The Premier League continues to be the most-followed league in Nigeria with millions keeping up with their favourite clubs. Aside from club affiliations, Nigerians do also keep eyes on their compatriots who ply their trades in England’s top flight.
In the 2019/2020 seasons, five Nigerians players were registered by their respective clubs.
For Pulse’s end of season review, we look at how these five players fared in the 2019/2020 Premier League season.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
One of the most consistent players in the Premier League since he joined Leicester City in January 2017, Wilfred Ndidi continued to be impressive as a defensive midfielder for the Foxes.
In the 2019/2020 season, Ndidi was good again, posting commanding performances for Leicester City who impressed for most of the season before collapsing after project restart to miss out on a Champions League spot.
With his elite ball-winning abilities, Ndidi was Leicester City’s engine as they overran teams in the Premier League until March when the league was suspended due to the speak of the coronavirus.
In total, he played 32 games out of Leicester City’s 38 league games with 29 starts. His importance in the team was underlined with how much he was missed when he couldn’t play some games because of injury.
As a token for his brilliance in the 2019/2020 season, the 23-year-old finished as the joint-top tackler alongside Manchester United‘s Aaron Wan-Bisssaka with 129 successful tackles. With that stat, The Nigerian has now led the Premier League tackle chart marking him as one of the top tacklers in the game.
Ndidi has become so good at what he does and offers but seeing him play only to his strength has become monotonous which has been his biggest criticism. The Nigerian midfield offers his side nothing with the ball on their feet and that’s an area of his game that needs improvement if he wants to be regarded as a genuine top player.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho’s move to Leicester City has not gone according to plan since the Foxes splashed £25 million on him in the summer of 2017. To show how high he was rated at that time, Manchester City inserted a buy-back clause of £50 million buy-back for the striker who had come through at their academy.
But despite hopes over his potential, the Nigerian failed to make an impact in his two seasons at Leicester City. It was the same thing in the 2019/2020 season until a home game against Everton in early December when he came on to make an impact. With the Foxes behind 1-0 at home, the Nigerian came off the bench to grab an assist and the winner in brilliant fashion.
Another assist and goal in his next Premier League game and Iheanacho had begun to carve a future at the club for himself. He impressed in Leicester City’s run to the semifinal of the League Cup and scored some important league goals.
While Leicester City struggled after Project Restart, the 23-year-old was their best player in the games he played. Goals against Everton (again), Crystal Palace and his lively performance against Manchester United showed he belongs at Leicester City’s level. A year ago, nobody thought that and even if he still doesn’t have the full trust of Brenden Rodgers, there will be a slew of Premier League sides asking about him this transfer window.
Alex Iwobi (Everton)
A move from Arsenal was supposed to release Alex Iwobi from the shackles of the extreme expectations at the Emirates and it looked like that early in his Everton career. Two goals in his first three games and the Nigerian looked at home with the Toffees.
But he soon lost himself amidst the struggles of Everton under former manager Marco Silva although he managed to post some fine performances. Under Carlo Ancelotti, he hasn’t been able to lit up Goodison either under and continues to divide opinion among Everton fans.
His biggest weakness remains with his end product and has continued to fail to mark his bright moments with the right final decision-making.
Isaac Success (Watford)
The 2019/2020 season was Isaac Success’ fourth season in the Premier League and he still has not been able to make anything out of it.
In the just-concluded season, Success managed just five substitute appearances in the league for Watford and two in the domestic cup competitions.
It is hard to say anything about his abilities or lack of, as he has not played enough but it is certain that the Nigerian does not have a future with Watford who were relegated from the English-top flight.
Odion Ighalo (Manchester United)
Odion Ighalo has had his moments at Manchester United but none of these moments came in the league.
With 11 substitute league appearances for Manchester United, Ighalo has not fared badly at Old Trafford but he has failed to make a memorable impact at key moments in the league.
For example on his debut for Manchester United which came in a league game against Chelsea and failed to convert a fine chance that fell to him. His miss did not cost Manchester United anything as they were 2-0 up at that time but scoring a goal would have made his debut memorable. He also missed a last-minute chance against Everton that would have given Manchester United a win in March.
It’s been different in the Europa League where Ighalo has made more impact. With two goals in three starts and four goals, it’s success in this tournament that would make his Manchester United stint more memorable.