The first week of Premier League action demonstrated exactly why fans have been pining for the divison's return. The sheer excitement, the unpredictability, the physicality and finally, the oodles of controversy that get tongues wagging for days afterwards (thanks, Jose!)
New and old faces alike lit up the opening weekend of action—which produced 30 goals—with Africans contributing just under a third of all efforts. It’s safe to say it was a good week for the Mother continent.
Riyad Mahrez, Arouna Kone, Rudy Gestede, Odion Ighalo, Andre Ayew, Papiss Cisse, Cheikhou Kouyate and Yaya Toure all registered goals for their respective clubs, to the delight of supporters watching from the stands in England, or on television sets across Africa.
With 37 matchdays to go, we identify five African players who are set for major campaigns. Which of these stars are you most excited about watching this term?
Yaya Toure might have told critics, his manager and the whole world after his brace on Monday night: “I’m not back–I’m always there”, but the analysis from last term indicates that last season was poor by the midfielder’s own lofty standards.
He looked insipid and lethargic, and was sometimes prosaic on the field of play.
The hulking Ivorian was a shadow of his imperious 20-goal season self, when he was instrumental in Manchester City’s League triumph, two seasons ago.
He registered just 10 goals last season and appeared set to leave the Etihad Stadium this summer. No move materialised and Toure remains.
If Monday night’s showing against West Bromwich Albion was anything to go by, the Cote d’Ivoire international has shown that he may be back to his best once again.
Yaya Toure, on his day, can be unplayable, with his rampaging runs and beastly strides from deep alongside his goal-getting skills and creative abilities.
Can the Champions League winner’s drive from midfield fire City to another Premier League title?
Beyond the odd example of England’s queen, there aren’t too many instances of having more than one birthday.
Newcastle United’s new recruit, Chancel Mbemba has been embroiled in controversy for much of his career, after being registered with four birthdays. It took an MRI scan to settle the age discrepancy, confirming his date of birth as August 8, 1994.
Now that that’s over, we can focus on the player’s undisputed talent.
The DR Congo international has been dubbed the ‘new Vincent Kompany’ by different quarters because of the similarities in their style of play. Quick to snuff out danger and always defending on the front foot, Mbemba plays a game that very well belies his age...any of them!
The centre-half is athletic, strong in the tackle and is comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Steve McClaren handed him his debut alongside experienced head Fabricio Coloccini, and while he was out-jumped by Graziano Pelle for Southampton’s opener, he grew into the game and showed his class. One expects the Magpies manager to persist with the youngster at the heart of the defence.
The early evidence suggests that Andre Ayew and Swansea City may just be a match made in heaven.
The 25-year-old scored the Swans’ first goal at the weekend to put them back in the game after Oscar had scored for Chelsea, and the Ghana international looked completely at home and at ease in the top flight. It’s remarkable that the South Wales outfit were able to snare such an established performer (and still only 25) when his Marseille contract came to an end.
Despite the intense pressure that comes with making a debut against the reigning Premier League champions, Ayew showed calm and composure to pull the ball back, away from the sprawling defenders and applied the finish.
The Black Star appeared settled and showed his boundless energy, covering considerable ground, marshalling play, and putting in a good defensive shift.
Dede appears to be a safe bet to be a big success in the Premier League, and the key question now may be just what heights he can left Swansea to…and how long will he be sticking around!?
While Bolasie’s talent has never been in doubt—specifically his fleet-footed wizardry—there are question marks regarding his productivity.
The defects in his game are gradually being ironed out by Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew, and in the second half of last season, he became more prolific than he had been under Neil Warnock.
The 26-year-old helped Palace to a top-10 finish, with his four goals and six assists.
The DR Congo international is blessed with an abundance of pace and trickery, and many will remember the mouth gaping 360-degree flick (which is best appreciated when seen) against Tottenham Hotspur that left Christian Eriksen befuddled last season.
Pardew has been effusive in his praise of the winger who has been linked with several top sides.
When he is in his full pomp, he leaves many a defender in his wake, ghosting past them with his mesmerizing footwork and skill.
His pacey and purposeful runs are an unending menace for opposition defenders, although it remains to be seen whether the Selhurst Park faithful will be the long-term beneficiaries of his magnificent abilities—Tottenham are understood to be keeping tabs on the forward.
Sadio Mane turned heads after he made the move to Southampton last season for £11.8 million from Red Bull Salzburg on transfer deadline day.
Little was known about the forward when he joined the Saints, although his record of 45 goals in 87 games in Austria offered considerable cause for optimism.
The 23-year-old acquitted himself excellently as he proved to be one the best buys of the season, weighing in with 10 goals and three assists in his first season at the St Mary’s. He broke Robbie Fowler’s record for the fastest hat-trick scored in the top flight, by bagging a treble against Aston Villa in just two minutes and 56 seconds.
The question now is whether Mane will encounter second-season syndrome, or whether he can kick on and improve his numbers even further? Villa certainly won’t be looking forward to their meeting with the Senegal forward, and neither will Arsenal, against whom he scored an impudent chip last term.
Which of these players, or indeed of any of Africa’s EPL stars, are you most looking forward to seeing in action this season? Comment below and let us know.