As a Nigerian, watching the preseason game between Singapore XI and Arsenal, I was really delighted seeing two of my countrymen play for my beloved team: Arsenal.
Chuba Akpom and Alex Iwobi might not be household names in Nigerian football but they are two youngsters that are highly valued at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger really values them and their inclusion in the preseason side comes as no surprise.
Chuba Akpom is more known to many gooners and has appeared for the club in the previous season; famously winning a penalty in the game against Aston Villa. Born, 09/10/1995, the lanky striker played for the U-18s at the age of 15. He has been sent on loan to Nottingham Forest, Brentford and Coventry and is an England U-20 International. He is surely on the rise and after Wenger promising not to loan him out this season, the 19 year old’s star doesn’t show any sign of diminishing.
Alex Iwobi might not have as much fame as his Nigerian brother but his family ties with Legendary dribbler, Austin Jay Jay Okocha certainly stands him out; no wonder he adopts a direct style of play and does not shy away from a dribble.
Slightly younger than Akpom, with 7 months, the winger who was born in Lagos, Nigeria has been used at various positions at Arsenal. From full back, to left midfield and then as a striker, he has tried all roles. He however seems to have settled down for an attacking role and with his performabce yesterday plus a hattrick against Stoke U-21s last season.
Not many Nigerians have played for Arsenal, but one Nigerian stands out: Nwankwo Kanu amasing close to 120 appearances and scoring 30 goals. He is a legend at the club and was selected as one of the 50 greatest players at the club. So they have a great person to look up to.
Wenger has promised not to lone out Akpom for this season, meaning that he would be given the opportunity to compete with Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott for the starting berth.
However, it is the Position of Alex Iwobi that really excites me. Podolski is gone, Campbell seems out of the picture, The OX seems to prefer the right than the left side of attack, Walcott wants to be the striker, Gnabry is still getting back from that long injury, Ozil would certainly like to continue playing in the number 10 role. That leaves a gapping space in the wings which I think Iwobi can exploit. He could be an understudy to Alexis and from his performance yesterday, he has the skill set to make an impact.
This is such a splendid time to be a Nigerian and a gooner and while I hope that they both play for Nigeria under new coach, Sunday Oliseh, for the short term, I pray for a super season for them both. They would surely make a nice story if they make impacts this season as they have been at Arsenal for more than a decade.