Drogba leads the pack

The big Ivorian forward is now second ‘ on the Actim Index Top 100 players table in the English Premiership ‘ to Everton striker Andy Johnson.

The Actim Index table, which is updated every week during the course of the English Premiership season, is the official ranking for player performance in the league.

“The Actim Index is the official player rating system of the Barclays Premiership. It was introduced for the 2004/05 season and was devised by statisticians at the University of Salford in partnership with the Press Association Sport,” reads the official English Premiership website.

“Actim Stats are a collection of team, player and match statistics. They are derived from all the actions that take place during a match, including goals, shots on target, corners, fouls, offsides, passes, tackles, blocks and clearances.

Drogba was largely expected to be off-loaded by Chelsea this season, especially after the arrival of Andriy Shevnchenko, but he stayed at Chelsea and has been in red-hot form.

While Shevchenko struggles for goals, Drogba has been scoring for fun and his goals have lifted Chelsea into second place on the league table ‘ level on points with bitter rivals Manchester United but only second by virtue of an inferior goal difference.

The goal that Drogba scored in the 1-0 win over Liverpool has so far been rated as the best goal this season.

Taking the ball on his chest, Drogba lost defender Jammie Carragher and got the sweetest of connections with his left foot to volley the ball home with both power and precision.

The Ivorian forward has so far accumulated 160 points ‘ just 12 points behind England striker Johnson who leads the pack with his 172 points.

Drogba is also the leading African player in the Premiership so far this year.

The other African success story in the Premiership to date has been teenage striker Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa.

Born in England of Nigerian parents, Agbonlahor has been a huge success for Villa so far this season and his header gave his side a point in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Still eligible to play for England ‘ where he was born ‘ or Nigeria, where his parents came from, Agbonlahor has been carefully weighing his options although there has already been a call from the Super Eagles for him to join their camp.

He has accumulated 132 points so far this season and sits comfortably in fourth place on the Actim Index rankings.

Fellow Nigerian, Nwanko Kanu, is in sixth place after his flying start to the campaign at new club Portsmouth.

The veteran forward, who moved to Pompey at the beginning of the season, has been in excellent form leading the Portsmouth forward line and has scored five goals so far this season.

He scored in Portsmouth’s last game but ended up on the losing side after they lost 1-2 in controversial fashion to Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane.

Kanu, a veteran of the English Premiership campaign who has played for Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion, has accumulated 131 points to date.

Another forward who is enjoying a fine run is South African striker Benni McCarthy.

Benni moved to Blackburn Rovers at the beginning of the season from Portuguese club Porto and has quickly found his feet in his new environment.

Benni might be a pain in the back for the South African Football Association through his on-and-off romance with Bafana Bafana but he is becoming a major hit with the Blackburn fans.

He scored the winner in his team’s last match ‘ a 2-1 victory over Wigan ‘ after they came from behind to clinch all three points.

Benni is now in 14th place on 119 points.

The next African player on the table is Senegalese forward El-Hadji Diouf of Bolton who is in 20th place on 106 points for his great contribution to his team’s rise to third on the table.

The best African defender on the table is Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo ‘ an exemplary professional who has done very well since moving to Everton.

Yobo has been impressive this year as Everton have started the season unbeaten and sits in 28th place on the table with 101 points ‘ the same number as Arsenal wingback Emmanuel Eboe.

Zimbabwe captain Benjani Mwaruwari is in 37th place on the table with 97 points.

Benjani has scored twice for Pompey this year and was dropped to the bench by coach Harry Redknapp for the trip to White Hart Lane at the weekend.

Until then Benjani had started all the Pompey games in attack alongside Kanu.

But after missing two fine chances that could have won the game against Bolton, Benjani found himself on the bench as Redknapp settled for Kanu and Lomano LuaLua.

That combination, however, failed to work and Pompey clearly lacked strength in attack on the day as they were beaten 1-2 by Tottenham.

Benjani was a late substitute but still made his presence felt with a fine delivery that found LuaLua whose header was superbly saved by the Spurs goalkeeper.

The Warriors’ captain has the same number of points as Marcus Huhnemann of Reading, Luke Moore of Aston Villa and Bobby Convey of Reading.

The next African on the list is Abdoulaye Meite, the Bolton Wanderers defender, with 93 points who is in 45th place while Reading’s Ibrahima Sonko is in 66th place on 83 points.

What is the purpose of the Actim Index?

“It identifies the players who make key contributions and it allows players to be ranked against each other at random or using such criteria as playing position, nationality, age, or geographical location of their team,” reads the Premiership website.

Top Ten African Players

1. Didier Drogba Chelsea

2. Gabriel Agbonlahor Aston Villa

3. Nwanko Kanu Portsmouth

4. Benni McCarthy Blackburn

5. El-Hadji Diouf Bolton

6. Joseph Yobo Everton

7. Emmanuel Eboue Arsenal

8. Benjani Mwaruwari Portsmouth

9. Abdoulaye Meite Bolton

10. Ibrahima Sonko Reading

October 2006
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