Most Memorable Premier League Seasons From African Players
Each of the previous Premier League seasons have been graced with standout performances from several players over the years.
These players seemed unstoppable over the 38-game season with everything working out perfectly, and a lot of those players were from the continent of Africa.
We take a look at the top 10 Premier League seasons that have been dominated by players from the motherland, in no particular order.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni (2003/04)
“Feed the Yak and he will score” was the phrase on the lips of the Pompey faithful after witnessing Nigerian striker bang in the much-needed goals to help them establish as a Premier League team.
Having joined the previous season while they were still a Championship team, Yakubu’s goals were a major part in why Portsmouth gained promotion to the Premier League, and questions loomed about whether or not he could match up to the high standards of the first division.
At first, it seemed like the critics might have been correct, Yakubu failed to score in any of the first 8 league games of the season, and only managed 5 goals in his first 27 league games.
It was towards the end of the season that Yak finally came alive, netting 11 times in the last 10 games of the season, including 4 goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Middlesbrough on the final day.
His 16 league goals were good enough to make him the 6th highest goalscorer in the Premiership and also earn Portsmouth a comfortable 13th place finish in their first Premier League season.
Picking just one outstanding Premier League season for Yakubu Aiyegbeni is not an easy task because the man has a good number of them, there’s a reason he’s the 3rd highest ever African goalscorer in the Premier League with 96 goals in total.
Cameroonian right back, Lauren had 9 successful years in English football, 7 of which were at Arsenal and 2 years at Portsmouth. While both spells produced silverware, Lauren is mainly remembered for one out of his 9 seasons.
The 2003/04 was not just historical for Arsenal, it was for the entire Premier League. It was and still is the first and only time a team has completed the season without tasting defeat, and Lauren played a vital part.
Arsenal went 38 games in that historic season with 26 wins and 12 draws, and Lauren was a mainstay in the right-back position for Arsene Wenger’s team, making 32 appearances, missing 4 games due to a ban for misconduct and only dropped twice the entire season.
That Arsenal defence conceded the fewest in the league that season, shipping 26 goals in 38 games, so it’s no surprise they had 3 of their defenders in the PFA Team of the year, Lauren was one of them, occupying the slots alongside Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell.
Jay Jay Okocha (2003/04)
“So good they named him twice” was the chant around the Reebok stadium as Nigerian international, Jay Jay Okocha continued to dazzle the Bolton fans and torment opposition defenders.
2003/04 was just his second season in English football, but he had quickly become such a fan favourite, he was handed the armband, and Okocha didn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility.
He played some of his very best football for Bolton in that season, and even though he wasn’t one to score many goals when he did score, Jay Jay made sure it was spectacular.
From direct freekicks to mazy runs past the entire defence, outrageous flicks and tricks or the absolute pile driver against Liverpool that won him the BBC goal of the year award, Jay Jay Okocha always made sure the Bolton fans watching got value for their money.
Jay Jay played so well that season; he was nominated for PFA player of the year award, along with Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Thierry Henry beat the Nigerian to the award.
Benni McCarthy (2006/07)
When South African striker Benni McCarthy joined Blackburn Rovers for 2.5 million pounds in the summer of 2006, there were mild expectations, given he had played an important role in Porto’s UCL title win just two years before.
However, even the most optimistic Rovers fans were caught off guard by how good McCarthy was in his first season, scoring 18 league goals, 24 in all competitions, helping Blackburn finish 10th in the league standings.
Benni McCarthy finished just 2 goals shy of the Premier League Golden Boot, beaten by another African, only Didier Drogba scored more Premier League goals than Benni with the Ivorian netting 20 times.
Emmanuel Adebayor 2007/08
In hindsight, it’s clear that the 2007/08 season was the best of Emmanuel Adebayor’s long career, it was the year the Togolese striker first set the Premier League alight.
Adebayor scored a lot of goals that season, 24 Premier League goals for Arsenal to be precise, 2nd only to Ronaldo’s 31 goals in his peak Manchester United year.
The Togolese international achieved a lot that year, he was named in the PFA Team of the Year, nominated for PFA player of the year, nominated for Premier League Goal of the Season, won BBC and CAF African Player of the Year and BBC Goal of the Season.
Adebayor’s goals were not enough to help the Gunners secure any form of silverware, as they finished the Premier League season in 3rd place, 4 points behind eventual champions, Manchester United.
Didier Drogba (2009/10)
Perhaps the most predictable name on this list, it’s fair to expect the greatest African player ever to play in the Premier League to be included in an article honouring African heritage in the Premier League.
At least 3 of his 9 full seasons in English football, all in the royal blue of Chelsea, could have qualified to be featured on here but we can only pick one, so let’s go with the best one, statistically speaking.
The 2009/10 season under Carlo Ancelotti was a fantastic one for Chelsea, they played some beautiful football and scored goals at will, a system which benefited the striker, Didier Drogba.
The team scored 103 Premier League goals that season, the highest ever at the time, as they charged to the Premier League title and Drogba got 29 of those goals, winning the Golden Boot.
Drogba’s goal tally was made all the more impressive by the fact that he missed 6 league games that season to go represent Ivorycoast at the AFCON but still scored 29 goals in 32 games, scoring 3 more than Wayne Rooney in 2nd place.
He was included in the PFA Team of the year, nominated for PFA and FWA player of the season but lost out on both honours to Wayne Rooney.
Peter Odemwingie (2010/11)
A popular saying goes “everyone loves an underdog story” well how about 2 underdog stories wrapped up into one giant, movie-esque season? Unparalleled euphoria, which is what West Brom fans experienced all through the 2010/11 season.
When newly promoted West Bromwich Albion signed Nigerian striker, Peter Osaze Odemwingie from Locomotiv Moscow in the summer of 2010, no one batted an eye, not a lot of people were even aware of the deal until the racial controversy surrounding it became public.
Odemwingie soon made sure people started paying attention to him on the pitch as well with superb performances for the Baggies, scoring 15 league goals, the 5th highest total in the league for that season, and the most by any West Brom player in Premier League history.
The Nigerian striker also won 2 Premier League Player of the Month awards in that season and helped West Brom to an 11th place finish in their first season back, hugely defying the odds after many had tipped them to go straight back to the championship.
Yaya Toure (2013/14)
As far as individual excellence goes, it just simply doesn’t get better than Yaya Toure’s 2013/14 season, the Ivorian was unstoppable for the entirety of the season, with scary amounts of ability and consistency.
Yaya Toure literally led Manchester City to the Premier League title, scoring 20 Premier League goals, the most by any City player and the 3rd highest total in the league.
A menace on and off the ball, deadly from set-pieces, train-like with his typical runs from midfield, Yaya was just on an entirely different level that year, opposition defenders had no answer for him.
Yaya’s 2013/14 was the exhibition of the complete midfielder, he became only the second midfielder in Premier League history to score 20 goals after Frank Lampard, and he still managed to complete the most passes in the league that season.
Toure was named in the PFA Team of the Year and nominated for all the Player of the Year Awards but lost out on all to Luis Suarez who had even more incredible season.
Riyad Mahrez (2015/16)
2015/16 will always be remembered in the Premier League as the year of the improbable, the freak year that saw Leicester City shock the world and win the Premier League title the season after they had just escaped a gruelling relegation battle.
One of the key men, if not the key man that facilitated the miracle was Algerian winger, Riyad Mahrez who dazzled the Premier League with silky skills, inventive plays, beautiful goals and the sheer ability to create something out of nothing.
The mercurial winger formed a special bond with striker Jamie Vardy and added end product to his game, scoring 17 Premier League goals that season, the 5th highest.
Mahrez won the PFA player of the year award, a nod to his superb form throughout the season; he was also named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Mohamed Salah (2017/18)
2017 wasn’t particularly a great year for Liverpool, but it certainly was for their new signing from Roma, Mohammed Salah who hit the ground running in Merseyside.
The Egyptian who had joined Liverpool from Roma for €45million never previously had a reputation for goals, but he seemed to develop that edge to his game under Jurgen Klopp.
His debut season would turn out to be a record-breaking one, the 32 goals he scored is the most anyone has ever scored in a single 38 game Premier League season.
Needless to say, Salah cleaned up the awards, winning the PFA, FWA and Premier League Player of the Year awards and making it into the PFA Team of the Year.