<
>

Africans Abroad: Aubameyang recovers his form, Salah and Mane do not

play
Hutchison: Liverpool's front 3 have reached their limit (1:10)

Don Hutchison believes Liverpool need to sign some players if they are to retain the Premier League title. (1:10)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was among Africa's star performers during a compelling game week of action, putting a miserable six months behind him with a two-goal showing against Newcastle United.

There were also excellent displays from the likes of Simy Nwankwo and Sebastien Haller, while Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will be dwelling on another tough weekend.

Aubameyang hitting form as Gunners roar back to life

Despite months of turmoil and ridicule, of doubt and cynicism, Arsenal will be quietly confident of ending the season in style as they reach the halfway point of the campaign.

The Londoners are now without defeat in their last five league games, and staved off any fears of another wobble after the limp draw with Crystal Palace when they cruised past Newcastle United on Monday.

It was a vintage showing by Aubameyang, who, in the second-half at least, showed little evidence of his previous struggles this season with a two-goal display as Mikel Arteta's team moved into the top half of the table.

The Gabon international had only scored three league goals all season -- and only one since November 1 -- when he took to the field on Monday evening, but on the evidence of Arsenal's 3-0 victory, the skipper is firmly on the way to rediscovering his mojo.

Early on, Auba had again missed several decent chances -- one of his five attempts hitting the woodwork -- but he made the breakthrough five minutes after the interval.

He was picked out by the imperious Thomas Partey, took advantage of Emil Krafth's timidity, and slammed a left-footed drive beyond Karl Darlow.

There were glimpses of the rapidity of thought and action that made Aubameyang such a lethal presence during the latter stages of last season, although his second was a much simpler affair.

After Bukayo Saka had doubled the hosts' lead, Aubameyang added his second when he met Cedric's cut-back from close range to tap home to round off a convincing victory.

"That's what he's done throughout his career," Arteta told journalists after the match. "Mentally you have to be really strong to do that.

"He's come out of a difficult period. We've missed his goals a lot and I'm really pleased for him."

With Ghana's Partey back in midfield alongside Granit Xhaka, his dynamism and drive complementing the Swiss international's calm passing, and Arsenal back in the top half, things are suddenly looking up again for the capital club.

Haller hits the ground running at Ajax

Like Aubameyang, Ivory Coast frontman Sebastien Haller is enjoying the fresh start and the renewed optimism that the New Year has brought.

For Haller, 2021 meant an unexpected Premier League exit and a move to Eredivisie giants Ajax, for whom he represents something of an atypical recruit.

There's no denying that Haller's career hasn't followed the anticipated trajectory since leaving Eintracht Frankfurt for West Ham United in the summer of 2019.

Back then, he was being talked up as a potential France or Germany striker, having scored 15 in his final Bundesliga season, but by late 2020 he was willing to acquiesce to an approach from the Ivory Coast, with his chances of representing either of the European giants having dwindled amidst poor form in England.

He ended his time in the UK having scored roughly one goal every five league outings, but already in the Eredivisie he's had a direct hand in four goals in three league outings, having settled instantly in the Netherlands.

He's weighed in with an assist in each of his three appearances to date, and having also scored against FC Twente in midweek, he was one of Ajax's star performers as they beat bitter rivals Feyenoord 1-0 on Sunday.

Receiving a ball on the edge of the box, the target man swivelled and laid it off casually to the advancing Ryan Gravenberch, who made no error with a thumping effort.

Critically for Haller, a move to Ajax means a reunion with head coach Erik ten Hag, his mentor at Utrecht five seasons ago.

It was under the 50-year-old that the Ivorian forward scored 30 goals across two Eredivisie seasons, and working together again, expect success on the horizon for both.

Simy breathes life into Crotone safety hopes

While Haller is dreaming of Dutch title glory with Ajax, Nigeria's Simy Nwankwo will have much more modest aspirations for Crotone as he looks forward to the second half of the Serie A season.

The Sharks and their fellow newly promoted brothers Benevento have had very differing experiences in the Italian top tier this season.

While Crotone have been rooted to the foot of the table, with only two wins from their first 17 games, Benevento have been flying high, enjoying the relative security of midtable after a strong start to the campaign.

Crotone's failings have been matched by Simy's toil, as the towering forward, who scored 20 goals in Serie B last term, had scored just four in his first 17 appearances back in the top flight.

However, he was sensational against Benevento on Sunday, scoring twice and contributing another assist as Crotone ran out 4-1 winners to move two points behind Cagliari in 17th.

His second -- a delicious volleyed effort early in the second-half -- suggested that the cautious displays that have occasionally characterised his return to the top tier may be a thing of the past.

Concern grows for Salah, Mane

It feels somewhat churlish to criticise Mohamed Salah for his recent goal-shy showings considering what he has achieved since returning to English football with Liverpool in 2017.

The Egypt international has proved his qualities as one of the finest forwards of his generation, and the Reds' current struggles can't wholly be laid at his door, even if the champions were lethargic and devoid of ideas as they laboured to a 0-0 draw against Manchester United on Sunday.

Salah has now gone 365 minutes without finding the net, having failed to score in any of his last four league outings.

For context, only once has he endured a worse drought for the Merseysiders -- six matches between February and March 2019 -- but with Sadio Mane also appearing out of sorts against the Red Devils, Jurgen Klopp desperately needs the North African to rediscover his verve.

With the two African superstars neutralised effectively by the Red Devils, Liverpool's limitations going forward were laid bare.

They've failed to score in their last three Prem games, and if they fail to net against Burnley on Thursday, they will be on their second-worst goalscoring run in the PL era, and their worst since 1999-2000.

Salah had three attempts against United, failing to hit the target on any of those occasions; again, here, his struggles highlight the Reds' frustration.

During their last four PL outings, they've scored one goal from their last 62 attempts -- a conversion rate of a risible 1.6 percent.

Klopp may well be pinning his hopes on Mane, who at least has an excellent record against Burnley.

The Senegal forward has scored four in his last four league games against the Clarets, and he represents the champions' best bet to end their barren run.