Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been handed an unwanted selection concern for next season following the latest round of international fixtures.
The Gunners boss would have been happy to see his under-fire striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the scoresheet for Gabon as they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over DR Congo in Franceville.
What Arteta will be less pleased about however is the fact the result means Gabon, and most likely Aubameyang, will now be competing in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations which takes place in January and February 2022.
This means, depending on how far Gabon go in the tournament, Arteta could be without his star man for up to a month or perhaps longer depending on quarantine rules at the time.
As well as Aubameyang, Arteta could well also be missing midfielder Thomas Partey following Ghana’s qualification for the tournament, as well as possibly Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny after the Pharaohs also confirmed their place.
Things could get even worse for Arsenal with Nicolas Pepe also set to participate, should Ivory Coast win their final qualifier against Ethiopia.
The tournament, taking place in Cameroon from January 6, was initially scheduled for the summer months of 2021, in line with the European football calendar.
However, due to the weather in the country at that time of year, the Confederation of African Football announced in 2020 that they would bring the tournament forward to January of the following year.
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“We have reviewed the period of the competition as requested by the Cameroonian party due to unfavourable climatic conditions during the period initially slated,” said Caf’s deputy general secretary Tony Baffoe.
“After listening to the various arguments and viewpoints, and in particular from the Cameroonian meteorological authorities, the coaches and players; the representatives of the Afcon organising committee, which received the mandate from Caf Executive Committee to take the decision, has granted this request.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to play qualifying fixtures, the tournament was delayed by a year, leading to its revised 2022 date.