The Premier League kicks off in August, and the release of fixtures on Wednesday underscores the frenzy that greeted the August resumption date of the world most popular league.
It’s been a while since we had top Super Eagles players featuring regularly for some of the best sides in England. That is talking about the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Not just adding up to squad numbers.
But being in the pay lists of big clubs is not the climax of success for any ambitious player. Getting sufficient playing time involves relentless dedication, hard work, discipline and training not to mention adding something different to the team which is vital in getting results.
Nigeria has a sufficient number of players plying their trade in England to form the spine of the Super Eagles, with qualifying for the world cup as first objective and making a notable showing in Russia 2018 as the next target.
Well then, let’s look at the Nigerian players in the top flight of the English Premier League, what they did and what they might need to do next if they must play regularly.
VICTOR MOSES (Chelsea)
Moses has endured some turbulent patches along his career path, but some well deserved relief came his way through the misfortune of Chelsea in the 2015/2016 season that heralded the arrival of Italian coach Antonio Conte which also sealed the exit of the blues most successful coach Jose Mourinho.
The clouds did not suddenly turn blue for Victor Moses who had gone out on loan three seasons running; to Liverpool, West Ham, and Stoke City respectively.
It took some telling defeats in the hands of Liverpool then Arsenal for Conte who opted not to loan out Moses after watching him in preseason to introduce a new formation 3-4-3 that eventually provided room for Moses as a wing back and boy, did he grab his chance with telling performances that propelled Chelsea to 12 wins in a row and the EPL title eventually.
Victor Moses only missed a couple of games at the beginning of the season but once he established himself as a regular, he went on to make 34 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, 21 of those as a starter.
In all, Victor Moses contributed 3 goals, made 6 assists.
Moses must however work harder but with more intelligence in his game, making sure he improve his timings and runs while going forward.
Chelsea are expected to sign another player to provide cover and competition for the Super Eagles star as Chelsea will face an intense opposition in the league and in Europe next season.
Moses’ place is safe at Chelsea only if he improves his excellent performances from last season.
He is the most consistent player for Nigeria in England but the same cannot be said of his popularity in Nigeria due to frequent withdrawals from national team call ups.
Hopefully he will play a major role for Nigeria in securing a World Cup ticket as he showed in the 3-1 victory over Algeria last year.
KELECHI IHEANACHO (Manchester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho, 20, is experiencing stagnation in his club career at Manchester City which for many that includes my self he can only blame on himself.
The appointment of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola as manager of the blue half of Manchester left ominous clouds of uncertainty hovering over the future of Iheanacho at the Etihad.
Gabriel Jesus’ arrival threatened to relegate Sergio Aguero one of the most successful and consistent players for Manchester City to a substitute role, one can only imagine the doom that awaited Iheanacho who went about displaying the mental strength of fighting for his place, as good as he is, coach Guardiola did not have him in his plans.
Iheanacho endured frustrating times on the bench which accentuated into spells off the matchday squad completely.
With the 2016/2017 Premier League season now over, Iheanacho is not short for suitors from the England and the German Bundesliga. Time to make that decision Iwobi!
There is solid interest from West Ham and Crystal palace who both can meet the £20 – £25 million rumoured asking price to sign him from Manchester City.
Though some others may think playing in the UEFA Champions League could help groom Kelechi Iheanacho faster. That is where the options of Bundesliga sides Dortmund and Hoffenheim who has shown interest in the Nigerian comes in.
What ever option Iheanacho settles for, he must demand for regular playing time which by his current stats and the pedigree of clubs coming for him, is not out of place.
It’s obvious Iheanacho is needed for the bigger challenges ahead of the Super Eagles but we need a match fit Iheanacho and not the rusty bench warmer.
ALEX IWOBI (Arsenal FC)
The case of Alex Iwobi was from a regular starter for Arsenal to a bench warmer at the end of the season.
After breaking into the gunners team in 2015/2016 season, Iwobi a nephew to Super Eagles legend Jay Jay Okocha experienced a mixed campaign at Arsenal in the just concluded season.
Spells of him being in the Arsenal team for months was later followed by him relegated to the bench as Arsene Wenger could no longer count on him to rescue a poor campaign for Arsenal.
Iwobi must sincerely ask himself if he is in Wenger’s immediate plans. Perhaps should have a sit down with the manager to discuss his role with Arsenal next season most especially with the World Cup in mind.
No doubt Iwobi has a future with Arsenal but whether that future will be aided by a loan to a team that guarantees regular football or at Arsenal remains an objective he must discover as soon as possible.
WILFRED NDIDI (Leicester City)
Since transferring from Genk of Belgium to Leceister in the Premier League, Wilfred Ndidi made an immediate impact in midfield for the foxes as he did enough to fill the void left by Ngolo Kante who left for Chelsea.
We can only say keep up the good work as we expect a transfer to a bigger team after the World Cup. All he needs to do is to keep a cool head and make greater strides of improvements in his all round midfield play.
Super Eagles technical adviser Gernot Rohr has shown Ndidi is 100% part of his plans as evident in the starting role handed him in the defeat against South Africa.
AHMED MUSA (Leicester City)
From breaking Leicester City’s club transfer record in a move from CSKA Moscow to Leicester City. Ahmed Musa had a forgettable season to say the least.
The pacy forward must negotiate a way out of Leicester City after he failed to nail a regular spot under Italian manager Claudio Raneiri who signed him and then to current manager Craig Shakespeare.
The only way for Ahmed Musa clearly seems to be the door out of the London club. There’s considerable interest from Turkey and newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League.
The Super Eagles simply cannot afford to have a senior player for the side constantly warming the bench in the Premier League.
ISAAC SUCCESS (Watford FC)
Since his move from Granada of Spain to Watford, Success has been unsuccessful in sustaining a regular playing time at Watford.
Between rotating from the bench to injury layoffs, coach Walter Mazarri had to quickly dip into the winter transfer window to sign Niang from AC Milan as counting on the former Under-20 star became a burden.
Success made 19 appearances for Watford scoring just a goal. A poor return for a striker.
The let down truly is that 17 of his 19 appearances were as a substitute most of which were late indeed.
Our word for Isaac Success will be to pay closer attention to his health. Take care of his body and a good luck wish against injuries.
So there it is then for the Premier League players expected to be the back-bone of the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Last words for Nigerian players in the Premier League is that they really need to keep a low profile, concentrate on working hard and hopefully they stay fit for we to see the best of them.