With Arsenal taking on Crystal Palace to open the much talked about 2022-2023 English Premier League Season later tonight, much talk and attention from a Ghanaian perspective is on Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey. However, there is another high profile Ghanaian player in the mix who doesn’t get enough credit from natives of the motherland or handlers of Ghana’s National Men’s Football Team.
Heading into his eighth season in the English Premier League, Jeffrey Schlupp is a veteran midfielder who has a Premier League title on his CV as a member of the shock title winning Leicester City team of the 2015/2016 season.
Fair enough, Jordan has won Crystal Palace Player of the Season Award, scored an absolute worldie of a goal against West Ham in 2019 and has the infamous surname Ayew on his CV to bank on. For Partey, he is Ghana’s Black Stars Deputy Captain, grabbed the headlines on the back of his move from Atletico Madrid to Arsenal and scored the decisive goal that secured Ghana a spot in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
With these kind of accolades going for him plus some not so pleasant reported news this offseason, it isn’t surprising Partey is one of the most talked about players in the Premier League.
Schlupp has flown under the radar for several years despite carving up a solid role at Crystal Palace to feature in 32 games last season in the EPL. As a solid contributor on a team competing in the Best League In The World Schlupp ought to be a shoo in for a spot in the Black Stars but since making his debut with the team after completing his international switch from Germany to Ghana in 2011, the 29 year old has made just 20 appearances for the Black Stars.
Injuries have contributed to this shocking dearth of international caps but Schlupp has been Ghana’s Forgotten Man for quite some time. He has fallen off the radar so much, several reports have indicated he is next in line to announce his retirement from the Black Stars in the wake of Alfred Duncan and Bernard Mensah’s exits. The announcements of fellow EPL players Tariq Lamptey and Salisu Mohammed into the Black Stars pool of talent hasn’t helped improve this situation either.
The start of a unique season for most European football leagues offers the German born left footed player a big chance to remind Ghanaians and especially the Black Stars selectors how good he is and perhaps provide a preview to what he can add to the team in Qatar. Palace Coach Patrick Viera has made mainly defensive additions to his team this offseason further bolstering a squad that conceded 46 goals last season’s defensive chops.
Out of six signings made this offseason, two are goalkeepers, a defensive midfielder (Cheick Doucoure signed from Lens) and Chris Richards (signed from Bayern Munich). Such signings are indicative of Viera attempting to free attack minded players like Schlupp of defensive duties to prop up an attack that produced 50 goals in the immediate past league season.
After bagging four goals last season, Schlupp is likely to get more chances to improve his goal count this season as he is expected to spend more time up the pitch. Football has grown to become all about goals in the social media era and a string of goal scoring exploits prior to November is sure to get more people to back calls for Schlupp’s inclusion in the Black Stars.
As a versatile midfielder with very good speed, Schlupp can line up as a starter or direct replacement for Kamaldeen Sulemana on the left side of a three man front line. With Kudus Mohammed virtually an untouchable talent, Schlupp can serve as a direct replacement for Kudus on the left side in a three man midfield for the Black Stars. National team aspirations aside, the 2022-2023 season marks the final year in Schlupp’s contract with Crystal Palace signed in 2017 meaning the 29 year old needs to have a big season to put himself in line for a new lucrative albeit short contract extension from Palace.
While Partey battles for a place in the Champions League with Arsenal, Salisu continues his improved form that gets him closer to a move to possibly one of the Manchester Clubs and Lamptey improves his assist numbers, be on the lookout for Schlupp to push his way from the Black Stars fringes to a main spot in the team. The time for Schlupp to throw down the reminder gauntlet happens this season and it starts tonight.