Very fragile at the back, a little solid in midfield and at times very effective up front, the Africans have not had a very good year in the Premier League. But there has been some satisfying results.
Can do much better! That’s the assessment that can be made of the performances of the many African footballers who have graced Premier League pitches this season.
Partey was too good to miss
Over the years, with Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Yaya Touré, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, Africans have become accustomed to excellence in what is reputed to be the world’s toughest league. Thomas Partey (33 matches, 3 goals) has started the 2022-2023 season in his usual style. The Ghanaian midfielder, who kept the Gunners on their toes in the first half of the season, came close to perfection in the second half. He was an indispensable link in Mikel Arteta’s machine, which finished the first phase with 50 points. However, he suffered a setback after the World Cup. It didn’t show immediately, though, as Arteta and his men continued to wreak havoc in their path.
Thomas Partey, however, had a little trouble at the end. Nevertheless, he remains one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. One of the few Africans in this sector to stand out from the crowd. Although Alex Iwobi (Everton, 38 games) and Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace, 34 games) have both done well. The Nigerian did well in his holding role, with 2 goals and 8 assists. On the other hand, Idrissa Gana Guèye (Everton) has been average; his compatriot Cheikhou Kouyaté (Nottingham) has been hampered by injury; and the Leicester colony of Amartey, Wilfried Ndindi, Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho has been mediocre. In fact, the Foxes have been relegated after being in the top flight all season. Joel Matip (14 games) and Naby Keita (8 games, 0 goals, 0 assists) did no better individually for Liverpool.
Poor starts for Mendy and Koulibaly
Unlike Thomas Partey, who got off to a flying start, Chelsea’s Africans had their heads under water. Edouard Mendy quickly showed signs of weakness right from the start. The world’s best goalkeeper in 2021, he will lose his place to Kepa. The 2021 African champion has only been in the Blues’ goal 10 times in the Premier League, conceding 14 goals and producing just 1 clean sheet. And when Franck Lampard decided to reintroduce him a few days ago against Nottingham Forrest (2-2), he was still very shaky.
His compatriot and team-mate Kalidou Koulibaly was not as solid as expected. Despite his majestic goal against Tottenham, Koulibaly made a lot of mistakes in the Chelsea defence and ended up on the bench. He picked up where he left off when Thiago Silva was injured, but was hampered by an injury sustained in the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid.
Generally speaking, no African defender has made much of an impression in the Premier League. If we had to choose one, it would certainly be Serge Aurier, who brought experience and athleticism to Forest. But that’s about all.
Mahrez, Doucouré and Awoniyi arrive at just the right time
They may not have had an extraordinary season, but they did pick up some laurels at the end of the campaign. Riyad Mahrez was champion of England for the 5th time. The Algerian recorded 11 assists in the Premier League, in addition to 5 goals. His contribution to the league title is therefore undeniable. Abdoulaye Doucouré and Taiwo Awoniyi also played a remarkable role in keeping Everton and Nottingham Forest respectively in the top flight.
The Malian midfielder, who has been transformed into a No10 for some of the last few games, has been decisive in the Toffees’ last three wins. He set up McNeil’s goal against Brendford (1-0), set up the first two goals at Brighton (5-1) and scored the clincher against Bournemouth (1-0) on Sunday. Taiwo Awoniyi, meanwhile, who had been disappointing for most of the season, was the most clutch player in the final stretch of the Premier League. He scored 6 goals in the last 4 games and finished with 10 goals in his first season in England.
Mohamed Salah still going strong, Mbeumo too
19 goals and 12 assists in 38 games – great statistics for a winger. However, it was Mo Salah’s worst season since signing for Liverpool. The Egyptian may not have shone as brightly, but if the Reds have been able to weather the storms and catch the European bandwagon in the final stretch, he is one of the main architects of that success. Bryan Mbeumo has also played a key role in Brentford’s success. The Cameroon winger scored 9 goals and provided 8 assists for the Bees, who finished 9th in the Premier League.