LONDON (Reuters) - The African Nations Cup is taking place in tropical Ghana but the impact of the tournament will be felt in the cooler climes of Britain as a host of big name Premier League players head off to the sun.
Two of the three main title contenders, leaders Arsenal and chasing Chelsea will suffer and the end of the tournament, which runs from January 20 to February 10, cannot come quick enough for their respective managers.
Arsenal’s defensive rock Kolo Toure and full-back Emmanuel Eboue played their final league game on Tuesday before joining Ivory Coast while Alexandre Song is in the Cameroon squad.
Chelsea, already nursing a long injury list, will have to do without Ivorian duo Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba and Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, while the loss of midfielder Michael Essien to Ghana will hit them hardest.
Avram Grant is likely to make some moves in the January transfer window with Bolton Wanderers striker Nicolas Anelka reported to be a target for the London club.
“We are following players, but we don’t want to bring in players ...just for two months, we are looking for more than that,” Grant said on Chelsea’s Web site (www.chelseafc.com).
“The media will link us to 2000 players.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he is confident of coping with the loss of his African contingent, although he is probably relieved that striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s Togo failed to qualify.
“We will not go into the transfer market even though we are losing two centre backs,” Wenger told the BBC, although he admitted the added loss of Song was a blow. “I only found that out yesterday so that’s bad news.”
Manchester United have got off lightly and will hope that both Chelsea and Arsenal will suffer as a result of their absentees.
Further down the table the worst effected club is Portsmouth, who will be missing five players as they continue their quest for a UEFA Cup place.
Manager Harry Redknapp is unlikely to remain inactive in the transfer market as he seeks to counter the loss of players such as Ghana’s Sulley Muntari and Nigeria’s John Utaka.
Everton, who are also challenging for Europe, will be hit hard with Joseph Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu both representing Nigeria and Steven Pienaar in action for South Africa.
Of the 20 Premier League sides, only four escape completely. Aston Villa, Manchester City, Derby County and Fulham have no representatives travelling to Ghana.
Writing by Martyn Herman; editing by Greg Stutchbury