Alexis Sanchez may well have been Arsenal’s star of the season, but with some recent name calling it seems the Chilean has already unearthed a new Arsenal star, one he well may be passing the baton to in the future.
In a recent interview with Arsenal Magazine, Arsenal youngster Chuba Akpom has revealed that Sanchez calls him ‘Titi’, which for those who don’t know was the nickname given to Arsenal’s all time top goalscorer and now Sky Sports pundit, Thierry Henry.
In what is an in depth look into the youngster’s life and start to a promising footballing career, his likeness and admiration for Thierry Henry is first on the agenda.
“Thierry Henry is my idol so for someone like Alexis to call me Titi is a bit... wow – I’ll take that!"
Akpom has been at Arsenal for a long time now, making appearances for the U18 team when he was just 15 years of age. Before making strides towards the youth teams however, it was during his formative years in the Arsenal academy, which he joined at just seven, and seeing Henry perform miracles for the club that shaped how the young striker went about his footballing education.
"I was in the Arsenal academy, seeing him do all these great things for the club and I thought, ‘I want to be like him’."
The interview which can be found on arsenal.com is an excellent read and shows Akpom in a positive light. But the most interesting part about it is the nickname he has inherited from his childhood hero and why he has found himself blessed which such a thing.
Akpom is a goalscorer. Testament to this is his bettering of Jermain Defoe’s, goalscoring extraordinaire, record for St Bonaventure’s School, which they both attended.
He has also been prolific for all of Arsenal's youth teams, and his record is even more impressive when considering he has often been fast tracked through the youth system, playing against players at times three or four years his senior.
Next Thierry? Or too much hype?
Like the Arsenal great before him, the young man can score goals. Something he looked set to do after making a late appearance against Aston Villa earlier this season. He was cruelly denied his first goal for the club after being bundled over by the Villa ‘keeper just as he look set to pass the ball into an empty net.
Even in the brief moments of game time he has ben given, it is clear he has styled his game on that of the Arsenal great. The aforementioned chance against Villa itself oozed a certain Henry-ness about it. It was Akpom’s pace that created the opportunity whilst he showed the composure to go round the goalkeeper, another trait so often associated with Henry.
Arsene Wenger said the following about Akpom after he signed a new long term contract at the club in February, making it clear it his style of play and physique that are cause for drawing even more similarities between the two.
"All the attributes are there – he is strong, has power, is good technically, is a good finisher and is very ambitious. I believe he has a great future."
Thierry Henry has always been a good source for quotes relating to passion and an appetite for the game. But despite this desire to succeed, one Akpom too seems to have, the quality most synonymous with Henry’s game was his electric pace and the ease in which he left defenders in his wake.
Goals against Real Madrid and arch rivals Spurs are chilling reminders of the inhuman physical attributes Henry possessed. Running almost the full length of the pitch, gliding past greats of the games and leaving them helplessly in his wake, all before slotting the ball home with ice-cold composure and unwavering confidence.
A lot to live up to
It may be some time before we see Akpom replicate such a feat, or anyone for that matter. But, when someone like Arsene Wenger, and let’s not forget Alexis Sanchez, pays you such glowing compliments, it’s hard not to get excited about the potential talent Akpom may have.
It will be worth following his development closely, especially in terms of whether he remains with the squad next year or is sent out on loan, as is the common procedure at Arsenal. However, should Arsene Wenger really believe in his talent, I feel it won’t be long before we see Akpom gracing the Emirates with his presence, even if next season is too soon.
I’m sure Akpom is keen to prove he his deserving of his new nickname, and being as young as he is, a prolonged Arsenal career may yet see him scale the same heights, even eclipse those of his new namesake, who knows?