African Cup of Nations Influence
One issue that has been largely overlooked about Aston Villa’s transfers from the last summer window was the implications of the club signing three African international players. Jordan Ayew of Ghana, Idrissa Gueye of Senegal (although, he’s no longer a worry!) and also Rudy Gestede, who has broken back into the Benin national team.
Implications? Well, it wasn’t much of an issue last season, but January 2017 sees the African Cup of Nations take place in Gabon between 14th January and 5 February. Any player away representing their country will obviously miss their respective club games during this period.
Considering Villa will lose two of it’s strikers to the tournament, getting a new striker in before the August window closes could be vital in terms of their promotion challenge.
Villa currently have five matches scheduled during the time the African Cup of Nations is on:
Jan 14th – Wolves (a)
Jan 21st – Preston (h)
Jan 28th – Bristol City (h)
Jan 31st – Brentford (a)
Feb 4th – Notts Forest (a)
Then of course, there are the potential additional FA Cup games Villa may face, depending on progress.
Villa have been fairly untroubled in recent years as a consequence of the African Nations tournament, but this year could be different, if the following players stay on at Villa and become key to Roberto Di Matteo’s promotion push.
Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
According to Tony Xia’s recent tweet, Villa currently are intent on keeping Jordan Ayew, although a recently reported £8 million bid from Bundesliga outfit Hamburg will test their resolve. If he stays, Ayew will likely to miss at least two weeks of January, with Ghana having already qualified in style and fancied to do well in the tournament proper.
Rudy Gestede (Benin)
Despite being ranked 33rd in Africa, Gestede’s Benin are in pole position to qualify as one of the two best runners-up in the qualifying groups. They will perhaps need something from their remaining game against group leaders Mali, who they previously drew with. Mali have already qualified for Gabon, so the Squirrels may be able to take advantage of their group rivals more relaxed attitude going into the final game.
The main question at the moment is whether Gestede will make the African Nations squad, if Benin qualify. He may have to impress at the start of the season for Villa to make the trip in January.
With the upcoming season being such a key season, the African Cup of Nations must play in Di Matteo’s thinking when buying a player. Of course, it won’t rule someone out, but if it’s a choice between two players and one may miss up to five games, it must be factored in.
For example, Villa have been linked with Bristol City striker Jonathan Kodjia, who potentially could be in the Ivory Coast squad, with the Elephants just needing a draw in their final qualifying match against Sierra Leone to secure qualification for the tournament in January.
Whether Villa keep Ayew or sign Kodjia, with Gestede potentially join them in the African Cup of Nations in January, it could mean Villa having to rely on Gabby Agbonlahor to lead the line for Villa, come the start of the new year.
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