Ed Dove ranks his top African performers in the English Premier league this term.
#10 Nicolas Pepe
Obviously, the £72 million transfer fee has hung heavy on Pepe, and he initially struggled to find his feet in the Premier League after arriving from LOSC Lille.
He ends the campaign with five goals and six returns—an encouraging return—although it’s worth noting that he has managed this during a tumultuous campaign for Arsenal, in which they have only latterly begun to pick up under Mikel Arteta following the miserable reign of Unai Emery.
Pepe’s showing against Newcastle United in February, in particular, was outstanding, and he could yet end the year with an FA Cup winner’s medal.
#9 Bukayo Saka
The Anglo-Nigerian wonderkid is coming to the end of a breakout campaign in North London.
He’d managed just one league appearance before this term, but has established himself as a key man under Arteta, and memorably broke his duck in victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The versatile wideman excelled when asked to step in at left-back in the absence of Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney and, since lockdown, has proven his quality in advanced areas as well.
He ends the season with more assists than any other Gunners player, and having signed a new deal, looks set to be a big part of the club’s future.
#8 Willy Boly
The Franco-Ivorian centre-back has been one of the unsung heroes in a superb campaign for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Old Gold have been ensconced in the top half of the table all term, and are still in the running to win the Europa League—a prize which would see them qualify for next year’s Champions League.
Boly, either in a back four or a back three, has been a model of consistency.
#7 Wilfred Ndidi
Another understated season for the Nigeria international, who continues to refine his game under Brendan Rodgers.
Leicester City were notably weaker during the games he missed, while his presence gives them control and dominance in the heart of the park in a way that none of his teammates can replicate.
Yet again, Ndidi finishes atop the overall tackling charts for the campaign, and he would be higher on this list had Leicester not fallen away from the Champions League places at the death.
#6 Adama Traore
In previous seasons, there was no doubting Traore’s ability to beat a man and dribble at pace in wide areas, but he’d struggled to demonstrate previously that he could be a difference-maker in the final third.
While he did—admittedly—register 10 assists in the Championship with Middlesbrough during the 2017-18 season, last term’s one goal and one assist with Wolves represented a frustrating story.
This year, Traore has been a different prospect entirely; nine goals, four assists, and outstanding displays against both Liverpool and Manchester City.
His on-field relationship with Raul Jimenez has been outstanding, and it’s no wonder the big clubs are taking a look.
#5 Jordan Ayew
There were some groans among Crystal Palace fans when they made Jordan’s loan move from Swansea City permanent last summer, although, over the intervening 12 months, his £2.5 million transfer fee has begun to look like the bargain of the season.
The striker ends the season with nine goals—including that stunning strike against West Ham United in December—and as the Eagles’ Player of the Year.
His goal return is his best in a Prem season, and considering Christian Benteke’s ineffectiveness, and Wilfried Zaha’s toil, he’s proved vital for the Londoners.
#4 Riyad Mahrez
Admittedly, Mahrez and Manchester City haven’t won the volume of silverware that they managed last season—and they fell way short in their title defence—but the Algerian has still played his part in an impressive campaign.
City’s 102 goals scored puts them up alongside the most prolific teams in the division’s history, and Mahrez is responsible for about a fifth of those goals, scoring 11 and weighing in with a further nine assists.
He appears to have the trust of Pep Guardiola more than he did last term—starting 21 matches—and may still win Champions League gold this term.
#3 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Auba fell just short in the race for the Golden Boot, but it’s to his immense credit that he ended the year only one goal off the top scorer’s award and replicated his 22-goal tally of last term.
For the frontman to remain this level of productivity despite all that Arsenal have endured this season is evidence of his unswerving quality in front of goal, and highlights why he remains Arteta’s most valuable player.
He’s in the running for an FA Cup winner’s medal this weekend, and that would certainly be an appropriate way to draw a line under another campaign of excellence.
#2 Mohamed Salah
It’s testament to Salah’s impact in English football following his return to the Premier League from AS Roma—that some are claiming his standards have dropped this term.
In truth, 19 goals and 10 assists is still an awesome return—only Kevin De Bruyne had a hand in more goals—and Salah’s awesome three years at Liverpool have culminated with the Premier League title.
He’s been there and made the difference in a number of major fixtures—remember victories over Arsenal, City, and Tottenham Hotspur—and he remains one of the most complete attackers in the world game.
#1 Sadio Mane
It’s been another sensational year for Mane, who after proving his quality in the top flight and the Champions League in recent season, has relished his role as one of the primary architects of Liverpool’s success.
18 goals and seven assists don’t tell the story of a sensational campaign of influence, in which he continues to get the best out of those around him and create incessant problems for Premier League defenders.
He’s the favourite for the African Footballer of the Year and may consider himself unfortunate that there will be no Ballon d’Or awarded in 2020.