Last year we had the drama surrounding Didier Drogba's participation in the African Cup of Nations. Or African Nations Cup. Whatever it was called. This year, Asia takes it's top teams to Qatar in January 2011, and it will have an impact on the Premier League.
Park Ji-Sung is already with South Korea, and Lee Chung-Yong will join him. Otherwise, it's Australia who will take the biggest batch of players including club stars Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton, and back-ups Brad Jones, and David Carney.
So what does this mean for fantasy managers? I think it means:
1) Stockdale becomes a viable option in goal for Fulham. Assuming Schwarzer's last game is against Spurs this weekend (I'm not 100% on that, but Cahill's last match is Stoke) then Stockdale at under 6 gets you matches against West Brom, at Wigan, and Stoke, before ending the month at Liverpool. I'm not sure we know who the real Fulham are right now, but those matches are comparable to the likes of Reina and Green who are around the same price.
2) Everton's attack is going to get even more anemic. Yesterday against West Ham, Cahill was Everton's lone forward and most incisive player. Arteta still looks lost and Pienaar has one trick where he runs with the ball into a blind alley. Moyes is going to have to hope that Anichebe, the only striker he seems to want to play, wants to play for Everton.
3) We could see the return of Martin Petrov to the right of the Bolton midfield. With Lee gone, presumably we'll see MPet and MTay on the flanks. I'm not sure either are worth their current pricing, but with a home match against Wigan upcoming it may be worth a look.
4) Sir Alex needs Nani back (as does my fantasy team). With Park gone and Obertan/Bebe not ready for prime time, Manchester United need Nani to provide that little bit of special that they lack elsewhere in the squad. Otherwise, as we saw yesterday, they'll labor against teams like Birmingham.
All this may get overshadowed by the upcoming transfer window. However, I wanted to put out this food for thought before that happened, and before Neal takes over the blog with his "hot stove" gossip mongering.