Moses Simon & Henry Onyekuru: Mixed fortunes for Nigeria wingers in France so far

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It’s been a great start at Nantes for the Levante loanee, but the former Everton man hasn’t had the rub of the green as AS Monaco continue to toil

As far as impact goes, Moses Simon hasn’t done badly in his short time in Ligue 1 with Nantes. The winger has made the most of his honeymoon period since the start of his temporary spell with the Canaries and is seemingly reversing events of the last year which saw him struggle in Spain with Levante.

Simon rarely featured for the Frogs last term, making 19 appearances in total with only eight starts, so the decision to depart on loan made sense. However, choosing a switch to Nantes, a side with more options on the wings than Levante, seemed counterintuitive given playing time in Christian Gourcuff’s team wasn’t guaranteed.

Getting out of the blocks quickly was necessary due to the competition for places in the west of France, and he’s done just that in the last two games: after missing the Canaries’ first couple of games against LOSC Lille and Olympique de Marseille, Simon has delivered in wins against Amiens and Montpellier.

He needed just 10 minutes after replacing Kader Bamba in the 74th minute to seal a 2-1 win against the former, and was one of Gourcuff’s best players in last weekend’s 1-0 win against the Montpellier-based club.

Besides completing four of his attempted six dribbles on his home debut, Simon created no less than five chances against La Paillade, so it was no surprise the left winger was directly involved in the goal that won the game.

Moses Simon - Nigeria vs. Guinea

Minutes after assisting Abdoulaye Toure’s match-winning goal, the left winger was denied by a Pedro Mendes block which prevented him from scoring his second goal in as many games. He then created a big chance for Kalifa Coulibaly in the game’s closing stages, only for the striker to be thwarted by Geronimo Rulli in the Montpellier goal.

So far, Simon is proving to be valuable for Gourcuff and will certainly keep his place on the left berth as long as he keeps delivering the goods. While the threat of losing his place in an event of a loss of form hangs over his head, all he can focus is on current events and the fact that he’s thriving.

For Henry Onyekuru, it hasn’t been the best of introductions to French football with Monaco. Having failed to secure a work permit to represent Everton, the attacker joined Leonardo Jardim’s side in August following two successful loan spells with Anderlecht and Galatasaray.

It may come with the benefit of hindsight, but perhaps the implosion of Les Monegasques wasn’t that hard to foretell given how last season panned out.

Thierry Henry Monaco training

After a tumultuous campaign which saw Jardim depart, Thierry Henry’s ill-fated spell come to an abrupt end and the Portuguese return to a side battling for Ligue 1 survival, they narrowly escaped relegation last term, with a 17th-place finish and a two-point edge over Dijon saving them from the relegation playoffs.

Going by events on and off the pitch so far, things haven’t improved for the Red and Whites with on-pitch chaos and future of former captain Radamel Falcao (who left for Galatasaray this week) dominating the news.

Onyekuru’s new teammates are winless after four games and sit 19th in the table with just two points.

The lack of discipline in the opening four gameweeks has been palpable too with three red cards in the first three matchdays often leaving Jardim’s side with so much to do by playing with 10 men.

On a personal front, Onyekuru hasn’t been culpable for anything wrong at Monaco, but the jury’s still out over the rationale behind making such a move knowing full well their struggles since the departures of core members of the 2017 title-winning side.

Henry Onyekuru - Monaco 2019-20

Especially after his successful spell with Galatasaray, which produced 14 goals and five assists, as well as a league and cup double, the expectation might have been to move to a side on the up, and not one in the doldrums.

While the international break disrupts Simon and Nantes' momentum, Onyekuru and his colleagues at Monaco will be pleased with the breather which allows them regroup after a tough start to the campaign.

The latter has also had to pull out from the Nigeria squad to face Ukraine next week owing to the need to apply for a resident permit in France, as he seeks to settle in a new country.

With a goal and assist after two games, Simon has equalled his return from his hapless maiden year in Spain by taking to his new surroundings like a duck to water.

For Onyekuru, the tide can’t change soon enough in his quest to succeed in the murky waters of the Fontvieille district of Monaco.

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