Are Africans peaking in the English Premier League?
We have had legendary African icons repping the continent in the world’s most watched club football league, the English Premier League. I am talking about the likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, the tall striker in Nwanko Kanu and even the controversial Emmanuel Adebayor who represented both of the North London clubs in Arsenal and Tottenham. It’s easy to remember forwards, but they are not all of the Africans who played the game at the highest level. Do you remember Lauren? The Arsenal defender who owned the right wing of the famous “Invincibles” setup? More interestingly, now more than ever – it seems African players are reaching unprecedented levels. They are becoming the extra special toppings of the Premier League cake.
Over the weekend, we once again saw Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line for the Arsenal. Before that, in midweek, the Gabonese captain had two delightful chances of extending his lead at the top of the scoring charts and required perhaps the world’s best goalkeeper to deny him twice after two wonderfully worked shots. Over the weekend, he was also not on the scoring sheet but put in a solid striker performance, eventually serving up the only assist of the match as Lucas Torreira scored the only goal of the game. Arsenal consequently stayed close to top four positions and did not fall out any further away from the leading title challengers in Liverpool and Manchester City. Which other African is evidencing this peak?
Mohamed Salah was back amongst the goals, plenty goals for that matter as Liverpool walked away 4-0 winners at difficult Bournemouth, moving above City to the top of the standings. The Egyptian King won the match ball after scoring a hatrick and gave away his Man Of The Watch Award to James Millner, who clocked 500 premier league appearances in the tie. Last season’s golden boot winner and first runners up to the FIFA Best Male Player of the Year award is finally silencing critics who labelled him a “one-time season wonder.”
It’s not only the forwards that give us something to pride in but other players as well. For instance, Everton’s Idrissa Gueye is only second to Crystal Palace’s Wan Bissaka on tackles won this entire campaign. Twice as much as the likes of Arsenal’s heralded signing in Lucas Torreira or the FIFA World XI finalist in Ng’olo Kante. The Senegalese is still pretty much an underrated midfield gem.
Conclusively, just looking at the premier league scoring charts and seeing Aubameyang and Salah tied at the top with ten goals each just goes a long way in highlighting the immediate dominance of Africans in the English Premier League.