A few days ago I, Salim, unveiled the first part of ‘Meet the Potential Stars of Africa Cup of Nations 2012‘. Here, I bring it all home with the second and final part. Enjoy, ladies and gentlemen. Thank me later.
Bruno Ecuele Manga (23, Lorient & Gabon Centre-Back)
When Laurent Koscielny left Lorient for Arsenal, Lorient’s replacement for him came in the form of Bruce Ecuele Manga. What made Koscielny particularly standout at his time at Lorient, and alert Arsene Wenger, were his impressive statistics: 328 clearances and 159 interceptions - which were more than any other defender in Ligue 1 in the 2009/2010 season.
Called 'Manga' but he doesn't look like someone from a Japanese comic.
Manga has continued that legacy and is third in the rankings of the defenders with the most clearances with 10 clearances per game this season. Clearances aren’t everything, of course, and Manga’s game isn’t limited to merely clearances – he is aerially very dominant and won’t shirk a battle, his performance in Lorient’s shock 1-0 away win against PSG was outstanding. Lorient, who are 10th in the league at the time of writing, have only conceded 4 goals at home this season – the joint-lowest in the league and Manga has been an ever-present. His backs-to-the-wall defending may very well come in handy, especially if Gabon are to reach the latter stages of the tournament.