Arsenal are set to lose three or more players in the middle of next season after their countries qualified for the next Africa Cup of Nations this week.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Gabon (Photo via Federation Gabonaise de Football on Facebook)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Gabon (Photo via Federation Gabonaise de Football on Facebook)

Egypt, Ghana, and Gabon were all in action on Thursday, with each knowing they could secure qualification to next January’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

For Egypt and Ghana, they only needed draws against Kenya and South Africa respectively to qualify. Both were leading at the hour mark, but they each suffered late scares after conceding in the 65th minute. Fortunately for them, they held on for 1-1.

Neither Mohamed Elneny nor Thomas Partey featured in the two matches. Elneny was on the bench, whilst Partey was ineligible for the match as Arsenal didn’t want him travelling to ‘red list’ Covid country South Africa.

Meanwhile, Gabon needed a win, and they had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starting to help them achieve it. The Arsenal captain scored one and assisted one in a 3-0 victory over D.R. Congo.

The result is that all three countries will take part in the AFCON tournament in Cameroon between January and February 2022.

It’s not confirmed just yet, but Ivory Coast are likely to join them. They only need a win over bottom-placed Niger on Friday (26th March) to ensure qualification a game early.

That would mean Arsenal losing Nicolas Pepe, Aubameyang, Partey, and Elneny for up to a month in the middle of next season. They all get called up every break without fail, so it would be a huge surprise to see their countries exclude them.

Right now, Arsenal have alternatives up front (Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli) and alternatives out wide (Bukayo Saka, Willian, Gabriel Martinelli again). But they’ll find themselves stretched in midfield if they don’t make signings.

If Dani Ceballos doesn’t join permanently, the only deeper midfielders left next January would be Granit Xhaka and possibly some of the current loanees – like Lucas Torreira or Matteo Guendouzi, if they stay.

So if Arsenal weren’t already planning to sign a midfielder or two this summer, they need to now.