English Premier League Matchday 8 African Roundup
Liverpool vs Manchester City
The most anticipated match so far was the meeting between Manchester City and Liverpool. The away club had not won at Anfield since 2003 and were looking to break that duck. Algerian international Riyad Mahrez was preferred over German winger, Leroy Sane while Liverpool had Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in their front three. Our bet of having one of the North Africans decide the early title race tie was well on the cards with the starting formations picked up by both coaches. The work rate and talent of these African players has been second to none which explains an increasing number on African players joining big teams in recent years. Naby Keita came on for James Milner in a match that was tight-locked. The best scoring opportunity fell to Mahrez who blazed an 86th minute penalty over the bar. The match ended in a goalless draw.
Fulham vs Arsenal
Egypt international Mohamed Elneny’s situation at Arsenal has not improved as he continued to watch from the stands as his African brothers shined against a fellow London club, Fulham. Naija boy Alex Iwobi and Gabonese international, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang were at it again as they helped Arsenal to a 5-1 win over Fulham. The latter scored a brace and provided an assist for Aaron Ramsey.
Southampton vs Chelsea
Victor Moses failed to make it to the Chelsea squad that faced Saints on Sunday. Things are not looking very well for the former Nigerian international who retired from national duty to focus on his career at Chelsea. Victor Moses has to step his game up if he is to replace Willian or Pedro in Maurizio Sarri’s first three because Eden Hazard’s position in that duo is simply out of bounds. Rightfully so. On the other end of the pitch, Mario Lemina had another highly impactful outing for Southampton and was at the heart of most of their positive moves. Southampton may have avoided the drop last season, but how long will they be able to keep hold of Lemina after yet another loss.
Manchester United vs Newcastle
Not a good game for Eric Bailly. The Ivorian defender was handed a rare chance to prove to underfire manager, Jose Mourinho that he was ready to lead the back line next to Smalling. He however was substituted early in the match after conceding two silly goals in the Theatre of Dreams. It is only after his replacement that Manchester United showed resilience and came back from 2 goals down to win 3-2. The African defender’s situation at the club continues to be tough one. He has all the attributes to succeed at the club except for concentration and a lack of confidence in recent appearances. He needs to cut out unnecessary mistakes from his game if he is to become a regular under Jose Mourinho, or maybe a different club or manager could very well get him back to his best. The 24-year-old is a player seriously needing a vote of confidence.
Crystal Palace vs Wolves
Wilfried Zaha’s Palace fell to an unexpected 1-0 defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers, just a few days after losing 1-0 to Bournemouth- the match were Zaha stormed out of the pitch a frustrated figure forgetting to applaud the fans. Ghanaian footballers Jeffrey Schlupp and Jordan Ayew could not score against a well set up Wolves team. Matt Doherty scored on the 56th minute and Palace could not come back from that. They tried to bring on the Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate to use his legs and wear their opponents down but to no avail. Wolves were ready to fight to the end and had a plan B in case things went south with the pacey Adama Traore on standby, the fastest player in FIFA 19.
Tottenham vs Cardiff
Bruno Ecuele Manga from Gabon was the only African player who started the match between the two clubs. He was matched up against the Brazilian Lucas Moura and Tottenham Hotspur’s English left back, Danny Rose. The Gabonese international was quite decent considering how much attacking threat he had to deal with in the 90 minutes. At the end, Cardiff lost 1-0 to Tottenham. The result shows Cardiff’s character as they played over half an hour of the match with a man down. The Kenyan midfielder, Victor Wanyama came on very late in the match to add some steel to the back.
Leicester vs Everton
The African connect for Leicester could not help their team to a victory at home against Everton. Daniel Amartey (Ghana), Onyinye Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria) all played against the Merseyside club who won 2-1 courtesy of Sigurdsson and Richarlison’s goals. Idrissa Gana Gueye was the general in the midfield for Everton as usual and helped stop Leicester’s intentions to counter them on the break.
It has been a week of mixed performances from Africa’s top players. Some have not been on form and failing to cement their positions in their respective teams. It’s not particularly encouraging going into the International Break as it might affect their performances in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Hopefully, they will take this break to work on their game and come back stronger knocking for a start in the forthcoming English Premier League fixtures.