Nigerian Player Review: Sadiq hot and cold, Iwobi world-class, Osimhen wasteful

Nigerian Player Review: Sadiq hot and cold, Iwobi world-class, Osimhen wasteful

There was plenty of interest to get into with respect to Nigerian players in Europe at the weekend.

Nigerian Players’ Review is a weekly series evaluating the performances of Nigerian players in Europe.

As the saying goes, you never know what you’ve been missing until you’ve found it. The reinvention of Alex Iwobi continues apace, and against Nottingham Forest, he added yet more evidence to his increasingly compelling run in the heart of the Everton midfield. In a frenetic match at Goodison Park, the Everton midfielder ran the show both in and out of possession.

No midfielder attempted (54) or completed (42) more passes on the day. It was far from just safe distribution though – Iwobi played more passes while being closed down (seven) than anyone bar Orel Mangala, played the most passes into the final third of the pitch (eight), and teed up the most shots (four).

Without the ball, he was no wallflower either. Iwobi’s pressing successfully forced turnovers on seven occasions, and he was first to the ball when it broke 15 times; only teammate James Tarkowski bettered him on both those counts. “I thought Alex Iwobi was fantastic,” manager Frank Lampard said afterwards. “Receiving it, controlling it, breaking through lines and passing well”

It really just furthers the theme: the former Arsenal man has legitimately been one of the best players in the Premier League so far this season. Only Gabriel Jesus has executed more shot-creating actions (defined as the last two actions before a shot is taken) and only Mohamed Salah has assisted more shots.

Indeed, in all of Europe, only four midifielders have played more passes into the final third this season than Iwobi’s 21, and no other midfielder has tallied more key passes.

Against Monza at the weekend, Victor Osimhen took 10 shots. Ten. He came off with seven minutes of the regulation still to play so, on average, every 8.3 minutes – basically, every time you counted to 500 – the 24-year-old took a shot.

Now, if you don’t shoot, you can’t score and, as we know, strikers live and die by goals, so the logic sort of tracks. However, that is a ridiculous number, especially when one realises that only two of those shots were on target, and that all 10 efforts totalled 1.17 Expected Goals (xG) according to Opta – 0.12 xG per shot.

As it happens, he scored just the same, powering a finish through the legs of Michele Di Gregorio in the Monza goal to double Napoli’s lead on the stroke of halftime. However, he missed three big chances and only completed one of five attempted dribbles. It was, in many ways, a portrait of inefficiency.

None of this is particularly new, of course. Osimhen has always taken a high volume of shots, quite a few from suboptimal positions (which is odd because he is a good enough finisher that he can afford to be a little more patient and sniff out higher quality chances). The concern was that more responsibility resting on his shoulders this season at Napoli would only feed this habit. While the sample size is small, that fear does appear to have legs.

In all of Europe’s top five leagues, only Darwin Nunez has averaged more shots per 90 than Osimhen’s 8.18, and only Martin Terrier (16), who has played one more match, has taken more shots in total than the Nigerian striker’s 15.

This, though, was a little different: two of his missed chances were from inside the six-yard box. Granted, one was a header, which is notoriously more difficult to convert. Still though, one would have expected a striker of his calibre to do better in both those instances. Over the course of the opening two matches, no one has missed more big chances than Osimhen.

Here is hoping his teammates continue to render this rough patch irrelevant.

Umar Sadiq opened his LaLiga account for Almeria away at Elche, helping the Andalusian side get off the mark for the season in a 1-1 draw. It was a performance that, if you have watched the striker enough, would have been familiar: a salad of the sublime and the ridiculous, with the outright doltish tossed in.

It was, however, effective, and that is precisely why Almeria are willing to field him regardless of the uncertainty around his future, or even the fact that he has moved out of his accommodation and is staying in a hotel.

They need him, both for his goals and for what he represents: a totem, a leading man, a freak of nature that represents their one true edge at this level. For this reason, the club are willing to accept his derp and warts in a way that few will.

For all intents and purposes, Largie Ramazani was the more impressive player on the day; Sadiq, goal aside, was quite poor, failing to time his runs properly or retain possession, and giving away a bunch of needless fouls.

The most damning statistic that captures his effete showing was that a player who stands at 1.91m failed to win any of his three aerial duels and only won two of his 16 ground duels...TAP.TO.READ MORE.

However, for a side grappling with the uphill task of staying in the top flight, Sadiq remains worth putting up with for the intermittent flashes of excellence. The same would not be true for a bigger club with greater ambitions such as, say, Villarreal. Which makes their continued pursuit of him harder to understand.

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