Relentless Dennis offers hope for Nigeria, Salah strikes again

Gernot Rohr's departure as Nigeria head coach on Monday will be an opportunity for some of the Super Eagles' lesser-used frontmen over the coming months, with Watford's Emmanuel Dennis -- who scored again this weekend -- one of several players who should capitalise.

Also in the Premier League, Mohamed Salah extended his lead at the top of the scoring charts as Liverpool dispatched Aston Villa, while Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa made his long-awaited injury return for Napoli.

Dennis keeps his hand up

The circumstances are less than ideal for Nigeria's Super Eagles with less than a month to go before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations, as the country's football federation ruthlessly decided to part with long-serving German coach Rohr this week.

His replacement -- ex-Eagles defender Augustine Eguavoen -- knows the national side well having held the reins on two previous occasions, but is now faced with some major decisions on the eve of a potentially generation-defining tournament for this squad.

Does he stick with the personnel who have secured Nigeria's passage to Cameroon -- albeit in uninspiring Rohr-esque fashion -- or does he shuffle the pack and introduce some of the players who, based on their league form, ought to be part of the Eagles squad?

No one appears to be better placed to capitalise from Rohr's exit than Watford's Dennis, who was inexplicably omitted from the departing head coach's last squad as he instead plumped for Saudi Arabia-based veteran Odion Ighalo.

The politics of the decision aside, it made little sporting sense, with Ighalo's form -- while impressive on paper -- coming in a less competitive Saudi league, in comparison with the likes of Dennis, Union Berlin's Taiwo Awoniyi or David Okereke catching the eye against tougher defences.

The ongoing injury uncertainty around would-be leading man Victor Osimhen, who appears set to miss the tournament with a serious facial injury, leaves Nigeria with a hole up top, and this weekend, Dennis again provided evidence that he ought to be the man to fill it.

Against Brentford this weekend, he netted his seventh goal of the campaign -- having now registered 12 goal contributions in just 15 matches -- since signing from Club Brugge during the off-season.

Meeting a Tom Cleverley corner in the 24th minute, an unmarked Dennis headed home to give the visitors a lead that they held onto for over an hour.

Ultimately, the Bees equalised through Pontus Jansson in the 84th minute, before Franco-Cameroonian Bryan Mbeumo netted a 95th-minute winner when he converted from the spot following William Troost-Ekong's foul on Saman Ghoddos.

Dennis's contribution wasn't enough for the Hornets to avoid defeat, but he continues to demonstrate his aptitude for life in the top flight and prove that the Hertfordshire side were right to overlook his previous career indiscretions.

The forward is capable of contributing the goal threat that will be missing with Osimhen's likely absence -- only Mohamed Salah has had a hand in more top flight goals this term -- while he's proving himself against much tougher opposition that Ighalo is facing in the Middle East.

The attacker also offers versatility - this term he's featured in the front line and on both flanks for Watford - which makes him an ideal addition to any squad.

Elsewhere in the Premier League

Mohamed Salah is primed to be one of the AFCON's key attractions, even if questions about his pre-tournament availability for Liverpool are currently dominating the headlines.

The Reds will be weakened more than any other side during the Nations Cup, with Salah and Sadio Mane set to be major losses as Jurgen Klopp's side look to mount a title challenge.

They weren't at their best in victory over Aston Villa this weekend, and while one Liverpool legend -- Steven Gerrard -- received a hero's welcome from adoring Kopites, Salah demonstrated why he's stepped into the ex-skipper's shoes as the darling of Anfield.

His 67th-minute penalty was his 21st goal of a verdant season, as Salah's quick movement prompted a foul from the clumsy Tyrone Mings, and the Egypt forward duly stepped up to convert with aplomb beyond Emi Martinez.

Salah has now converted his last 15 spotkicks in the top flight, with only Southampton great Matt Le Tissier enjoying a longer unbroken run (23) in the competition's history.

Klopp will have his work cut out attempting to maintain Liverpool's momentum during early 2022 when Salah departs for Cameroon, with the Pharaohs frontman in the form of his life right now.

He's now had a hand in a goal - either scoring himself or assisting - in his last 14 league games, a record bettered only by Jamie Vardy and his run of 15 matches in late 2015.

Vardy's Leicester City teammate Patson Daka was also among the goals in the top flight this weekend, scoring his second league goal of the campaign as Newcastle United were thumped 4-0.

It was arguably Daka's finest league outing since signing for the Foxes in the offseason, as he also contributed the assist for James Maddison's 85th-minute effort -- and Leicester's fourth -- to round off a magnificent team performance.

No Foxes player has had a hand in more goals across all competitions than Daka this term, with the forward either scoring or assisting every 83 minutes so far this campaign.

To continental Europe...

In contrast to Dennis, Nantes wideman Moses Simon always appeared to have a special spot in Rohr's heart, likely due to his selfless interpretation of his brief out wide.

On paper, Simon could be one of the 'losers' from Rohr's exit, although on the evidence of this weekend, he still has much to offer the national side under their new stewardship.

He was the match-winner as Nantes completed a come-from-behind victory over Racing Club de Lens this weekend, netting a magnificent 93rd-minute winner to secure all three points for the Canaries.

Picking the ball up in a wide position, as Nantes pushed for a winner, Simon cut in past three defenders -- and the despairing lunge of tired legs -- before rifling home a right-footed winner beyond substitute stopper Wuilker Farinez.

While Congolese forward Randal Kolo Muani had bagged both of Nantes' earlier goals, Simon's stunner was the game's genuine moment of class as he served a reminder of his enduring quality heading into the continental showpiece.

In Italy, Napoli's form has suffered in the absence of Cameroon midfielder Zambo Anguissa, who was named in his country's provisional AFCON squad ahead of the tournament on home soil.

In their three league games without him, Napoli were held by Sassuolo and then capitulated at home against Atalanta last weekend -- only their second league defeat (and their first at home) of the campaign.

Having recovered from an adductor injury, the midfielder returned to action against Empoli on Sunday, coming off the bench soon after the hour mark with the scores level.

However, the Fulham loanee was unable to prevent Patrick Cutrone from opening the scoring for the visitors, instead seeing his attempted clearance rebound in off the Empoli man's head to secure an unlikely three points.

After winning their first eight matches, and going 12 matches unbeaten to start the season, the Naples heavyweights have now lost three of their last five and won just one -- the 4-0 rout of Lazio in late November.

Obviously, the loss of Osimhen has denied them a cutting edge, but head coach Luciano Spalletti will be desperate to include Zambo Anguissa from the off moving forward as they look to revive their flagging title challenge.