The 2020/2019 Premier League season kicks off on Saturday, September 12, 2020, with five Nigerian players to watch out for.
Ahead of the season, we look at the state of these players and what we should expect from them in the coming season.
For clarity, only Nigeria internationals are mentioned in this article which takes out the likes of Crystal Palace star Ebere Eze.
Victor Moses has been left out of this piece due to the uncertainty over where he will play next season.
Alex Iwobi (Everton)
When Everton splashed £40 million on Alex Iwobi from Arsenal, it was expected that the Nigerian midfielder would fulfil his potential at the less-pressured abode of Goodison Park but after his debut season with the Toffees, the 24-year-old has left everyone with doubts that have come to define his career so far.
The numbers say it all. Just four goals and one assist in 24 appearances in all competitions show that Iwobi has not delivered as expected.
But what went wrong? Injuries, playing in a team that wasn't good enough, the chaos of working under different managers and his inability to raise his game.
After a fine start at Everton, everything worked against Iwobi. He was consistently played on the wings where it is now proven he can’t deliver to the best of his ability.
His struggles might continue this season. With Everton’s heavy investment in midfield-they have brought it in Allan from Napoli, Abdoulaye Doucouré from midfield and waning heavyweight James Rodriguez- Iwobi is not expected to get any look in midfield.
Hopes of his sophomore season at Everton being better than his debut will rest on his ability to raise his game and deliver at any role he is giving.
Do we expect him to? Sadly no.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
It’s hard to ask any questions of Wilfred Ndidi who has consistently proven to be one of the best defensive midfielders in world football. Last season wasn’t different.
He was imperious in midfield as Leicester City almost cracked the top-four spot fitting of their impressive season. He finished the 2019/2020 season as the leading tackler and interceptor in the Premier League.
But there is still a reason he will be turning out in Leicester City’s blue kit this season. Despite being linked with a move to a bigger side, the top sides have continued to ignore him.
While there can be no questions asked of his defensive abilities in midfield, it is his ability with the ball that has failed to convince and what he needs improving to be considered a genius world-class player.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho is still a Leicester City player on the eve of the kickoff of the new Premier League season. Nobody would have believed on the first day of December 2019.
It’s a testament to how he has turned his Leicester City career around with some fantastic performances. It started with a home game against Everton on Sunday, December 1, 2019.
Without a Premier League game all season, Iheanacho was introduced in the 62nd minute with Leicester City down 1-0 at home to Everton. Making his impact, the Nigerian assisted the equaliser and scored the winner.
He got his first Premier League start of the season in Leicester City’s next game and grabbed a goal and an assist. His form continued after Project Restart.
This season, the 23-year-old has to consolidate on his position now at Leicester City and deliver more fine performances.
Odion Ighalo (Manchester United)
Ighalo joined Manchester United in January 2019 and caught the eyes with some fine performances in cup games. In 11 Premier League games, however, he failed to score some important goals for Manchester United.
Not much is expected of the 31-year-old who is expected to continue his bit-part role at Manchester United before his contract expires in December.
Ola Aina (Fulham)
Although he was never a prodigious talent, Ola Aina showed that he had something when he made it out of Chelsea academy. No mediocre talent would make it there. On loan from Chelsea in the 2018/2019 season, the Nigerian defender impressed at Torino where he played predominantly as a left wing-back.
His second season in Italy wasn’t that good and that might have prompted the desire for a change.
The 23-year-old is now back in London after joining Fulham on a loan deal and will be looking to impress to help them remain in the Premier League and get a permanent deal.
Aina has what it will take to be fine in the Premier League. With a decent pace, the defender has often been admired for doing the basics and simple things on the pitch.
That might help him have close to a decent season with Fulham.
Semi Ajayi (West Brom)
Semi Ajayi had a fine season in the Championship last season with West Brom which ended up with a promotion to the Premier League. For his performances last season for the Baggies, Ajayi was named as one of the best Nigerian players of the 2019/2020 season.
He will be playing in the Premier League this season and set to continue as a mainstay in Slaven Bilić’s defence. The Premier League will be a different proposition for the Nigerian defender but he will be hoping to maintain his consistency.
Playing at the back for West Brom in the Premier League will be a challenging prospect and it’s how he reacts after losses and conceding goals that would go on and define his career.
Also, do not be surprised if you see him chipping a host of goals.