Obi: A New Hope (or too soon to tell?)



It’s a mild November morning I wake up and the first thing I do is reach for my phone and Google “Arsenal”. I see the usual spam transfer stories about how we’re going to sign Ronaldo, Messi and Mbappe; however the headline ‘Arsenal youth player scores 10 goals for U16 side in 14-3 thrashing of Liverpool’ catches my attention. A few moments later I’m watching a YouTube video of Chido Obi-Martin bullying defenders who look half his age. Since then, Obi-Martin’s star has continued to rise with appearances for the U-18s and U-21s, and is probably (with Ethan Nwaneri) the most talked about Arsenal youngster since his current manager, Jack Wilshere. 

Not even Arsenal star Bukayo Saka was talked about this much at the ages of 15 & 16. Unfortunately, Arsenal has been haunted by promising youth team players with momentous goal records who never established themselves in the first team. Benik Afobe once scored 40 goals in a season for the U-16s and went on to become a journeyman striker. It doesn’t stop there… who remembers the name Chuba Akpom, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, or Anonthy Stokes? It’s a common occurrence that a young Arsenal striker develops physically in their early teens, and scores a load of goals to grab the attention of the club’s supporters, but as the other players in their age group mature physically, they become rather average.

So what’s it to be for Obi-Martin – the six-foot-two Arsenal starlet? To join Benik, Chuba, Jay and Anthony in the category of young Arsenal strikers who never made it? … or will he be able to buck the trend? At first, when you watch videos of him you are slightly worried as he’s so huge defenders can’t match him for size or strength. When watching his 7 goals against Norwich’s U-18 you can see the reluctance of defenders to get near him (I don’t blame them) but what does stand out is Obi’s football intelligence, the timing of his runs, his close ball control, and not to mention his composed finishing.

Best case: Victor Osimhen, this may seem like a lazy comparison as both are tall, fast rangy strikers but they’re rather similar in many aspects of their game. Like Osimhen, Obi doesn’t play like a traditional back-to-goal centre forward as one might expect a centre forward of his build to do. Instead, he plays in pockets of space, minimizing his contact with the defender and looking for the opportune moment to break the defensive line with his pace. He’ll also face up defenders using his technical ability to dribble to create space for shooting opportunities. He isn’t quite the acrobat like Osimhen and you might not see him scoring overhead kicks, or mid-air volleys that become YouTube favourites but regardless, similarities stand out.

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Most likely: Armando Broja, this might be a bit disappointing to read but before Broja got tainted by the Chelsea post-Abromovich curse Broja was a highly-rated youngster with even some reported (slightly dubious) Arsenal interest as recently as this January. The 22-year-old Albanian is six foot three, strong, quick and has excellent technical ability like Obi, however his highest goal tally in the premier league has been 6 goals. Now I believe Obi will be more prolific in front of goal and the comparison falls short in some areas as Broja plays on the wing at times. But they have similar profiles and it’s unrealistic to predict that Obi will become a top European striker as he’s just 17.

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Worst Case: Nicklas Bendtner I feel bad even mentioning his name however they’re both Danish, tall strikers with great technical ability. It gets worse: they both come from Copenhagen and both were youth players for FC Copenhagen (Obi was there for just a short time). Both also scored bags of goals at reserve and youth team levels. Now I would like to make it very clear that there is no sign that Obi has any of the character concerns Bendtner had. Obi hasn’t been caught running on top of people’s cars in Sunderland with Lee, or breaking a glass door to a gym so he could take some models for a jacuzzi. None of that. From everything I read, Obi is a hard-working, grounded individual and everyone thinks the world of him and the comparison is slightly provocative. However – if, for whatever reason, Obi doesn’t become the player we all hope him to be and he becomes a journeyman striker then the comparisons with Bendtner will be made due to the similar build, background and success at Arsenal’s youth levels.

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Arsenal Reportedly have offered Obi-Martin a new contract to keep him and, as recent headlines have shown, he’s clearly highly rated by other clubs too. So let’s see what Obi-Martin will become, on some level this article is ridiculous for even trying to hazard a guess on how someone who isn’t even 17 will develop but that’s what makes football great: even a young 16-year-old’s blurry YouTube highlights can conjure visions of future Arsenal greats.

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One Response to Obi: A New Hope (or too soon to tell?)

  1. SuperMik June 12, 2024 at 7:24 pm #

    Is being compared to Lord Bendtner actually worst case? Id say thats best case scenario here…

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