With Egypt’s AFCON qualifier win against Togo during the international break, the fourth by an Arsenal’s player’s country this week, there could be trouble up ahead.
In isolation, of course I’m happy to see Arsenal players performing well with their countries. It was nice to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring for Gabon this week, and Nicolas Pepe getting a start in a win for the Ivory Coast.
But with Mohamed Elneny and Egypt also winning, whilst Ghana eased past Sudan without Thomas Partey this week, I’m starting to see a problem on the horizon.
As it stands – with half of the group stage left to play – Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Egypt will all qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations. They’ll take Partey, Pepe, Aubameyang, and Elneny with them to the tournament, set for January-February 2022.
That sounds like a while away, but it’s not. It’s next season. We have one summer window to prepare for the potential loss of four first-team players at once.
Not just any four players either. Three of them are in the club’s top-four most expensive acquisitions of all time. One is the club captain and was our top goalscorer last season.
Arsenal already have problems to deal with in the team, but now they need to ensure they end the next summer window with an extra striker and midfielder at the very least. Arguably at least two midfielders, given they already needed another.
The situation out wide is a little less problematic, with the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, and Bukayo Saka hopefully all ready to step up alongside Willian. But Pepe is currently Arsenal’s top contributor to goals this season, so he’ll still be missed.
There’s no cause for panic at this stage, but it’s a problem we can’t just dismiss and ignore until it’s too late.