We’ve so far witnessed two match weeks in the English Premier League this season, and African players have played a huge part of the action.
From scoring goals – including match winners – to making assists, and leading from the front, to lining up defensively or coming off the bench for their respective sides.
Five of the 23 goals in the opening week’s set of matches were scored by African players. And 17 African players featured in the just concluded match week two, accounting for three of the 44 goals scored.
But, with only 18 matches played in total, some of the African contingent have no doubt made early statements of intent.
With some displays already grabbing headlines…
News Central sports looks at a few of the them who have shone brightly for the continent.
Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal):
After starting both games for Liverpool – their 4-3 win against Leeds United – and twice finding the back of the net against Chelsea at Stamford bridge. Sadio Mane looks to have picked up from where he left off last season, playing a huge part to end Liverpool’s 30-year-wait to bring the title to Anfield, albeit in a season delayed by a pandemic.
The reigning African Footballer of the year caused problems for Chelsea’s back line at the weekend, forcing a red card on Andreas Christensen after the Blues defender wrestled him down to reduce Frank Lampard’s side to 10 men. He also showed determination and quick reaction to score his second at the bridge, following a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
If Liverpool are to retain their title, Mane is sure to be front and centre of things, alongside his other African teammates.
One of whom is…
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt):
Salah opened his account with a hat-trick against Leeds – the first to be registered this season, and the Egyptian has so far, as always, looked nothing short of dangerous for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Salah’s electric presence and goals have been crucial for Liverpool since he joined them in the summer of 2017, helping them to both a domestic title and European glory in the Champions League in 2019. And many of their fans, especially those in Africa, will hope the goals keep coming and in double figures this season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal and Gabon):
The Arsenal captain got on the score sheet in their opening game of the season against Fulham on 12 September which the Gunners won 3-0, before putting pen to paper three days later on a new contract to keep him at the Emirates Stadium – a priority accomplished for manager Mikel Arteta after the Gabonese striker’s exploits in the Gunners FA final and Community Shield trophy-winning victories.
Aubameyang has already started repaying that confidence back, providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s opener at home against West Ham in their second game at the weekend. And should Arsenal have a crack at a title challenge this season, Aubameyang will be the obvious target man.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast):
It took only 13 minutes for the Ivorian to grab a winner for Palace against Southampton on match day 1, before scoring a second-half brace at Old Trafford against his former club Manchester United. Zaha’s future has been the subject of lots of speculation in recent years, having been linked to moves away from the club and the 27-year-old has never been one to be shy about his intentions.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson will be hoping to keep Zaha at Selhurts Park by the close of the transfer window on 5 October, but with such match-wining displays, a move, though hard to see based on his current high market value – especially in a pandemic – might not be entirely ruled out for an eager talisman like Zaha.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City and Nigeria):
Not one known for scoring many goals, Ndidi helped Leicester City keep a clean sheet in their 3-0 win at newly promoted West Brom on the opening weekend, whilst starting in the centre of a defensive back-four set-up for the Foxes. He also had the same placement in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Burnley at the King Power Stadium.
But a position his manager Brendan Rodgers explained is temporary: “Wilf is a player that I have real confidence in,” said Rodgers. “He played the position [centre-back] very well and he has the attributes to play there. We don’t want him there for a long period of time.”
Ndidi’s tackling ability and pressing in midfield may not have been entirely missed, but likely to be in more demand as a main stay for Leicester City and whatever their ambitions for the season might be.
Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace and Ghana):
Schlupp has looked good on the left flank both wins for Palace, and he provided the assist for Andros Townsend’s opener at Old Trafford. Schlupp’s contributions to the Palace attack has also helped flourish the combination between fellow countryman Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha upfront.
Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace and Senegal):
AnotherAfrican in the Palace starting set-up. The 30-year-old centre-back showed solidity at the back at home against Southampton and away against Odion Ighalo’s Manchester United.
Yves Bissouma (Brighton & Hove Albion and Mali):
The 24-year-old started both games Brighton this season, but now faces a three-match after getting sent off in their second with a straight red card for catching Newcastle’s Jamal Lewis in the face from a high black-heeled kick.
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