How the Super Eagles Fared in the Midweek Premier League Fixtures

How the Super Eagles Fared in the Midweek Premier League Fixtures
Super Eagles striker Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho – Leading the line for Leicester in the Dean Smith revolution

After impressing at the weekend against Wolves, the Super Eagles forward retained his place in the starting 11 for Leicester’s visit to Leeds – a game dubbed a ‘six-pointer’. Iheanacho, who will be hopeful of a place in the Super Eagles AFCON 2023 squad, was charged with leading the line for The Foxes. Even though the game was pretty end-to-end, Leicester struggled to make an impact after having a goal chalked off and soon found themselves 1-0 down. Iheanacho found it tough going, especially in the first half, where his teammates consistently failed to bring him into play with forward passes.

It wasn’t until later in the second half that the Nigeria Super Eagles forward began to shine. The introductions of Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka in the 70th minute meant that the Nigerian forward could revert to playing more akin to a number ‘10’. Playing between the lines and positioning himself in tiny pockets of space is where the Super Eagles striker thrives. He played a key role in the Leicester equaliser, winning a loose ball in midfield.

After recovering from a dreadful first touch, he charged up the field and laid the ball off to Maddison, who set Vardy free, allowing the English striker to place the ball into the back of the net. That was the end of Iheanacho’s night as he injured himself stretching for the ball and was replaced by Dennis Praet.

If we look at the numbers behind Iheanacho’s performance, it is clear that perhaps he wasn’t as effective as he would’ve liked. The 26-year-old had two shots on target which generated an xG of 0.31. He was successful in 60% of his dribbles and had an 82% pass accuracy rating. He only won nine of his 22 duels and failed to make an interception or recovery all game. All in all, it was a quiet night for this Super Eagles striker, although he did show some glimmer of the talent we all know he possesses.

Taiwo Awoniyi – Forest’s key man with a brilliant performance against Brighton

The Nottingham Forest faithful can have no complaints about the performance of their star striker in the gripping 3-1 victory at home to Brighton on Wednesday night. Awoniyi was causing chaos for the usually reliable Lewis Dunk from the start. His physical presence meant he held the ball well whilst Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson looked to transition from defence to attack. Forest’s number nine worked tirelessly all evening, his tenacious desire to lead the effective, if not a bit frantic Nottingham Forest press.

Awoniyi’s efforts did not go in vain, as he ended the night with an assist to his name. He combined well with Danilo after regaining possession in the Brighton half. The Nigerian played a weighted pass into the path of the Brazilian, who sprinted beyond the opposition defence to place the ball beyond Jason Steele’s grasp. The former Union Berlin man was incredibly reliable; he consistently brought teammates into play and looked to carve open the Brighton defence. Additionally, the Super Eagles man showcased incredible leadership throughout the 80 minutes he was on the pitch. At a time when Nottingham Forest needed their best players to stand up and be counted, Taiwo Awoniyi answered the call.

If we assess the numbers from Awoniyi’s performance against Brighton, we can understand just how important he was to Steve Cooper’s side, as he has been all season. He managed a pass accuracy of 78%, showing how he can link up well with teammates. Awoniyi regained possession thrice in the Brighton half, indicating his use when leading the press. The centre forward did not shirk his defensive responsibilities and won three out of four defensive duels for Forest. It was a performance Awoniyi can be immensely proud of.

Frank Onyeka – Brentford’s leader showed his strength against Chelsea

Brentford’s Nigeria Super Eagles midfielder was handed only his fifth Premier League start of the season, as Thomas Frank’s side travelled to Stamford Bridge to face a rather woeful Chelsea team. It was a rather understated but effective performance from Onyeka, who spent 62 minutes on the pitch before being substituted.

Brentford’s first goal came thanks to an Azpilicueta own goal from a corner, with Onyeka playing his part. We have come to expect inch-perfect set-piece routines from Brentford, and this was exactly that. Onyeka made a clever run towards the front post and then went beyond it, dragging a couple of Chelsea's defenders with him and creating plenty of space for his teammates.

Analysing the stats behind Onyeka’s performance we can see that he played reasonably well as he looks to impress Thomas Frank in the search for more regular first-team action. The midfielder had a pass accuracy of 82%, while half of his long passes found their intended target. He also won 63% of his defensive duels, which were important in preventing Chelsea from gaining any real attacking momentum.

Additionally, Onyeka made three interceptions and three ball recoveries in the opposition half, enabling Brentford to keep the pressure on the shaky Blues' defence.

Whilst his performance wasn’t groundbreaking, Frank Onyeka did steady the ship and put in a solid shift for his Brentford team looking to regain ground in the race for the European places. It wouldn’t be surprising if Onyeka attracted interest from several clubs over the summer as he looks to play regular football.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

Chandan is a passionate writer, editor, and marketer with a love for football. He has bylines in leading online publications and has worked with renowned sports brands like The Olympics, Fox Sports Asia, and the Indian Super League (ISL). As for the unimpressive part, he loves Chelsea.