Iwobi vs Awoniyi: The hot seat

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Two of Nigeria’s so far emotional stories were discussed on Hot Seat

Nigerian players across Europe’s major leagues have had a strong start to the season as early as 2021-22, just as Emmanuel Dennis and Moses Simon impressed during the first weeks of the campaign.

One of the debates over this week’s episode of Hot Seat pitted two of the Super Eagles’ more impressive stars of the season so far, as Oluwaseye Omidiora and Ed Dove rated Taiwo Awoniyi’s and Alex Iwobi’s merits.

The pair have both reasons for optimism just a handful of fights into the new season.

For Iwobi, the arrival of Rafael Benitez represents yet another start in his career, where the striker has not yet really found his place – either in a club or positionally – in recent years.

Carlo Ancelotti’s departure was mourned over at Merseyside, but probably not for Iwobi, who struggled to assert himself under the Italian coach and had to deputies as a back-up to get some playing time.

He did not start Benitez’s tenure as a starter, but came off the bench to catch the eye in Toffees’ opening win over Southampton.

He was asked to start XI for their second match – against Leeds United – and duly impressed again. The midfielder was actually no doubt unlucky not to have registered an assist as the two sides played an entertaining 2-2 draw.

For Omidiora, it is Awoniyi who deserves the most credit for his excellent start to the new campaign.

The striker was finally cut loose by Liverpool in the offseason and signed a permanent deal with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga, which he had spent the 2020-21 season on loan.

While there is disappointment – if not surprise – that Awoniyi never got the grade at Anfield, his signing represented something of a gamble for Union.

Of course, they knew him from his time as a loan spender last season, but the striker scored only five goals during the Bundesliga season.

With two in two in this period already, however, he proves to be a wise acquisition and demonstrates that he – now living in a club – can be a success.

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