Africans Abroad: Pepe flounders, Iwobi flies

Nicolas Pepe and Alex Iwobi have endured extensive criticism since the former arrived at Arsenal and the latter was dispatched from the Emirates Stadium in the summer of 2019.

However, while the Nigerian finally appears to be finding some form at Everton, his 'upgrade' in North London reached a nadir this weekend.

Here's how Iwobi, Pepe and the rest of Africa's big-name players fared across Europe's biggest leagues this past weekend.

Pepe's lowest ebb

After a testing maiden season at Arsenal, where his £72 million transfer fee weighed heavy around his neck, 2020-21 was supposed to be a year when Pepe finally came good in North London.

The wideman's encouraging performances following the departure of Unai Emery, coupled with the positive atmosphere at the club after the arrival of his successor Mikel Arteta offered hope that he could turn the corner.

However, his contribution has been limited this season, with Arteta using the wideman only once from the start in the league this term before naming him in the Gunners' XI away at Leeds United on Sunday.

The Spaniard may well be ruing his decision, as Pepe offered little creativity or invention during his 51-minute appearance before being dismissed -- with a straight red card -- for a petulant headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski following tetchy interactions between the pair during the first half.

It left the uninspired visitors up against it before they ultimately eked out a 0-0 draw, and represented an opportunity missed for the Ivorian, who will now embark on a three-match ban which will include the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur in early December.

Arteta didn't hold back in his criticism of his wayward winger following his mindless sending off for violent conduct.

"Very clear, it's unacceptable," Arteta was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "We knew the intensity, aggression and how alive they are in every situation, and you have to deal with that."

Pepe may have sent a cross against the crossbar during the first half -- that it was one of Arsenal's best chances says more about the Londoners than the Ivorian -- but his chances of establishing himself as a key man under Arteta, let alone repaying his hefty transfer fee, have been dented severely by his act of idiocy.

Nine games into the new season, Pepe has received as many red cards as he has combined goals and assists, and he's never felt further from realising his immense potential.

Iwobi reborn?

While Pepe now has time on his hands to reflect on how he gets back on track, his predecessor at Arsenal -- Alex Iwobi -- finally appears to have found his place at Carlo Ancelotti's Everton.

Last term, the Nigeria international failed to contribute a single goal or assist for the Toffees, and initially looked to have lost his place in the Merseysiders' first team this season, failing to start any of their first five league games.

However, following an inspired international break in which he netted twice for the Super Eagles in their shock 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone, the 24-year-old has returned to the Prem under a new guise at Everton.

He was employed as a right wing-back in Sunday's entertaining 3-2 victory at Fulham, as Everton picked up their first win in four and snapped a three-game losing streak.

Much in the same way as compatriot Victor Moses took to Antonio Conte's request for him to operate in a near-identical role at Chelsea like a duck to water in 2016-17, so Iwobi looked impressively comfortable at Craven Cottage as he thrived with a new brief.

Afforded space to run into, and seeing more of the ball, he completed six dribbles -- more than any other player on the pitch -- and also demonstrated his rarely spied defensive abilities with two completed interceptions, and two completed tackles.

There was little evidence that Iwobi was being drafted into the role for the first time, and his performance prompted purrs from ex-Manchester City right-back Micah Richards, who compared the Super Eagle to the likes of Maicon, in the BBC Match of the Day studio.

"I think it's perfect for Iwobi," the ex-England international began. "He can pick up the ball a little deeper and dribble into spaces and not have to worry about where he is going to be."

Admittedly, Everton will face much sterner tests than Fulham -- for whom Ademola Lookman weighed in with an assist -- but this was a performance that at least offered a glimpse of a new least of life for Iwobi with the Toffees.

Certainly, the ebullience with which he romped down Everton's right flank came in sharp contrast to his successor Pepe's current toil at Arsenal.

Awoniyi breaks his duck, Moukoko makes history

Over in Germany, Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi finally broke his duck for Union Berlin when he netted in their 2-1 victory over Cologne, nipping in between two defenders, controlling a looped ball down with his chest and finishing calmly with his right foot.

While it was a fine finish, and will again fuel optimism that Awoniyi can finally deliver on his immense potential, he must now start finding the net on a consistent basis.

The 23-year-old scored just once in 12 league outings on loan for Mainz last term, with that goal -- coincidentally -- coming against Cologne.

He can't play them every week, and mustn't wait until Union play them again before adding his second goal for his new club.

Bundesliga fans also paid witness to one of the most hotly anticipated debuts in the league's history, as Youssoufa Moukoko was given a five-minute run-out in Borussia Dortmund's 5-2 victory at Hertha Berlin.

Now eligible to play after passing his 16th birthday on Friday, the Cameroonian wonderkid has smashed goalscoring records aplenty at youth level -- prompting Samuel Eto'o to recommend him to Barcelona -- and became the youngest player in the history of the German top flight when he made his debut on Saturday.

Poignantly, he was introduced for midfielder Nuri Sahin, who had previously held the record for the Bundesliga's youngest player, having made his bow for BVB 15 years ago at 16 years, 11 months and one day.

Boga sends Sassuolo top

Last week, Sassuolo coach Roberto De Zerbi claimed that only Lionel Messi dribbled better than Cote d'Ivoire wideman Jeremie Boga, and repaying his manager's faith, the former Chelsea starlet scored a wondergoal on Sunday to send his side top of Serie A -- albeit only for a few hours.

AC Milan ultimately moved into pole position with victory over Napoli in the last kick-off of the weekend, but Boga again proved influential as Hellas Verona were dispatched to continue his -- and Sassuolo's -- sensational start to the season.

They're without defeat in eight games -- impressive in itself -- but his strike against Verona was certainly one of the highlights of that run, as the 23-year-old carried the ball into the box, shaped up from the corner of the area, and sent a powerful right-footed shot beyond the Hellas stopper.

Napoli and Stade Rennais were linked with a move for Boga during the offseason, but don't be surprised to see Europe's biggest clubs circling imminently.