Africans Abroad: Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspire Arsenal comeback, Kelechi Iheanacho strikes again

Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led an inspiring Arsenal comeback on Monday as they each scored during a nine-minute blitz to end the Gunners’ miserable winless streak with a 3-1 triumph at West Ham United.

The triumph lifted some of the doom around Arsenal after an exasperating loss of form in recent weeks, with the Londoners winless in nine matches before their second-half performance turned the tide in their favour.

There was an unswerving inevitability about Aubameyang’s adroit finish to complete the turnaround, and the Gabon international now has 43 goals in the English Premier League since arriving from Borussia Dortmund ahead of the 2018-2019 season — a tally equalled only by Jamie Vardy during this period.

Aubameyang’s excellent showing was about more than his 69th-minute strike; he also contributed the assist for Pepe’s goal three minutes earlier, and would have had another had Mesut Ozil not headed his cross over from close-range.

The former Dortmund man continues to thrive in London derbies, having now been involved in 12 goals in his past 11 league games against sides from the capital.

Gabriel Martinelli and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrate during Arsenal’s Premier League win at West Ham. Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

Pepe can look back on his best Arsenal performance since netting twice against Vitoria Guimaraes in early November, as he proved a dynamic presence down the visitors’ right, ending the match with a joint-game-high three completed dribbles.

The Ivory Coast international’s highlight, of course, was his goal, which put Arsenal ahead after Gabriel Martinelli had drawn them level, although it’s worth noting that, by this point, the hosts had replaced goalscorer Aaron Cresswell with DR Congo’s Arthur Masuaku, a defensive weak link for the Hammers on occasion.

Six minutes after parity had been restored, Pepe picked up a delightful pass from Auba, stepped inside, and cut a delicious left-footed effort in at the far post.

Nicolas Pepe celebrates after scoring in Arsenal’s Premier League match at West Ham. Julian Finney/Getty Images

The winger’s showing was the kind that suggested former Arsenal manager Unai Emery might not have been misguided after all to have parted with £72 million to sign the Ivorian from LOSC Lille, and the performance prompted praise from the Spaniard’s interim replacement, Freddie Ljungberg.

“People always ask me about Pepe,” Ljungberg said.

“And he needs to adapt; that’s not so easy, especially with his price.

“He showed his quality tonight, and he can sleep happy. He will get better and better.”

Another player who, like Pepe, appears firmly on the road to rehabilitation, is Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, who maintained his unlikely return to form with a goal and an assist in the Foxes’ 4-1 victory at Aston Villa.

Having marked his first league appearance of the season, as a substitute, with a goal and an assist in the previous weekend’s victory against Everton, the Nigeria international moved into the starting XI for the trip to Villa Park having been overlooked for the midweek win over Watford.

The match came a year to the day after Iheanacho’s last previous league start for the East Midlanders, and his selection was the result of a change in shape from Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who paired the former Manchester City man alongside Jamie Vardy in attack while opting for a diamond in midfield.



Steve Nicol and Don Hutchison spar with Craig Burley over Leicester’s chances of catching Liverpool.

Iheanacho repaid his manager’s faith emphatically; going close in the opening minutes before playing in Vardy for the opener 17 minutes later, and then adding a second from point-blank range late in the first half.

It was the kind of performance — bright and incisive – that neither Craig Shakespeare nor Claude Puel was able to summon from the striker, but Rodgers appears to be enjoying making the one-time wunderkind his latest pet project.

“He was great,” Rodgers told the Leicester Mercury. “He played the role how we wanted him to play, creates Jamie’s first goal, gets the second one with a good finish.

“You saw him in the cup games; he comes in and he scores. He did it at Everton, came on and made a great impact. It’s just a case of him coming in with confidence.

“I thought he was very good [against Villa], his hold-up play, his link-up with the midfield; he was excellent.”

Also in the Premier League, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah were among the goals for Liverpool as the reds defeated depleted Bournemouth 3-0 away to maintain their eight-point lead at the top of the table.

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In Germany, Ramy Bensebaini was the hero for Borussia Monchengladbach with two goals, including a 92nd-minute penalty, as the unlikely league leaders defeated reigning champions Bayern Munich 2-1 at home.

The win took Gladbach up to 31 points after 14 games, seven ahead of their defeated foe.

The Algeria left-back is enjoying a magnificent year, having clinched the Africa Cup of Nations during the summer, and the 24-year-old had never before scored twice in one match.

“We’re really happy,” he told the Bundesliga’s official website. “It wasn’t easy, but we’re happy to have won, to have stayed solid throughout. Everyone’s happy and we’re still top of the table, so all is well.”

Borussia Dortmund are five points behind the leaders, with Achraf Hakimi contributing an assist — his fifth of the season — as they trounced Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday.

La Liga

In Spain, Deportivo Alaves’ Wakaso Mubarak endured a weekend to forget as he was sent off for a second yellow card as his side fell 3-0 away at Granada to drop closer to the relegation zone.

It was also a frustrating weekend for…

Read more at this link (News Source).

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