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Benik Afobe – Arsenal’s missing link?

Transfer talk is rife at the Emirates at the moment. After a sixth consecutive season without a trophy (I’m starting to think Arsene Wenger broke a mirror after the F.A Cup victory over Manchester United), many fans have voiced their concerns over bit part players who just aren’t cutting the grade. Denilson, Squillaci, Arshavin and (in his own words) the “best striker in the world,” Nicklas Bendtner are a few names constantly linked with the exit door at the Emirates. The last of those names is the one that most Arsenal fans seem to be venting their frustration at the most. Many are already talking up replacements for the big Dane such as Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Freiburg’s Papiss Demba Cisse to name just a few. But there may be an alternative and much cheaper option on the cards in Benik Afobe.

Since being loaned out to Huddersfield by Arsenal in November, the U-19 England international has been influential in Huddersfield’s promotion charge. His five league goals and one F.A Cup goal for the Terriers have highlighted his delightful finishing skills and brute force in the penalty box. Standing at 6’ tall, the Leyton born striker easily has the physical presence to match that of Chamakh and Bendtner. And whilst his goal tally might be modest, his performances saw him pick up five man of the match performances in a row. He also provided a number of key assists as Huddersfield blasted their way into a play-off position in League 1.

Not since the days of Ian Wright have Arsenal had someone who could play off the last man and tuck away chance after chance that was presented to him. Wenger has tried and failed to fill this gap. The likes of Jeffers and Aliadiere never threatened the first team let alone the oppositions net and whilst Eduardo did look promising, he never fully recovered from that horrific leg break suffered at Birmingham. This is where Afobe could come in. We all know Wenger’s track record for producing youngsters and giving them game time, maybe it is time to unleash Afobe onto the Premier League, or at least the League Cup.

He could provide the backup role to the injury prone Van Persie and the inconsistent Chamakh. I personally believe that Chamakh will come good next year. Nearly every player (unless you’re Javier Hernandez) needs time to adapt and Chamakh portrayed a lot of promise at the beginning of this season and will surely re-discover that form at some point. So with two established first team strikers in the set-up why not let the likes of Afobe or Vela pick up the pieces if things aren’t quite going the Gunners’ way. Afobe should certainly have the mentality to succeed having endured the character building experience that the play-offs will bring. Win or lose, he can only learn from it and become stronger mentally.

Maybe pushing Afobe into the first team is a little too soon. However with Arsene’s shrew transfer policy, do you really think he’ll blow £15-20 million on a striker when our defence should be his top priority? It might make more sense to buy a veteran striker who could plug the gap for one or two years whilst these youngsters develop. Look at the success that Raul and Van Nistelrooy had when they left Madrid. So with the endless conveyor belt of young talent emerging from Arsenal, it could well be time that players like Afobe, Vela and Freeman are given their chance, to let their potential shine.

Matt Mace

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