Once again, it is hard to look too far beyond Sebastien Bassong in searching for Africa’s stand-out performer this weekend. Norwich once again impressed, stretching their unbeaten run to six games, and the Canaries’ consistent form shows little sign of abating.
I believe that a great deal of their success is down to the continued mature, composed displays of Bassong in the heart of the City defence. Brave and rugged, yet poised and precise, the early months of the season have seen Bassong confirm himself as one of the Prem’s most complete defenders. Bassong effectively protects John Ruddy in goal, whilst also bringing an assurance to the backline, and his efforts have led to him dominating my column.
After 13 games, Norwich sit in 13th place, with 15 points on the board already. For a side that many had tipped for a struggle this season, this is commendable, and the Cameroonian centre-back has played a central role in this impressive period.
Down in Southampton, a season of malaise continued for Newcastle, as they went down 2-0. The heights of last season are beginning to fade into the distance, and even though suspensions and a thin squad have affected this team’s progress, there is a certain coherency lacking in the play, which must be a great worry to Toon boss Alan Pardew.
Many of the Magpies’ star performers are Africans, and as a whole, they are failing to perform to the standards set last season. Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé once again struggled to spark, whilst Cheick Tioté hasn’t protected the defence this season as he did so tenaciously last time around; Tim Krul was inundated with shots, and responsibility for this must, in some degree, fall on the Ivorian’s shoulders.
There was also a fairly frustrating day out for Nigerian star John Obi Mikel, as Rafael Benitez made his debut as Chelsea boss at home to Manchester City. Worrying for Super Eagle fans, Mikel appeared fairly sluggish throughout the bout, over-hitting passes, often ambling behind the action and often failing to track back to aid the defensive effort. One pass of note wasn’t picked up by the addled Fernando Torres, but Mikel’s lack of tangible contribution of late may be a worry for Nigeria fans ahead of the 2013 Afcon.