AFCON Premier League stars’ season so far
With AFCON taking a who host of Premier League stars away for the next few weeks to represent their nation, there are certainly some players that many will look forward to watching.
There are some sides who have to relinquish their players for international duty, during a key point of the season. There are so many names to think of that I wanted to look at the best possible eleven you could form from the Premier League players who have been called up.
Premier League based players are taking a step away from their Premier League clubs for a while and you would think during their time in their respective international camps they will be reflective on their performances or their contribution towards their club’s performances so far this season.
The teams have been selected with one team made up of players coming into AFCON in form and ready to use their Premier League momentum in their international displays whilst there are some names who will just make the bench for one reason or another.
Edouard Mendy– Senegal & Chelsea
There was no doubt as to who was going to be in goal for this team. Mendy since his arrival at Chelsea has been amongst the best goalkeepers in the world. Although he is the only goalkeeper from a Premier League club currently at AFCON, he was always going to be the stopper in this team. Senegal fans will favour their chances with Mendy in goal.
Maxwel Cornet- Ivory Coast & Burnley
At Left Back is Burnley forward Maxwel Cornet. He’s played here before for his previous club Olympique Lyonnais so I don’t think this will be too much of an issue for him. He’s taken to life in the Premier League with seemingly ease. Currently Burnley’s top goal scorer and unfortunately for them his international duty comes when they’re looking to fight relegation.
Cheikhou Kouyate– Senegal & Crystal Palace
Another player who won’t mind playing out of his normal position is Crystal Palace midfielder Kouyate. Patrick Vieira has received a lot of plaudits for his work into turning Palace more progressive and one of the key figures allowing his midfield partner Conor Gallagher to flourish. Vieira has been able to rely on Kouyate who’s put up some impressive midfield performances.
Romain Saiss- Morocco & Wolverhampton Wanderers
A stalwart in the heart of Wolves’ 3-man defence. Striking up a partnership with Max Kilman and Conor Coady to form a defence that at the time of writing statistically is only behind league leaders Manchester City. Romain Saiss is playing a big part in Wolves’ positive start to the season.
Daniel Amartey- Ghana & Leicester City
Despite the struggles of Leicester City this season through injury or form they have been able to rely on Daniel Amartey who has managed to put up good displays in more than one position throughout the campaign so far. Amartey a midfielder by trade has slotted effortlessly into the heart of Leicester’s defence at times.
Yves Bissouma- Mali & Brighton Hove and Albion
For the past couple of seasons Yves Bissouma has raised the profile and attracted the attention of some big clubs in the Premier League. An all action midfielder who has helped continue his good form from the last couple of seasons and been important to Brighton’s good start. A solid AFCON showing could mean Brighton will have to start to prepare for life without him.
Thomas Partey- Ghana & Arsenal
Arsenal are serious contenders to get back into the UEFA Champions League and whilst the plaudits have been for the young gunners in attack, there has been one ever present player in midfield. Thomas Partey has managed to stay fit for a significant spell and he seems to be the one who stays when the midfield partner keeps changing. There is in my opinion a strong correlation between Arsenal’s trajectory and Partey’s presence.
Riyad Mahrez- Algeria & Manchester City
Riyad Mahrez has produced some stellar displays not only in the Premier League but also in the Champions League. City’s team is like a machine n matter who you put in they will deliver especially in those forward areas. The healthy competition for places hasn’t stopped Mahrez from contributing significantly.
Said Benrahma- Algeria & West Ham United
It’s fair to say last season was an adjusting period and Said Benrahma could be afforded that time as West Ham United produced a stellar season. This campaign has very much continued from last but this time Said is very much involved and one of West Ham’s main creative outlets chipping in with a decent amount of goal and assists.
Mo Salah- Egypt & Liverpool
You almost run out of Superlatives for Mo Salah. Reaching 23 goals in all competitions and its only January is just testament to his hunger and desire to stay on top for his club and prove that he is one of the best in the world. Liverpool may be behind in the Premier League race but I don’t think anyone is counting them out just yet when Liverpool have a forward as prolific as Mo Salah.
Kelechi Iheanacho- Nigeria & Leicester City
It’s not easy playing second fiddle at time to Jamie Vardy. This season very few Leicester City players can hold their head up with their form but one who can be Kelechi Iheanacho who is turning into one of Leicester’s more creative outlets beside Tielemans and Maddison. He probably would want a higher goal return at this stage of the season but he is proving to be something different to the other strikers Leicester have.
Eric Bailly- Ivory Coast & Manchester United
Eric Bailly makes the bench simply because he hasn’t played enough for Manchester United which isn’t his fault. However, when he does play he leaves many Manchester United fans wondering why he doesn’t get a more consistent run in the team. He can, not play for a whole month and then put in a defensive masterclass. In a United defence that has looked in disarray at times he needs more minutes and AFCON could be perfect for that.
Willy Boly- Ivory Coast & Wolverhampton Wanderers
Willy Boly has only managed to feature once for Wolves this season in the EFL Cup. As previously mentioned Wolves have managed to establish a reliable back 3 and unfortunately, he doesn’t fit into it at the moment. Perhaps, some time away with the National side, who are one of the tournament favourites, will give him something to show Bruno Lage for the second half of the season.
Mohamed Elneny– Egypt & Arsenal
The Egyptian is very much on the fringes of the Arsenal squad. He has come in at times for Arsenal this season but hasn’t really pulled up trees enough to be a main stay in the engine room for Arsenal. A move away seems inevitable and with him being one of the key players for the Egyptian national team, AFCON presents an opportunity for him to attract possible suitors either in the January window or the summer.
Wilfred Zaha- Ivory Coast & Crystal Palace
Wilfred Zaha is undoubtedly an important player for Crystal Palace and still is a main part under new boss Vieira. The palace side seem to be less reliant with other individuals able to put up the numbers and moments of magic Palace have needed at times. He is still contributing to the Palace side but I think it’s fair to say you’re more likely to notice him when he doesn’t agree with a refereeing decision.
Sadio Mane- Senegal & Liverpool
Senegal star Sadio Mane has seen his attacking output drop off slightly from what we are usually used to. It seems someone in that Liverpool front 3 has to fall short in number of goal and assists. For a couple of seasons, it was Roberto Firmino but since Diogo Jota has become a member of that starting front 3, its now Mane who falls behind in the goal scoring. Diogo Jota this season has been the secondary source of goals after Salah.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- Gabon & Arsenal
The problems of former Arsenal Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been well documented. The Gabonese forward has struggled to find that consistent goal scoring form for Arsenal for a while now and it has now been compounded with a series of disciplinary breaches that has led to him losing the captaincy and his starting role in the side.
Aubameyang may need this time at AFCON to attract a potential new club as an exit is just as likely as a return to the Arsenal starting eleven.