After another terrific week of Premier League action, Ed Dove takes a look at the best and worst of Africa from the latest installment of matches.
Once again, Africa’s stars were among the chief protagonists as the league table continues to take shape and the season’s primary narratives embolden and unravel. Two familiar names from the continent were once again hugely influential, as Sebastien Bassong and Marouane Fellaini continued their impressive starts to the season.
Reading vs. Norwich wasn’t a classic encounter by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, many of those in attendance looked keen to be elsewhere. Those who did enjoy John Madejski’s hospitality will have been wowed by the keen application and defensive expertise demonstrated by Cameroonian centre-back Bassong. The erstwhile Spurs defender was majestic as he silenced the likes of Jason Roberts and Pavel Pogrebnyak, earning the Canaries a clean sheet and a valuable point against would-be relegation rivals. If Bassong continues his impressive form, Norwich can be quietly confident of steering well clear of the relegation zone as the season unfolds.
Once again, Maroune Fellaini was central to all that was good about the weekend’s action; the Everton midfielder has been, arguably, the Prem’s leading performer this term, and his quality form shows little sign of abating. He scored again against Sunderland at Goodison on Saturday, and whilst rumours of an imminent departure abound, Everton fans can enjoy the midfielder’s dynamic and determined displays until January at least.
To those who have complained about the inclusion of Fellaini in these columns, due to his playing for the Belgian national side, may I reiterate my criteria and the parameters of my mission with Bleacher Report. I write about African football and its influence across the sporting world. Therefore players who are part of the African diaspora—that is, the spread of peoples across the world from the African continent—are well within my remit.
Fellaini, being the son of a former Moroccan footballer, being born to two Moroccan parents, having an Arabic name and mother tongue, and being a former winner of the Ebony Shoe—an award given to the best player of African origin in the Belgian league—slips him inside the criteria for my columns. I write about the influence of Africa—and that is wholly evident in players of the heritage of a Fellaini, or a Welbeck, for example.
For the "bad" of Africa this week, I have to turn to St James's Park, where a trio of African strikers all failed to perform for the Magpies.
Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba have, this season, failed to reach the heights they so regularly achieved in the first half of 2012, and this must surely be of concern to Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. Against West Ham they were once again lacklustre and uninspired, and pre-match talk of a North East return for Andy Carroll may well appear more pressing after this unhappy display.
Even Shola Ameobi—in line to make his Nigeria debut this week, and brought on for Cisse at half time, was impotent in front of goal—and unable to influence proceedings, or indeed, reduce the Magpies’ deficit. Pardew will be keen to address this bluntness as soon as possible.