Nigerian Player Review: Hot and Cold Sadiq, World Class Iwobi, Wasteful Osimhen
Alex Iwobi – Monster
As the saying goes, you never know what you’ve missed until you’ve found it. Alex Iwobi’s reinvention continues apace, and against Nottingham Forest he added even more evidence to his increasingly convincing run through the heart of Everton’s midfield. In a frenetic game at Goodison Park, the Everton midfielder led the show both in possession and out of possession.
No midfielder attempted (54) or completed (42) more passages during the day. It was far from just a safe distribution – Iwobi played more passes while closed (Seven) than anyone but Orel Mangala, has played the most passes in the final third of the field (eight), and fired the most shots (four).
Without the ball, he wasn’t a wallflower either. Iwobi’s pressing successfully forced turnovers seven times, and he was first on the ball when it broke 15 time; only his teammate James Tarkowski improved him on these two points. “I thought Alex Iwobi was fantastic,” manager Frank Lampard said afterwards. “Receive it, control it, cross the lines and pass well”
This only deepens the theme: the former Arsenal man has rightfully been one of the best players in the Premier League so far this season. Only Gabriel Jesus performed more shot creating actions (defined as the last two actions before a shot was fired) and only Mohamed Salah assisted more shots.
Indeed, across Europe, only four midfielders have played more passes in the final third this season than those at Iwobi. 21and no other midfielder has tallied more key passes.
Osimhen’s shoot-on-sight policy
Against Monza this weekend, Victor Osimhen took ten strokes. Ten. He came out with seven minutes of regulation remaining so, on average, every 8.3 minutes – roughly every time you counted to 500 – the 24-year-old fired.
Now if you don’t shoot you can’t score and as we know strikers live and die by goals so the logic is correct. However, that’s a ridiculous number, especially when you realize that only two of those shots were on target, and the 10 efforts totaled 1.17 Expected goals (xG) according to Opta – 0.12 xG per shot.
In the event, he scored anyway, powering a finish between the legs of Michele Di Gregorio in Monza’s goal to double Napoli’s lead on the stroke of half-time. However, he missed three big chances and only managed one of the five dribbles attempted. It was, in many ways, a portrait of inefficiency.
In Europe’s top five leagues, only Darwin Nunez has averaged more shots per 90 than Osimhen’s. 8.18and only Martin Terrier (16), who has played one game more, has more total shots than the Nigerian striker 15.
This, however, was a bit different: two of his missed chances came from inside the penalty area. Granted, one was a header, which is notoriously harder to convert. Still, one might have expected a striker of his caliber to do better on both counts. In the first two matches, no one missed more chances than Osimhen.
Here, it is hoped that his teammates will continue to make this difficult time irrelevant.
Umar Sadiq: The good, the bad, the ugly.
Umar Sadiq opened his LaLiga account for Almeria at Elche, helping the Andalusian side come out on top for the season in a 1-1 draw. It was a performance that, had you watched the striker enough, you would have been familiar with: a salad of the sublime and the ridiculous, with the downright stupid thrown into it.
It was effective, however, and that’s precisely why Almeria are ready to field him regardless of the uncertainty around his future, or even the fact that he has left his accommodation and is staying in a hotel. They need him, both for his purposes and for what he represents: a totem, a leader, a monster of nature who represents their true advantage at this level. Because of this, the club is willing to accept his derp and warts in a way that few will accept.
For all intents and purposes, Largie Ramazani was the most impressive player of the day; Sadiq, goal aside, was pretty poor, failing to time his runs correctly or retain possession, and giving up a bunch of unnecessary fouls. The most damning stat that captures his offbeat performance is that a player who is 1.91m tall hasn’t won any of his Three aerial duels and only won of them of his 16 duels on the ground.
However, for a side struggling with the daunting task of staying in the top flight, Sadiq deserves to be supported for intermittent flashes of excellence. The same wouldn’t be true for a bigger club with bigger ambitions like, say, Villarreal. Which makes their continued pursuit harder to understand.