After an impressive performance at the 2015/2016 season of the Barclay’s Premier League where Nigerian players such as John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo, Victor Anichebe and Kelechi Iheanacho helped their respective club-sides maintain top flight in England, these stars will be hoping to improve their games as the new 2016/2017 season kicks-off this weekend.
The arrival of Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow of Russia to reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City and Isaac Success from relegated Granada of Spain to Watford, shows Nigerian players readiness to take the Premier League by storm this season.
To this end, Nigerianreporter.com takes an eagle’s eye view of some of the Nigerian players that will be on parade in the 2016/2017 EPL season.
John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses (Chelsea)
The duo of Super Eagles midfielders, John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses will be on parade for Chelsea as they commence their 2016/2017 Premier League campaign against West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Mikel won’t be available for the encounter due to his participation in Nigeria’s U-23 team at the Rio Olympic Games, however, Moses, who has been farmed out on loan to clubs such as Stoke City, Liverpool and West Ham in the past three seasons by former Chelsea coach, José Mourinho, could be given the opportunity to fight for a starting shirt in the colors of the Blues.
The former Wigan star had a brilliant preseason campaign under Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte in their tour of Austria, the U.S., and Germany, causing opposing defenders serious nightmares with his pace and trickery with the ball. His inclusion on the Chelsea team this season may help propel the club in challenging for the Premier League title.
On the other hand, the addition of N’Golo Kante to the team is expected to give Mikel a strong challenge alongside Nemanja Matic for the role of the defensive midfielder. Mikel, who was given another lifeline under interim boss, Guus Hiddink after he was almost made redundant in the team last season, knows that he must prove his mettle once he returns from Rio to claim his birth right at Stamford Bridge.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City)
A revelation for the Citizens during last season’s campaign where he scored 14 goals in all competitions despite coming on from the bench as a substitute, Kelechi Iheanacho has shown that maturity and composure whenever he dons the blue and white shirt of the club. He played a part in the team’s opening Premier League fixture against Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Having made appearances for Manchester City U-21 team as well as the Nigerian squad that won the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the Nigeria U-20 team at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Iheanacho was called up to the Manchester City senior squad for the 2015–16 season and scored his first competitive Premier League goal on September 12, 2015 replacing Wilfried Bony in the final minute in a match away to Crystal Palace.
With the arrival of Pep Guardiola to Manchester City, so much emphasis was played on Iheanacho’s possible loan out to clubs in England, of which he has proved doubters wrong by scoring and making a vital impact in the team’s preseason matches; which convinced Guardiola to include his name in Man City’s Champions League and EPL roster.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)
Not many would have expected this young prodigy to break into Arsenal’s main team at the end of last season, however, Alex Iwobi, who pledged allegiance to his national team the Super Eagles of Nigeria ahead of the Three Lions of England, made a perfect opportunity of the team injury crisis to announce his arrival to the Premier League.
Iwobi scored two crucial goals for the Gunners against Everton and Watford in the run for the title last season and went on to make 21 appearances in all competitions for the team. Playing as an attacking midfielder, the Nigerian international orchestrated some of the passes that helped the likes of Oliveire Giroud and Alexis Sánchez score goals for the team.
As the team prepare to face arch rivals, Liverpool on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium in their opening fixture of the 2016/2017 Premier League, Arsenal coach, Arsène Wenger may be looking towards Iwobi’s direction for inspiration.
Odion Ighalo and Isaac Success (Watford)
After scoring an unprecedented 15 goals in 37 appearances for Watford last season, Odion Ighalo knows that more goal scoring responsibilities will be on his shoulders as the team begins their quest to remain in the top flight of English club football. He has since continued his impressive play in the face of rivals Southampton on Saturday, August, 13, 2016, at the Saint Mary Stadium.
The Ajegunle born striker has been an integral part of the team since their promotion from the Championship League in 2014 where he scored 20 goals and will be hoping to improve on his performance this season.
Meanwhile, Ighalo will be joined by record signing, Isaac Success who teamed up with Watford after signing the dotted line to join them during the summer transfer window from Granada in Spain. The Nigerian international who has been given the Number 10 jersey, is already looking forward to playing alongside Ighalo and company. “Yes, the Watford fans will want to see success,” he joked shortly after signing. “But I’m Success.” A headline writer’s dream.
Quick, strong, and reliable aerially, Success scored 37 goals in 63 appearances for Granada and is blessed with sufficient versatility to be comfortable on both wings, something that will be witnessed against Southampton in his first baptism of fire in England.
Ahmed Musa (Leicester City)
The former CSKA Moscow star wasted no time to announce himself to the world after his record transfer signing worth £18m to Leicester City as he scored two goals in the team’s 4-2 loss to Barcelona in the International Championship Cup despite coming on from the bench in the second half.
His pace will definitely give Premier League opponents a tough time as witnessed in the Foxes’ 2-1 loss against Manchester United in the Community Shield last week Sunday at Wembley Stadium. Musa’s first baptism of fire was against newly promoted side, Hull City on Saturday he was hoping to lead the team in defending their title which they won last season, but the team did not fair well against Hull losing the match 2-1.