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Africans Abroad: Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Sako show encouraging signs while Jordan Ayew makes history in Premier League

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Arsenal's African players endured mixed fortunes during a difficult week as the English Premier League returned following the coronavirus-enforced suspension, while Jordan Ayew made top-flight history as he netted in Crystal Palace's 2-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth.

Perhaps no side has endured more misery in the opening week of Project Restart than Arsenal, who were defeated in back-to-back games by Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Not only did they take zero points from those fixtures, but they also lost Granit Xhaka, Pablo Mari and Bernd Leno to injury, and David Luiz to suspension.

However, there were reasons for optimism -- at least for the club's African stars.

Nicolas Pepe, widely criticised following his £72 million arrival from Lille, has struggled to justify his transfer fee but is nonetheless growing into the top flight.

He excelled in the evisceration of Everton before lockdown, and again looked the part against Brighton -- opening the scoring with a superb left-footed effort slammed beyond Mat Ryan after cutting inside past Solly March.

Now on five goals and six assists in the Premier League, Pepe is still a long way from his 22-goal Ligue 1 tally of last term, but there are few Arsenal players who represent as much of a threat as he does at the moment, and he appears primed to end the season strongly.

Similarly, Bukayo Saka is silencing pre-restart concerns that the return to fitness of left-backs Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac would limit his playing time for the Londoners.

Instead, Mikel Arteta has opted to shunt him forward to the more advanced positions in which the youngster made his name in the club's academy.

Saka featured on the right against Manchester City, but switched to a more central role against Brighton, contributing the assist for Pepe's opener as he settled into his new brief.

Saka's assist was his 11th of the season in all competitions -- three more than any other Gunners player -- which demonstrates his value to this side in transition.

With a year left on his contract at the Emirates Stadium, Saka surely continues to demonstrate that Arteta must make it a priority to tie him down to a new deal.

Eddie Nketiah, who started against City and made a brief cameo against Brighton, looked sharp against Pep Guardiola's side, creating one goalscoring opportunity albeit in difficult circumstances. The young Ghanaian must now look to make the most of the playing time that comes his way over the coming weeks, to prove that he has a key role to play in Arteta's new-look Arsenal.

Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still be a major figure at the club moving forward?

The Gabon striker's future has been the subject of intense speculation in the weeks preceding football's return, as he, too, enters the final year of his deal, and he's struggled to get started again now the Premier League has resumed.

He managed two attempts on goal against City, but his 22 touches were fewer even than Luiz -- who lasted only 25 minutes -- and he was regularly isolated from the action.

He was more involved against the Seagulls, but broke an unwanted personal record by taking seven shots without finding the net. That was the most attempts on goal Auba has taken in a single EPL game for the Gunners without scoring, even if three of his shots did test Ryan.

With Arsenal's hopes of European qualification, let alone securing UEFA Champions League, floundering, Arteta will be desperate for his leading man to rediscover his scoring boots for the trip to Southampton on Thursday and the FA Cup quarterfinal at Sheffield United three days later.

One Premier League striker who had no trouble finding the net this weekend was Palace striker Ayew, who added the Londoners' second in their comfortable triumph over a lacklustre Bournemouth team.

Signed for a risible £2.5 million in the summer, Ayew has defied scepticism among supporters to net nine goals this campaign -- taking his Premier League tally to 25, after stints with Aston Villa and Swansea City.

His goal on Saturday took him above Leeds United great Tony Yeboah -- as well as other illustrious Black Stars Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew -- to become Ghana's all-time top scorer in the Premier League.

It's a remarkable achievement for a player who has endured much criticism during his career, and even with Christian Benteke firing blanks, and Wilfried Zaha not quite at the level he has been in recent campaigns, Jordan's goals could well fire Palace into Europe.

No other side in the division have won their past four matches, but that record will be tested when they visit title-chasing Liverpool on Wednesday.

While the Premier League title is surely beyond Manchester City, no team has looked as rampant as Guardiola's side since the restart.

The Sky Blues have netted eight in their past two matches back, including Monday evening's 5-0 demolition of Burnley, with Riyad Mahrez bagging two.

The Algeria international didn't always appear to have Guardiola's trust last season -- at least not in the Premier League -- but he has emerged as one of the Citizens' key men this term, and he is one of only two outfield players who retained his place after the victory over Arsenal.

Mahrez added a sumptuous goal after Phil Foden had opened the scoring, bringing down a long ball from Fernandinho and pirouetting beyond Charlie Taylor in one seamless movement before firing beyond Nick Pope. He added his second from the penalty spot four minutes later, after Sergio Aguero had been brought down, to claim his ninth goal of an increasingly impressive season.

Serie A returned this weekend, with Victor Moses coming off the bench for Internazionale as they defeated Sampdoria 2-1 to reignite their title bid, which was floundering before lockdown.

Antonio Conte's side moved up to 57 points, although they remain nine behind leaders Juventus following the Old Lady's victory over Bologna on Monday.

In Turin, Cameroon's Nicolas Nkoulou opened the scoring as struggling Torino ended their seven-game losing streak with a 1-1 draw against Gervinho's Parma, with the Ivorian setting up Juraj Kucka for the visitors' equaliser.

Peter Etebo was Africa's outstanding performer in La Liga this weekend, opening his account for Getafe with the opener in their 1-1 draw with Eibar at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

In finding the net, the dynamic midfielder became the 21st Nigerian player to score in the Spanish top flight, but his performance was marred by a muscle injury that necessitated his substitution after 69 minutes.

Saturday represented the penultimate weekend of Bundesliga action, with TSB Hoffeheim's Ihlas Bebou and Dodi Lukebakio of Hertha Berlin finding the net in victories over Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

Ramy Bensebaini contributed an assist as Borussia Monchengladbach defeated already relegated Paderborn 3-1 away, and their superior goal difference over Bayer means they'll all but guarantee Champions League qualification if they avoid defeat at home by Hertha on the final day.