Football

Top Nigerian soccer stars expected to perform excellently in the English Premier League

There are not too many Nigerian soccer stars in the English Premier League, but we have singled out a sizeable number of them that would make some definite impact in the different clubs thay play for in the most popular league in the world. All the seven except one, played at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The English Premier League has also been classified as one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
Victor Moses (Chelsea):
Victor Moses is the most high profile of the Nigerian players in the English premier league. After helping Chelsea win the title two seasons ago, things did not go too well for Moses last season as Chelsea struggled in the league. They, however, had better fortune in the FA Cup which they won courtesy of a one-nil victory over Manchester United in the final.
Sportskeeda.com noted that Moses joined Chelsea six years ago from Wigan Athletic. After series of loan spells at Liverpool, Stoke, and West Ham United he was eventually given his opportunity at Chelsea two years ago by Antonio Conte who converted him to a wing back.
The former England under-21 star excelled in the role and was pivotal to Chelsea winning the league in the 2016/17 season, featuring in 34 matches and scoring three goals.
Last season Moses played a total of 38 matches in all competitions and scored four goals as Chelsea surrendered their league crown to Manchester city and missed out on a champions league spot.
The FA Cup success was the only light in a season that didn’t go too well for Moses and his teammates.
With a new manager, Maurizio Sarri now in charge at Chelsea, Moses faces a fresh challenge of trying to impress the new man.
The former Napoli manager is confronted with the dilemma of how best to deploy Moses in the team. Should he continue playing him as a right wing back or restore him to his natural attacking role? Questions Sarri has to find answers to before the start of the season.
For Moses it is a career-defining season as his ability to force his way into Maurizio Sarri’s plans will determine his future at the club.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal):
Alex Iwobi joined Arsenal at the age of eight and rose through the ranks to become part of the first team.
Since his breakthrough season in 2015, Iwobi has gone on to make a total of 98 appearances for the Gunners with nine goals to his credit.
Following the departure of Arsene Wegner at the end of last season, it was widely thought the time was up for the 22-year-old at the Emirates. But the recent developments in pre-season has shown that the new manager, Unai Emery has faith in him.
With a new contract on the table and a reported approach by Serie A side, Lazio rebuffed, Iwobi’s future is definitely at Arsenal for now.
He goes into the new season rejuvenated after two cameo appearances for Nigeria at the 2018 World cup in Russia and with the renewed hope of establishing himself fully in the first team of Arsenal.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester):
In 2013, Kelechi Iheanacho won the most valuable player award at the FIFA U-17 World cup in the United Arab Emirate as he scored six goals with seven assists to help Nigeria lift the trophy for the fourth time.
A transfer to Manchester city followed immediately and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He played a total of 64 matches and scored 21 goals for City over two seasons. His goals per minute ratio of 93.9 minutes in the 2015/16 season were the best in the Premier League that season.
The quest for more regular playing time saw him transfer to Leicester last season. Unfortunately, he failed to hit the ground running as expected and as such featured sparingly in the first half of the season.
He enjoyed more playing time in the second half of the season particularly in the FA Cup where Leicester reached the quarter-final with Iheanacho scoring four goals in five matches.
The new season holds a lot of promise for the young Nigerian who has a lot to prove at Leicester after a poor first season.
At 22 years of age and with 92 appearances in the top flight of English football under his belt Kelechi Iheanacho has the experience to make a mark at Leicester and play a significant role in the Club’s 2018/2019 premier league campaign.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester):
Bought from Genk in January 2017, Wilfred Ndidi is arguably Leicester’s best signing since winning the league three years ago.
Solid in tackles, great with the distribution of the ball and an eye for goal especially from long distance, the 22-year-old Nigerian ticks all the boxes for a complete midfielder. Little wonder he has been linked with a move to some of the biggest teams in England and Europe in recent times
After an eye-catching display for Leicester and a commanding performance for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Ndidi should be able to consolidate on last season’s outing and take the next step towards becoming one of the most dependable players in the premier league.
Isaac Success (Watford):
Isaac Success joined Watford from Granada two seasons ago and was expected to ignite vicarage road with his blistering pace and direct play that made him a fans favorite in Spain.
But so far it has not happened for the Nigerian as injuries and other issues outside the pitch have combined to make his time at Watford uneventful so far.
He played a total of 56 matches and scored seven goals for Granada before sealing a move to Watford in 2016 wherein two seasons he has only featured 19 times and scored just one goal.
Things are however looking bright for Isaac Success as pre-season has revealed a rejuvenated player who may have effectively put his injury woes behind him.
He has featured in most of Watford’s pre-season games and has expressed his desire to make up for lost time.
A loan move to Malaga in January did little to better his lot as he rarely featured for the team and was left out of the Nigerian team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Success’ ability to take the premier league by storm this season is not in doubt but the only issue remains if he can stay injury free
Ahmed Musa (Leicester):
Ahmed Musa joined Leicester with so much promise of reenacting his exploits in Russia with CSKA Moscow where he spent four years with a quite impressive goal scoring record of 61 goals in 180 matches.
He was also expected to bring his rich experience in Europe to bear on Leicester’s champions league campaign that season but it just did not click for Musa who struggled to settle down in England.
Since then the table has turned for Musa who went on to score 7 goals in 16 matches for CSKA and distinguished himself at the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he scored two goals for Nigeria in their victory over Iceland.
The fact that the manager that signed him Claudio Ranieri was sacked before the end of the season did not help his case as successive managers, Craig Shakespeare and Claude Puel did not show faith in him, a situation that saw Musa having limited game time and led to his loan move back to CSKA Moscow in January.
He is back in the plans of Claude Puel who has refused to sanction a move away from the club for Musa who is reported to be attracting interest from teams in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
With the sale of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester city, Ahmed Musa may just be the joker in the pack for Leicester this season.
Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion):
A newcomer to the premier league, Leon Balogun arrives with a wealth of experience from the Bundesliga where he has played for over 10 years.
Signed by Brighton & Hove Albion from Mainz on a free transfer, the 29-year-old defender has the calmness, ball playing skill and the presence of mind to make it in the premier league.
A good outing with Nigeria in the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he featured in the three group matches also presents valuable experience to fall back on as he settles down in England.
Perhaps the only shortcoming in Balogun’s game is his lack of pace but he more than makes up for it with his good game reading ability.
It may be a debut season for Lean Balogun in England but he is a seasoned campaigner and should not find it difficult settling down fast to business.

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