Focus: Africans lighting up Ligue 1 Conforama
Several African players - notably Victor Osimhen (LOSC), Islam Slimani (AS Monaco) and Mbaye Niang (SRFC) - have distinguished themselves in the early stages of the Ligue 1 Conforama campaign.
Many African players have made their mark on the history of Ligue 1 Conforama in its 87-year history. In the 2019-20 season, there are 125 Africans playing in France's top flight, and many of them have already made a name for themselves.
Osimhen and Slimani leading the way
Victor Osimhen and Islam Slimani top the list. The two strikers, who were respectively the top scorer and top assist providers in Ligue 1 Conforama after nine weeks, have been had no trouble adapting to football in the French league. Simply put, the Nigerian and the Algerian the two most decisive players of the season so far.
Osimhen, a 20-year-old Nigerian, has successfully taken over from Nicolas Pépé at LOSC. With seven goals, one more than Pepe at this time last year, he has topped the scoring chart since Week 6. Fast, precise and full of drive, the 'Super Eagle' has been on fire at home, where he scored all his goals. With two assists to his name, he has been directly involved in 69% of Lille's goals this season.
Islam Slimani, on the other hand, is Ligue 1 Conforama's top assist provider, already having set up six goals for his team-mates at AS Monaco. The 31-year-old Algerian international, an AFCON winner in the summer, has been directly involved in 10 of AS Monaco's 15 goals despite having featured in just six of their nine matches. With his four goals and six assists, he is the most prolific player in Ligue 1 Conforama this season.
Niang confirms, Habib Diallo powers on
For Mbaye Niang, this season is more of a confirmation than an arrival; Stade Rennais FC main man in attack had an excellent second half to last season, ten goals and three assists in 18 games. The Senegalese international has scored three times this season and has even worn the captain's armband twice, proving his importance in the Brittany club's dressing room.
Habib Diallo - a Senegal international alongside Niang - also had this honour with FC Metz. Domino's Ligue 2's second-highest scorer last season (26 goals), Diallo was responsible for 75% of the club's goals as they earned promotion. Having scored only once in his first 20 games in the elite (in seasons 2016-17 and 2017-18), the 24-year-old Senegalese has already scored six goals in the first nine games of Les Grenat's promotion season.
A little further down the field, Abdoulaye Touré and Idrissa Gueye have also been doing wonders since early August. FC Nantes' Franco-Guinean midfielder seems to have taken a step forward under the guidance of Les Canaris' new coach Christian Gourcuff. Now holder of the captain's armband, the 25-year-old defensive midfielder - who came up through the club's youth academy La Jonelière - is doing well and setting an example for his young team-mates. And Touré is proving worthy of his new responsibilities. In particular, he has hit two winners for Nantes, including a daring panenka in the derby against the Rennes (1-0).
Gana on fire
Meanwhile, at PSG, Idrissa 'Gana' Gueye has been raking in the plaudits in the early stages of the season. The Senegalese has proven to be the element the Parisian midfield have been missing for the past two years, stepping immediately into Thomas Tuchel's starting XI and bringing his considerable qualities to bear. A fierce fighter with a massive work-rate, Gueye is already an indispensable figure for the two-time French champions.
The victim of a broken collarbone with Algeria during AFCON over the summer, Youcef Atal was unable to have a proper pre-season with OGC Nice. However, this didn't prevent him from quickly getting back to his best with Les Aiglons. Enjoying the new, more attacking role handed to him by coach Patrick Vieira this season, the man who burst onto the scene as a right-back last season (six goals) is a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences.
Further west, Rachid Alioui and Casimir Ninga have helped Angers SCO to rack up the second-most prolific attacking record in Ligue 1 Conforama this season. Moroccan international Alioui, on four goals, has made a habit of scoring thunderous goals from outside the area while Chadian team-mate Ninga made waves with a hat-trick after coming off the bench in the 69th minute against AS Saint-Etienne (4-1).
While the more established African stars are doing their thing, Kévin Denkey embodies the next generation of talent. At the age of 18, the Togolese international exploded onto the scene early on in the campaign.
With three goals in five appearances (one start) - that's one goal every 42 minutes! - Denkey has been pushing for a place in Nîmes Olympique's starting XI. The latest in a long line of talents from a continent that has always enriched Ligue 1 Conforama.