Major blow for Arsenal and Unai Emery as Nigeria reach Africa Cup of Nations semi-final

Arsenal coach Unai Emery would have been watching Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations quarter-final against South Africa last night (Wednesday) with mixed feelings about the result.

On one hand seeing Alex Iwobi provide what turned out to be a crucial assist was a good thing.

However, it also means the attacking midfielder won’t be reporting back for pre-season training any time soon as the Super Eagles have a semi-final date to contend with.

Iwobi certainly won’t feature in the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, but his involvement in Arsenal’s opening Premier League game of the new campaign against Newcastle United is in further doubt.

If Nigeria reach the AFCON final which is on July 19, that gives him three weeks to have a holiday and get ready for the new season.

However,  understands that Arsenal intend to give all of their players who have been on international duty this summer three weeks off.

This would result in Iwobi facing a major race to be available for the opener away to Newcastle on August 11.

With six goals and nine assists to his name across all competitions last season, there’s hope that the attacking midfielder can build on that in the upcoming campaign.

Iwobi was a regular during Emery’s first season at the club, often competing with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey for one of the attacking slots behind Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Whilst Iwobi was in Egypt celebrating a win for his national side, some of his club teammates were back at London Colney for pre-season training.

Among those included Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, forgotten midfielder Kelechi Nwakali, summer signing Gabriel Martinelli, Calum Chambers, Carl Jenkinson, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles among others.

Emery’s squad will fly to Los Angeles today (Thursday) to begin an American tour that will also see them play games in Denver, Charlotte and Washington.

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