Africa Cup of Nations' effect on EPL

The absence of Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers could alter the title chase

Originally Published: January 12, 2012
By Albert Larcada | ESPN Insider
Yaya ToureMike Hewitt/Getty ImagesManchester City has plenty of world-class players, but Yaya Toure is among the most crucial to its success.

On Jan. 2, Africa will begin the 28th edition of its continental championship. While the tournament itself is a big deal, the affect it will have on major European leagues may be an even bigger story. The English Premier League in particular is full of some of Africa's biggest stars who now will miss crucial time for their clubs. Overall, 12 players from six teams in the EPL will be affected by the Africa Cup of Nations, with much of the damage hurting the league's best squads. Here is a look at a few of the key players who will be out of action for the next several weeks.

Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

Arguably, the biggest name taking his talents south is Drogba. The Ivorian has been active when on the pitch this season for the Blues. He is second on the team with 41 shot attempts, though only 11 have been on target and only two have beaten the keeper (not including one penalty goal).

Fernando Torres will be asked to pick up a lot of the minutes left behind by Drogba. This may not be such a good thing from Chelsea's perspective. While Torres' personal goal-scoring drought(s) have been documented since he left Liverpool early in 2011, Chelsea as a team also struggles to score with Torres on the field. Since his first EPL match for the Blues on Feb. 6, Chelsea has scored 1.3 goals per 90 minutes with Torres on the field, the second-lowest rate of Chelsea players who have played 1,000 minutes during that time. And even worse, the lowest rate is when Florent Malouda -- another attacker who will take Drogba's minutes -- is on the pitch. Drogba has the fourth-best rate among the 16 most used players.

Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.