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Nigerians Abroad: Mixed start to the season for players

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It’s one to be regarded as a weak start to the 2022/2023 English Premier League season for the Nigerian stars. This review is going to be a series evaluating the performances of Nigerian players in Europe.

 

Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Southampton

Midfielder Joe Aribo was on for 90 minutes in Southampton’s opening day 4-1 thumping by Tottenham Hotspur in London and as part of a front two with Adam Armstrong in a 5-3-2 formation.

It was never going to be easy for Joe Aribo to begin his Premier League journey at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Southampton were roundly trounced by Spurs despite going ahead in the first half; by the end of it, the Saints were being ruthlessly desecrated, and that was without either of Son Heung-min or Harry Kane troubling the scorers’ sheet.

While the former Rangers man is no stranger to playing as a striker (he famously did so for the Gers en route to last season’s Europa League final), it is quite clearly not his favourite or most effective position. Indeed, part of the allure of this Saints move was that, in a 4-2-2-2, he would get the chance to play in a position tailor-made for him: in the hole behind the strikers, but one which would allow him drift wide.

Alas, that was not to be the case, and come the second half he was pushed even further forward. The worst of it, however, was that, on that day’s evidence, predictions of Southampton’s demise this term are far from exaggerated.

Newcastle 2-0 Nottingham Forest

It was a bit of a surprise that, when the team sheet was announced for Nottingham Forest’s opening Premier League encounter with Newcastle, Taiwo Awoniyi was named on the bench.The Super Eagles Striker was introduced in the 63rd minute with Forest a goal down vs Newcastle at St James Park .

A lot is clearly expected of the Nigeria international, who joined from Union Berlin for what was, at the time, a club record fee. Forest’s survival hopes will rest on his ability to transfer his goal scoring output from the Bundesliga to the Premier League, and he in turn has spoken of how important it is for him to prove himself at this level.

It finished Newcastle 2-0 Nottingham Forest , Awoniyi and his teammates failing to record a single shot on target throughout the game .

That makes his lack of goals to this point a worrying one. His application and all-round play cannot be argued with, but ultimately goals are the currency for every striker, and if Awoniyi cannot find the back of the net, then it won’t matter how well he imbibes Steve Cooper’s principles.

Forest played a number of friendlies, and now have gotten their toes wet in the Premier League, but still there is no goal for Awoniyi. You get the sense that the longer the drought goes on, the more it will become a talking point.

Everton 0-1 Chelsea

Alex Iwobi was hailed by fans despite Everton’s loss to Chelsea. Iwobi was on from start to finish as Everton fell to a 0-1 loss to Chelsea on Saturday evening.

Showing continued aptitude for midfield role, and attentiveness, Alex Iwobi’s potential to play in the heart of midfield has been obvious for quite a while. However, it has been nice to watch everyone else catch up.

The former Arsenal man was impressive holding the centre for Everton as Chelsea came calling. Ultimately, the London club secured the win off the back of a first-half penalty. However, it would not be a stretch to state that Iwobi, playing alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield, dominated the more illustrious midfield of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in pretty much every way.

The Nigerian Midfielder earned the praise of Toffees manager Frank Lampard for his performance in a midfield 6 role . A first half penalty kick converted by Italian Midfielder Jorghino gave the blues the victory in a fairly even encounter .

Everton are in the market for midfield reinforcements, with Amadou Onana through the door and former favourite Idrissa Gueye being looked at. They also have Tom Davies and Andre Gomes to return from injury. What this means for Iwobi’s prospects of a continued run in that position remains to be seen, of course. It is likely that he will be pressed into service in a more advanced role behind the striker.

What is – or at least should be – obvious is that there should no be no more pressing him into service as a wing-back. Frank Lampard extolled his humility after the game, and Iwobi’s versatility certainly makes him an asset for any manager, but he has to put his foot down at some point.

Leicester City 2-2 Brentford

Leicester City were cruising to a 2-0 win at the King power Stadium before Frank Onyeka’s Brentford fought back to force a share of the spoils .

Wilfred Ndidi started and played the entire game while compatriots Kelechi Ihenacho and Frank Onyeka were unused substitutes as Leicester City were held to a 2-2 draw by Brentford.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers and his Brentford counterpart Thomas Frank elected not to introduce Kelechi Ihenacho and Frank Onyeka on Sunday afternoon.

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