL

Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue (Ivory Coast), Alexandre Song (Cameroon)

BIRMINGHAM

Richard Kingson (Ghana), Mehdi Nafti and Radhi Jaidi (Tunisia)

BLACKBURN

Aaron Mokoena (South Africa)

BOLTON

El-Hadji Diouf (Senegal), Abdoulaye Meite (Ivory Coast)

CHELSEA

John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou (Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Ghana)

EVERTON

Joseph Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu (Nigeria), Steven Pienaar (South Africa)

LIVERPOOL

Nabil El-Zhar (Morocco), Muhammed Sissoko (Mali)

MIDDLESBROUGH

Mohamed Shawky and Mido (Egypt)

NEWCASTLE

Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Abdoulaye Faye and Habib Beye (Senegal)

PORTSMOUTH

Papa Bouba Diop (Senegal), Nw**kwo Kanu and John Utaka (Nigeria), Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Lauren (Cameroon)

READING

Andre Bikey (Cameroon), Emerse Fae (Ivory Coast), Ibrahima Sonko (Senegal)

SUNDERLAND

Dickson Etuhu (Nigeria)

TOTTENHAM

Hossam Ghaly (Egypt), Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast)

WEST HAM UNITED

John Pantsil (Ghana), Henri Camara (Senegal)

WIGAN

Salomon Olembe (Cameroon), Julius Aghahowa (Nigeria)

Derby County, Fulham, Manchester United, Manchester City and Wigan currently have no involvement in the African Nations Cup.

Bottom line

The bottom line is that the ACN will present significant challenges for the team, and make it very difficult for us to compete in multiple competitions at once.

Champions League

The good news is that our Champions League hopes will not be affected by the ACN, as we will not play a meaningful game in the CL until after our Africans have returned.

FA Cup

Also, our FA Cup hopes shouldn't be jolted too badly. As long as we survive one match against Wigan, normal service will be resumed.

And we survived quite nicely, and therefore normal service will be resumed when we take on Huddersfield

Carling Cup

Now that we are past Liverpool in the Carling Cup quarters, the semi-final home-and-home legs against Everton could be tricky. I can imagine that, pride aside, there is more than one Chelsea fan who wouldn't have been all that disappointed if we had let our Carling Cup hopes die in December.

But now that they have survived a tricky period, it is full on for us to appear in the Cup final once the squad is back up to full strength.

Premiership

The Premiership is where the big stumbling blocks await. Here are the 5 matches we face and our results in these matches since the 2003-04 campaign:

- vs. Spurs (W, W, D, W) - W in 2008

- @ Brum (-, D, -, D) - W in 2008

- vs. Reading (W, -, -, -) - W in 2008

- @ Pompey (W, W, W, W) - D in 2008

- vs. Liverpool (W, W, W, L)

Obviously, we've had great success in these fixtures, taking 11 wins, 3 draws, and only 1 loss in those 15 matches (36 points out of a possible 45). But again, these have been while playing with normal squads.

Questions To Be Answered

The key to our success during this time period will depend on the answers to these questions:

1. will our squad stay healthy during this crunch time? so far, par for the course (at least, par for what we have grown accustomed to the past 2 seasons)

2. will our African internationals avoid injury? so far, so good

3. will our current injured players come back strong (Ballack, Malouda, Cech, Carvalho)? so far, they are mostly doing better than expected

4. who will be purchase during the January transfer window? Anelka looks to be a good signing, and the jury is out on Ivanovic and di Santo. will we lose anyone? nope will we ask Scott Sinclair to contribute to the first team during the ACN period? who?

5. will our shadow players (Sidwell and Pizarro, especially) contribute? again, who?

6. will our disappointing players (Ballack, Shevchenko) take advantage of these opportunities? one yes, one no (so far)

Edited as of 7 February

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thats a great analysis and i think those questions you ask at the end are very significant. It all comes down to whether or not any of the remaining big guns get injured. A loss of Lampard and Terry for instance would be devastating in that period, but if they stay fit then they are all (cup matches aside) very winnable games.

If somewhere near maximum league points can be taken during this time and players come back unharmed, a title assault is definately a strong posibility.

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It might be worth Roman having a word with the Irish FA.

If they can swing a passport and a green shirt for the likes of Townsend, Cascarino and Clinton Morrison they must be able to help us out with the Drogs?

Surely he must have some Irish relatives somewhere? A long-lost nan? A 2nd cousin twice removed?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Excellent post Jello Man (makes you sound like a lardy porn star which I grant you has its good and bad points)

This usually brings about the discussion about whether the ACN should be moved to avoid the conflict with the European leagues but so far it hasn't happened (Barak must have missed this thread icon_wink.gif )

A part of me thinks it should and that it should be embraced by the African countries as it can only benefit their nations to get as many of their players playing in the 'big leagues' as possible however another part of me totally recognises the fact that the tournament is staged when it is for climate reasons and that clubs who are unhappy about it sholdn't sign these players in the first place.

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it's really a rock and hard place thing, isn't it Loz? if African countries want to promote their players to big-time clubs for all the obvious reasons (money, noteriety, increased skill translating to better national team success, etc.), they maybe should cater to the European leagues and play the ACN another time of year. but if they do it over the summers, odds are higher that many of the players would beg off, and there is certainly the weather factor. moreover, if they told the Euro league clubs to either take it or leave it -- you know what you are getting yourself up for when you sign a Didier Drogba or a Michael Essien -- does that deflate the market for those players? certainly does make you factor their African status into the equation when you are a club considering a new signing...

(lardy porn star -- eat anything you want, and get paid to lay pipe all day? sign me up!)

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the analysis has been updated to reflect (a) Kalou's call-up to the ACN squad (assumed anyway), (:DrInK: the QPR draw in the FA Cup, © our victory over Liverpool in the Carling Cup, (d) the draw against Everton and the semi-final CC matches against them, and (e) the rescheduled league match against Birmingham to accommodate the CC semi-final second leg.

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Really great post, thank you. I know that I for one have been fairly unclear on which players we're losing and potentially for how long, and it's nice to see a list of which games they're likely to miss too.

I think with sufficient cover we should be okay, in central midfield I'm sure that Lampard, Sidwell, Maka and Ballack will do a great job, but I'm a bit concerned about up front - we need at least one other striker to play as a sub at least, unless Grant is planning on playing Cole or someone as a striker should Sheva/Pizarro get injured?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Funny - since the African's have gone we've been playing the best football for ages (we did have Mikel for part of the Everton game though). I'm actually starting to believe the new Chelsea/Grant mantra of Chelsea "playing good football."

I hope we can keep up the pace as with Essien, Mikel and Drogba back we could be awesome. I must say although I think Essien is brilliant he hasn't looked his best this season (as well as Lampard).

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