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Arsenal’s Egyptian defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny has been named in the Egypt squad for the 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be held in Gabon from January 14.
Elneny is heading for the Africa Cup of Nations on January 2, a day before the Gunners match against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth team, leaving the North London club slightly short in central midfield as Spain’s Santi Cazorla is currently out with injury. In an exclusive interview to Arsenal’s official website, the French manager said:
He’s going to the Africa Cup of Nations on January 2.
He will be in the squad against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day but after he will leave us to play for Egypt.
Seven-time AFCON champions Egypt are the continental competition’s most successful team having last won the cup in 2010. They begin theircampaign against Mali on January 17. They will next face Uganda on January 21 and conclude their group matches against Ghana on January 25.
The Africa Cup of Nations final will take place on February 5 which is a day after Arsenal’s Premier League game against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge. This London derby is an eventual do-or-die game for the Gunners with respect to the PL title race.
At the very least, Elneny will miss our Premier League games against Bournemouth, Swansea City & Burnley and our FA cup game against Preston North End.
Elneny has made 10 appearances in the Premier league this season, bagging one assist in the process and also featured in the 1-1 away draw against Manchester United. He also made five substitute appearances in the UEFA Champions League claiming one assist there as well and ultimately added some well needed depth in central midfield.
Arsenal will play Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace side on New Year’s Day and already have a lot of injury problems to worry about, with Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a few others missing from the squad as well.
However, with German center-back Shkodran Mustafi set to make a return after missing the last few games with a hamstring problem, it is a well needed boost for the squad.
The Emirates club are currently nine points adrift of League leaders Chelsea in the PL table and need to step up their game in order to make a significant impact in the title race.
Hence Elneny’s absence will be a loss for Wenger’s team as we head into the 2nd of the 2016-17 season, but without any further injuries we should just be fine.