Football

Benik Afobe: Arsenal's next superstar

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While Arsenal fans may be quick to demand that Arsene Wenger splashes out on short-term attacking solutions to help propel the club into the Champions League, as ever the Frenchman has a trick up his sleeve.

In 18-year-old Benik Afobe Arsenal have a striker who, despite his steady rise, is likely to be the next star off The Gunners production line, and could provide decent variety to the club's attack come his first-team emergence.

Only last season was Afobe allowed to go on loan to develop his talent, and in Huddersfield Town found a club suited to developing the skills required to fit in at The Emirates Stadium.

Under Lee Clark, The Terriers have the tendency to play fast attacking football, with the likes of Anthony Pilkington and Antony Kay ably feeding the hotly tipped Jordan Rhodes and the seasoned Alan Lee.

Despite joining on loan in November, it wasn't until injury to Pilkington that Clark handed regular opportunities to Afobe, who made 11 consecutive starts for Town following the injury to the midfielder, including a start in the League One play-off final against Peterborough United.

His performances were so impressive that Clark often preferred him ahead of top scorer Rhodes, who was forced to play second fiddle during the business end of the season.

Five goals during those 11 back-to-back starts including a glorious double against champions Brighton and Hove Albion helped Town push Southampton all the way to second place in League One.

By now Afobe was finding his feet in professional football. Few will have noticed, given his astute performances, that these opening games were the first of fledging career.

Many defences found his 6ft frame a tough proposition, while his pace was proving a deadly asset in the final third.

His crowning performance against Brighton, a must win game for Clark's men during the twilight of the season, showcased his talents, and will have given Wenger encouragement that Afobe can become a talent under Arsenal's wing.

The first was all his own work, turning neatly on Inigo Calderon before sliding past Peter Brezovan, while his second saw him again terrify the full-back, nipping in to round the goalkeeper cooly, gifting the visitors the lead once again.

Many will level against Afobe that his lack of first-team experience, despite his 36 appearances for Huddersfield last season, means he's unlikely to suddenly become a regular for the three-time Premier League champions.

But his attributes, at an early stage of his career, should give Wenger enough reason to start giving serious thought toward handing the teenager his first start for the club.

While he netted eight goals during his short stay at the Galpharm Stadium last term, his 10 assists shows he's got an all-round game that can be worked on, and one that given Arsenal's current style, which relies on the central striker providing a thorough service up front, lends itself ideally to his ball-playing ability.

So if Gunners fans are scratching their heads wondering why Wenger has been reluctant in bringing in resources this season, just take a look at what's in reserve.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League

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