By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger will not blame the African Cup of Nations if Arsenal fail in their bid to win the Premier League title.
Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song have left for the tournament in Ghana and could miss as many as nine Arsenal matches, starting with tonight's Carling Cup Semi-Final first leg against Tottenham at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal's predicament could be worse - Chelsea and Portsmouth lose four players each - but it could be much better - Manchester United are not affected at all. Nonetheless, Wenger insists that the disruption of the African tournament is no excuse for failure.
"I believe it will be Chelsea who suffers the most though on the other hand they can buy more than anyone else to correct that," said Wenger. "But losing [John Obi] Mikel, [Michael] Essien, [Didier] Drogba and [Soloman] Kalou, that's four main players. Nobody else loses that many.
"We are just behind Chelsea and Portsmouth. But I won't use it as an excuse if we don't win the title because I've known who we will lose since the start of the season. If the players were injured, I wouldn't complain."
Wenger has tapped into a new generation of African talent in recent years and will be relieved that Emmanuel Adebayor's country, Togo, did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations.
The Frenchman would prefer the Cup of Nations to take place at the same time as the European Championships but, despite its present place on the football calendar, Wenger will still consider more African signings.
"It won't put me off but when you do buy them [African players], you have to consider how many to go for," he said.
"If you lose four or five games at that time you can't win the championship so you have to consider the balance. You can afford to lose two maybe but not five. It's certainly a problem you have to consider."Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 9 Jan 2008