Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has refused to use his players' participation at the African Cup of Nations as an excuse.
The in-form Gunners have built up a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, and the loss of players in the title run-in will not help.
Arsenal will be without Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song for up to nine games, starting with the Carling Cup semi-final against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger told the club's official website: "I won't use it as an excuse because I've known since the start of the season. If the players were injured I wouldn't complain."
However, Wenger believes it could have been much worse, as Chelsea have lost four key players to the biennial competition. He is also able to call on the services of Emmanuel Adebayor after Togo failed to qualify for the tournament.
Famous for finding stars in all corners of the world, Wenger remains undeterred: "It won't put me off but when you buy them (African players), you have to consider how many to go for," he added.