Attracting Attention; The Beguiling Benik Afobe

BenikAfobe(PonderingGreatness)
Contemplating Greatness | Benik Afobe At Wolves
BenikAfobe&ArseneWenger
Nurtured By A Legend | Benik Afobe At Arsenal

It is not uncommon for one to hear of a talented protégé flying the nestling bosoms of a Premier League club for another permanent home, playing regularly for a smaller Premier League or Football League club while looking to ensure that their development does not stall or allow their careers to regress due to a lack of regular competitive football. One cannot overlook the fact that many of these once highly touted prospects often fail to fulfil their true or once highly raved about potential after taking the “one stride backwards to move forward a few”; yet many a teenage prodigy has graduated into a proven Premier League footballer, after putting in some good performances and cashing in on spells out on loan and experienced gained in the reserve leagues or at youth international level to prove that potential can always reach a stage where it is regularly translating into ability and relying itself out in solid and consistent performances on the field.

Benik Afobe will be a name that only begun to resonate with some in the last 18 months, yet the London born natural goal scorer has long been touted for greatness after showing glimpses of his potential at an early age as yet another star in a galaxy of starlets at London Colney. It has been noted that the development of natural born no: 9’s has stalled across the fraternity over the years, the rarity of an out & out striker has led to an advancement in tactical approach on the offensive end of the pitch as gaffers look to create goals from more outlets to reduce the dependency on the forwards, yet there will never be any substitute for a natural goal-getting forward in a team that wants to win more often than they lose or draw.

While Arsenal fans across the globe have been clamouring for their gaffer to add some much needed quality in depth going forward for the past few transfer windows, a young Londoner who was nurtured by The Gooners has proceeded to score goals with a high degree of dexterity and some highly commendable regularity; one begins to wonder if the reported £ 2m paid by Wolves to bring the lad over to Molineux in January of 2014 will seem like a considerable loss on investment for Arsenal in the coming years. Premiership clubs like Newcastle United & Norwich City have been sniffing around Afobe for months and Wolves will have to put up a brave fight if they want to ensure that they don’t lose out by cashing in on their asset without truly enriching the club and player off the deal; The Canaries have already had 3 bids rejected for the gifted forward with bags of pace and a nose for the net, it seems as if it is only a matter of time before Benik Afobe shows his growth and development as a player by finally earning the chance he’s craved to show that he is a Premiership striker in his own right.

A lot can be said about Arsène Wenger and his excellent record with young players, yet his home-grown youth development products have again fallen behind bought talent in the pecking order and we have become accustomed to watching a once highly touted Arsenal development graduate finally leaving the club for free or for a nominal fee after having spent time out on loan before being deemed “not good enough” for a future in the first team squad. The reasons may vary as to why players like Kerrea Gilbert, Mark Randall, Henri Lansbury, Jay Simpson, Luke Freeman, Sanchez Watt and Kyle Bartley, to name but a few, never progressed into fully fledged regulars in the Arsenal first team; yet one cannot help but spare a thought for the young footballers who used to have some assurance of a genuine shot a first team football after having been at the club for years learning how to play the Arsenal way.

A young lad ought to develop a great degree of experience and jumpstart the development process somewhat by playing regular competitive football while still in the formative stages of their development as a footballer; yet there is a lot of question marks raised around the number of loans clubs tend to send young players out on these days, with the destinations and durations of the loan moves often not favouring holistic growth for both clubs and the player. 6 different loan spells in 5 seasons could break a young footballers resolve to aim for the elite level and break into the first team squad, yet a handy return of 32 goals in 118 games while out on loan was enough to prove to Wolves that they could invest in Afobe and get a proven goalscorer with the potential to get even better and yield a healthy return on investment when the bigger clubs inevitably come calling.

Afobe proved to all and sundry in his breakthrough campaign at MK Dons, in the 2014-15 season, that he had all the raw gifts to grow into a star player for club and country in years to come; comfortable on and off the ball, Afobe seemed to terrorise opposition defenders for fun at times and his remarkable overall haul of 32 goals in 51 games during last season, 19 for MK Dons & 13 for Wolves, should have justified his status as a young footballer ready to fight for advancement back up the totem pole and into the elite level of the Premier League.  Current gaffer Kenny Jackett, who mentored Afobe during his brief loan spell at Millwall in the 2012-13 season, has taken advantage of the players offensive versatility and deployed the lad in more of a Deep-Lying Forward position, where he has a bit more room to run at defenders with the ball and get involved in the creation of attacking play even more; this change in position may have resulted in some sporadic goals for the Leyton-born forward, yet his quality level has now been ascertained and the onus is fully on the player to continue stepping up when needed and showing a desire to fulfil the great potential we know he possesses.

Benik Afobe

Bio

Full Name: Benik Tunani Afobe

DoB: February 12th, 1993 (22)

PoB: Leyton, London; England

Height: 1, 83m

Position: Advanced Playmaker, Advanced Forward, Deep-Lying Forward, Complete Forward, Poacher (Left, Right, Centre)

Preferred Foot: Either

Current Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (Joined January 2015)

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018

Youth Development Nest: Arsenal (2001-2010)

Former Clubs: Arsenal (2010-2015), Huddersfield Town (Nov 2010- May 2011; Loan), Reading F.C. March 2012 – May 2012; Loan), Bolton Wanderers (August 2012 – January 2013; Loan), Millwall (February 2013 – May 2013; Loan), Sheffield Wednesday (January 2014 – May 2014; Loan), MK Dons (August 2014 – January 2015; Loan)

Market Value: € 7m

Asking Price: £ 14m

Career Club Record: 147 Games, 50 Goals & 20 Assists (Goal Ratio: 1 in 2.94 Games)

Caps & Goals: England u/12 {Captain}, England u/16 {3 Caps, 4 Goals}, England u/17 {23 Caps, 11 Goals}, England u/19 {10 Caps, 7 Goals}, England u/21 {2 Caps, 1 Goal}

Possible Destinations

Newcastle United

The Steve McLaren era has not brought the stability Geordies had hoped for, while their lads have displayed a better degree of resilience and an evident desire to improve, there seems to be a shortage of genuine quality in a number of positions; while Newcastle could benefit from the arrival of a commanding centre-half and a couple of tenacious yet industrious midfielders, a proven or reliable goal threat is required urgently if the club are to fight their way out of mediocrity and upwards in the League table.

Newcastle a known to be very keen on Afobe, with good reason too, the Leyton-born lad would add great dimension to their frontline and give the club a No: 9 to build their project around; Geordie fans a known to warm to a forward that plays the game in the right way and scores them a goal ever so often, methinks Benik Afobe would be a great fit in the Black & White of the Magpies, yet me wonders if Mike Ashley is willing to pay the premium and afford his club the best possible chance of survival in a pivotal season for many bottom half clubs.

Norwich City

The surprise package of the season, thus far, would undoubtedly be Leicester City due to their lofty position and the manner in which they are freely scoring goals and taking names; yet the true surprise should be Alex Neil’s Norwich City and the continuation of their meteoric rise while under the Scot’s tutelage, promoted via the play-offs with a surprise victory over promotion favourites Middlesbrough and currently sitting with an outside shot at survival already this season.

The Canaries posses a spirited unit brimming with experienced campaigners that have already shown a desire to keep the club in a respectable position, yet many have clamoured for City to invest well during January if they are to capitalise on the poor form of some teams around them and ensure survival in their maiden season back in the top flight before using the TV revenue to build a sustainable Premier League club by investing in a well structured project, ala-Crystal Palace. The signing of a talent like Benik Afobe would add that injection of 10-15 goals that will differentiate between the glory of survival and the agony of relegation; with so much competition for his signature, it would take a well structured proposal to lure Afobe over to Carrow Road as City look to spend some money to make some more money on the back-end.

Crystal Palace

If there were any Alan Pardew doubters left, they will surely have piped down by now as Pards has gradually built his Eagles side into one of the most exciting football clubs in England, and possibly the entire football realm. To many, the fact that Alan Pardew has built a good football team in itself is not too surprising, the man has always had it in him to be a good gaffer at the highest level; the surprising and highly commendable feat has to be the manner in which he has gone about his business, considering the circumstances he’s had to work under.

Crystal Palace aren’t traditionally Top 10 when players list clubs in England that they would sign for, yet Pardew has managed to attract some good players to Selhurst Park while using some highly commendable man-management skills to get the best out of the talent he already had on the books. There is no denying the potential for Palace to become a top half of the table side that competes for a spot in Europe while under the guidance of the man tipped as a future England manager, yet much of the potential could be fulfilled even earlier with more shrewd acquisitions in January; one such need is another quality forward option that might just guarantee Palace’s finish in the top 6 ahead of an underperforming London rival, Benik Afobe would fit like a globe at Pardew’s Palace, and the opportunity to reunite with his former attacking partner-in-crime, Bakary Sako, could be too tempting to refuse for the Londoner.

Bournemouth

It’s hard not to warm to young British managers these days, most seem to say all the right things in interviews and show a desire to bring a lasting imprint to football in an age where home-grown is the new prerequisite for many; one English manager who has already left a lasting impression in such a short time is Eddie Howe, his Bournemouth side seemed destined to continue their great rise and even push some of the big boys about in their maiden season, yet tragedy seems to have struck The Cherries when success looks ripe for the picking.

In every moment of devastation, lies the opportunity for revival and that is the case for a club that is crafting its own legacy in the big time; their football is enthralling at times, yet one feels that an injection of genuine quality would see the club establishing more of a resilience within their ranks and giving the team a better opportunity to grind out results in those less open games where points count far more than performance and style ever could. The loss of Callum Wilson will have been the bitterest pill to swallow, as it was the worst and most unfortunate of the serious injuries to have occurred during this knee ligament injury crisis, the striker was the most pivotal attacking player to the team played, with his constant goal threat and ability to press from the front tirelessly affording the midfield players room to make probing runs into; a replacement forward, or two, will have to come in during the January transfer window, even if it is only to maintain the status quo and ensure survival in a season where survival means unfathomable riches and growth from a big TV rights deal.

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