EPL: As the league begins 6 Nigerian players to watch out this season

Published on: 06 August 2022

The EPL kicks off on Friday with Super Eagles players needing to develop or fine-tune some skills

The six Nigerian players have different goals in England’s Premier League, which begins on Friday, 5 August with Arsenal travelling to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace in a London derby.

Taiwo Awoniyi of Nottingham Forest will most likely be the first Nigerian in action in the new EPL season when his club travels to Newcastle for a 3 p.m. kickoff.

What do these Super Eagles need to do to have a successful season?

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City):

Iheanacho has not lived up to his potential since breaking through at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013.

Many expected him to explode after moving from Manchester City to Leicester City in 2017, but 25 league goals in 122 matches have not been the return on the $28 million investment.

Last season, he started 13 league games and was used 13 times.

What he needs to do: Increase his goals per minute ratio, score more frequently, and surpass the 12 goals he scored in the 2020/21 season.

Patson Daka, who scored five goals in 23 league appearances last season, has often been Jamie Vardy’s replacement, which was a major impediment to Iheanacho getting consistent minutes.

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) Ndidi has been a consistent performer for the Foxes since joining from KRC Genk in January 2017.

With 159 matches under his belt, Ndidi’s 10th-place finish last season was the best the Foxes could do without him being consistently in the lineup.

What he must do: Stay healthy and help the Foxes begin a new successful era after Kasper Schmeichel’s departure.

Ndidi must also contribute goals from his deep position to help Leicester secure a place in Europe.

Alex Iwobi (Everton):

Is Iwobi finally finding his form and a manager who believes in him? These questions and their answers have plagued Iwobi’s Premier League career.

Iwobi has played eight consecutive seasons—first with Arsenal before transferring to Everton in 2019, but his managers have not considered him a consistent starter.

Iwobi was instrumental in Frank Lampard’s Everton escaping relegation last season. The 26-year-old versatile midfielder started all 12 of Everton’s last league matches as the Toffees avoided relegation.

What he must do: A meagre return of 15 goals and 20 assists from 183 league games is insufficient for a player of his calibre. Iwobi must try to score at least 10 goals and provide between seven and 10 assists in the 2022/23 season.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest) Awoniyi’s chance to play in the Premier League has arrived, but newly promoted Forest will struggle as newcomers.

His 15 goals for Union Berlin certainly drew attention, and Forest will expect a lot of him after they paid $21 million to sign him.

What he needs to do: Increase his Buildup play per 90 minutes from 0.14 to at least 0.25.

The winner of the U-17 World Cup must also be decisive because goal-scoring opportunities will be scarce this season.

Joe Aribo (Southampton):

A dream realised, but can Aribo keep the dream alive? His pre-season performances have been thrilling, and he appears to have quickly settled in with his teammates.

Last season at Rangers, Aribo showed his full range of abilities as a deep-lying, ball-carrying creator and goal scorer, and he made himself famous with a goal in the Europa League final.

What he must do: He must improve his consistency and goal per game ratio.

At Rangers, Aribo could get lost in some games where they still come out on top.

To keep his place in the EPL, he must be a consistent performer.

If he can repeat his SPL performance of eight goals and five assists, he will have had a successful season and taken another step toward playing for a top-six club.

Frank Onyenka (Brentford): Last season was all about settling in and adjusting to a new environment. This is no longer true for the combative midfielder.

Onyenka’s move from FC Midtjylland was a wise one, as he made 20 appearances, 12 of which were as a starter. The pace of the EPL has sometimes caught up with him, causing him to underperform.

What he needs to do: Last season, he scored one goal and made zero assists, which he needs to improve on if he wants to play more games as the Bees continue to strengthen strategically.