Tag Archives: akpom

Chuba Akpom’s Time to Shine

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Arsenal have a raft of youngsters waiting for their opportunity to shine on the biggest of stages. 

They have fought through every tier of the Arsenal pagoda, until they stand on the precipice of the very zenith. This is where the majority of these starry-eyed kids stumble.

The numerous youth teams act as a conveyor belt of sorts, pushing each product closer and closer to the point where they are quality tested and judged whether they can be added to the Arsenal first team. Chuba Akpom has been standing on the threshold for some time now – and the latest development will see whether he is Arsenal material or destined to carry on his career elsewhere.

Despite being part of the first team squad this season, Chuba has played a miniscule amount of football. The logical conclusion was to send Akpom on loan again, and it has seen Chuba arrive at Brighton and Hove Albion for the rest of the season.

The Seagulls are flying high in the Championship and pushing hard for an automatic promotion slot to the Premier League. Akpom’s arrival will give Gulls Boss Chris Hughton another option in attack to supplement the efficient Glenn Murray. 

Akpom is a deft hand in this Division. He has had extensive loan spells in recent years at Hull City and Nottingham Forest, both of which were perceived as successful for the players development and also for the team as they benefitted from Akpom’s pace and goals.

He should get enough game time to make his presence felt at the club – and also to alert Arsene Wenger that he is ready for a bigger role at Arsenal. In reality though, what does Chuba have to do to force himself into the Gunners ranks?

At this moment in time, Arsenal have Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez vying for a striking spot. This means that Akpom would have to oust at least two of these established international strikers to gain a prominent position. 

It also means Chuba needs results in order to complete his forst objective, which is to grab attention. He needs goals, and plenty of them. His talent has never been in question, but in the face of such tall odds – is Akpom’s target to gain a higher profile transfer in the summer?

With so many striking options at Arsenal, it seems highly unlikely that the 21 year old is going to get that first team spot he covets. This does not mean his loan spell is futile though. It actually places more pressure on the spell on the South Coast.

If he impresses as he has done in his previous sojourns from Arsenal, then his agent will be able to hawk him around to ambitious teams looking to add some genuine fire to their squad. Akpom would be able to grab a move to a Premier League side, if he achieves good things with Brighton.

This loan spell could actually set out his career path for the next few seasons. If he impresses, it means he gets that shot at the big time – either with Arsenal or with another top-flight team. If he flatters to deceive, it could put him lower in the pecking order at Arsenal, and if he seeks a move, it will see lesser lights seeking his signature.

That conveyor belt at London Colney I talked of earlier? It means that if there is not progression, it sees the players behind you pushing you off the belt. There is a perpetual queue of youth products waiting to take that test that Chuba Akpom now has to take.

Kelechi Nwakali, Takuma Asano, Jon Toral and Daniel Crowley are all currently on loan at top flight teams around Europe. They will gladly take the ball that is potentially dropped by Akpom, should he fluff his lines at Brighton.

The pressure on these young men is immense, but the reward dwarves this weight on their shoulders. 

Can Chuba Akpom deliver? We will all watch his every move.

Arsenal Vs Reading – EFL Cup Preview

Three days after a disappointing draw against Middlesbrough in the Premier League, Arsenal have the chance to return to winning ways immediately, with this EFL Cup meeting at home versus Reading.

Despite dropping points at home, other results featuring our title rivals ended favourably, which leaves the Gunners primed near the top – and with a list of priorities as full as our squad list.

Arsene Wenger yesterday was at the club’s AGM, which clashed with training, but he insisted that the club would fight on all fronts, including this competition – which is one he has failed to win in his two decades at Arsenal.

The EFL cup used to be derided by the major teams, us included, but any silverware to show off to the fans at the end of the season is to be celebrated, and so all major Premier League teams now focus on the competition a lot more than in previous years – to prove it, just look at the teams that will be named.

In terms of Arsenal and who will make the team, it is rather exciting trying to guess who will make the lineup – and even more so being able to see some of the lesser seen players being able to strut their stuff. 

Damian Martinez started the last EFL Cup round, and will be expected to wear the gloves again. After that, it is a case of educated estimation.

A host of fringe players will be champing at the bit to get some valuable game time. Gabriel, Rob Holding, Carl Jenkinson, Jeff-Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Elneny will be eagerly awaiting Wenger’s decision, and they all stand a great chance of lining up against the Royals. 

Mohamed Elneny in particular will be looking to get up to speed as quickly as possible, with Santi Cazorla perhaps sidelined for longer than projected, the Egyptian will be looking to take his chance with both hands, and that means putting in performances that make it harder for Cazorla to instantly return to the side.

It isn’t just the players who aren’t part of the first team that are looking to get on the team sheet. 

Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to first team training, and all that is missing is match sharpness, so it isn’t a huge leap to think that the Frenchman will indeed take to the pitch tonight at some stage, although Ramsey may just miss out.

This would mean that this experimental lineup will be peppered with genuine experience and class, as well as youthful hunger. I will be attending the game, and cannot wait to cheer to the rafters whoever wears the jersey.

We are of course favourites to win it, but Reading are no pushovers. Everyone will remember the 7-5 epic tie in this competition from a few years ago, and with Jaap Stam as coach, they will have defensive solidity as a priority. 

The Royals will pose a threat, but with the dazzling array of talent we can call upon to fill the side, we should have no excuses.

Reading have not beaten Arsenal in thirteen attempts, and the Gunners haven’t lost at home to lower league opposition in this competition since 1963, so hopefully this continues! There is a cursory note though, as Arsenal have lost their last two home games in this competition – and we have never lost three in a row. 

This tie is there to be won, and handsomely. Let us continue with the great run we have been enjoying, and in turn, stay in contention for the cup.

Predicted Lineup – Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Jeff, Ox, Lucas, Akpom.

Predicted Score – 4-1

EFL Cup: Nottm Forest 0 – 4 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Seen as a gamble before kickoff, the heavy mix of youth with a few experienced heads paid dividends as Arsenal dumped Forest out of the EFL Cup and made their way to the Quarter-Finals.

A Lucas Perez double – his first goals for the club – a Granit Xhaka exocet and The Ox from a Lucas assist, gave Arsenal the win, and there were a few of the youngsters who really impressed, as well as some who are trying to force their way from the bench to the first team.

Xhaka and Elneny mixed well, and did their prospects no harm, and Chuba Akpom was involved in most of the moves which broke through the Forest defence. Lucas Perez in only his second start was effective, and despite a few shaky moments, the defence as a whole coped with the variables of unfamiliarity and lack of minutes, to keep out the home side.

The team was liberally sprinkled with youthful talent, and perhaps more so than in recent years, but the experienced pro’s that were in the team gave the side a real edge.

Lucas Perez started only his second game since arriving in August, and the midfield base of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny – who represent some fans optimum central combo, provided the foundation for prolonged spells of possession. In defence, Gabriel returned from injury to partner the promising Rob Holding, and Kieran Gibbs provided a certain reliability on the left of the backline. 

The Ox was given another chance to impress, on the right of attack, and Chuba Akpom started on the left of attack. Most surprisingly, and pleasantly, was the choice to include the much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide in the Number10 position, and this was the best chance fans have had in quite some time to get a close look at the young Frenchman. It was also his biggest opportunity for the first team to date. ‘The Jeff,’ in flashes, showed that the hype could be deserved. Good vision, allied with excellent control, if he can improve his strength and his concentration, he will be part of the long term future of the club.

Oxlade-Chamberlain again flattered to deceive, and patience has to be running a little thin, as it is in the stands. Frustrations toward the England man is mainly due to knowing what he can do, but his lack of consistency, and his lack of growth, means The Ox is more or less the same player we signed. His goal was a great finish, and it provided that little flash and reminder of what he can do, but his whole display could again be better. It seems the best of him always comes to the surface when the pressure is off and the game is in the bag.

There was plenty more to pick out from within the ninety minutes, but here are 5 key points from the game:


Lord Bendtner has still got it, good and bad – 

Within twenty minutes, we saw the best and worst of our former striker. He put a chance on a plate for Patjim Kasami who screwed wide, held the ball up well and had a great effort just off target, but also put in a tackle on Granit Xhaka that was verging on X-rated. The Dane was bombed out of Wolfsburg in the summer, and was branded a ‘menace’ by the Board at the German club, but he certainly still has something to offer, but he needs to rein in his flamboyant ego if he is to resurrect his career.


Granit Xhaka has dynamite in his boots

The Swiss star has the backing of nigh on every single Gooner in regards to being in the first XI, and we are all more than aware of how effective his passing is, and how destructive he can be in the face of opposition attacks. What is maybe less known is his ability to shoot from distance. Last weekend he scored our 4th goal in our win over Hull City with a howitzer from 30yards, and he opened the scoring in this tie with a shot from similar distance. It took a slight deflection, but it seemed to be going in anyway, even when the keeper made contact with it! The clean connection he seems to obtain means that his boots could yet be a viable option of attack. If Wenger allows long range shots that is!


Chuba Akpom may just have an Arsenal future

Named on the left of attack, it was going to be interesting to see how the young England lad fared out wide and cutting in, but we needn’t have feared. He had an early chance which the Forest keeper did well to stop, and his link-up play, which comes to the fore far more out wide, was impressive. It was he who also latched onto a through ball which allowed Lucas Perez to score his first Arsenal goal, via a penalty. He isn’t a one-trick pony, he can do more than score goals, but it is how many times he hits the net that he will be judged upon. It is nigh-on impossible to decide if he will be given a shot in the seasons to come, but on this display, he’s giving it everything he has got. 


Gibbs was the right choice for Captain

The boy – although he’s far from a boy now – has been at the club since 2007 and is the second longest serving player behind Theo Walcott. It isn’t simply his tenure that means the armband was warranted though. He has been in and out of the side for two years now, and it is ongoing. Have you ever heard him moan via the media though? He has been the utmost professional, and he isn’t just picking up his paycheque either. Whenever called upon, he has done a solid job, and if given a run in the side, he would not let anyone down. He isn’t the vociferous type, but the youngsters on the field can look to Gibbs for the example to follow, and aside from the early mistake which allowed Bendtner to set up Kasami, Gibbs did the shirt, and the captaincy, proud.

We may have another viable penalty taker – and Lucas is it

Alexis may be able to give defenders twisted blood, and he may be able to play as a striker ( time will tell ) but he cannot be considered for penalty taking duty. Santi Cazorla is the nominated spot-kick man, but Lucas Perez scored his first goal for the club in this game, through an accomplished penalty that indicated he is a reliable option if the need arises. On the whole, Lucas played well, but the service again wasn’t exactly plentiful. His movement was ok though, which Ozil will enjoy, and getting off the mark will relieve a lot of pressure.His second goal also exhibited his strength, as he shrugged off Michael Mancienne and had the composure to round the keeper before tapping home. He then registered an assist, a slide rule pass for Oxlade-Chamberlain to finish, and it was a great display from the hitman from Deportivo.  Let’s see how he goes from here. The next penalty earned should be a straight fight between the two Spaniards. 

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.

The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.

Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.

This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year. 

You cannot have both.

So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players. 

David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.

In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.

Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.

In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch. 

Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.

Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.

Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.

In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours. 

‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.

We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.

Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal. 

First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda. 

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal

MLS All-Stars 1-2 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Upon first inspection, Arsenal’s friendly versus the creme of the top flight in the USA on Friday morning (or Thursday night, dependent on location), could be overlooked as a money-spinning exercise, or as an elaborate parade to garner more fans across the globe. 

At the very least, it was a vital warm-up for our players as they slowly ascend the gears and shake off summer excesses, in a bid to fine tune their bodies for another slog of a season. For the competition this coming campaign will be fiercer than ever, so every measure must be taken to ensure optimisation of every asset.

This match represented a notch up from the previous friendly game – the 1-1 draw versus RC Lens last week – so our squad, or at least the men selected to travel across the pond, could see where they needed to work a little harder before ceremonies begin on the 14th August against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

It may be quite difficult to take anything of note from the game, other than our players are being put through their paces – but with a keen eye, there is plenty for us Gooners to suckle upon until we again take to the pitch on Monday the 1st August versus Chivas de Guadalajara. 

So, here at The Hot Stepanovs, we thought we would provide you with a bite-size, handy article which points out what will give Arsene Wenger food for thought, and what us fans can use to soothe us during the traumatic transfer window….

Theo still has low confidence – but there are signs of life.

Theo once again was given the benefit of the doubt –  that heaving, dark doubt that shrouds the majority of fans thinking – and given the sole striker slot. He had three opportunities, and two were off target, with the other drawing a smart save from All-Stars keeper Andre Blake. 

Theo may have failed to register a goal, but he was in the right place to take the chance. His positioning is improving. His runs are being found – and all this without the King of Assists in the team. This isn’t a declaration that Walcott must start, or that he is the striker we need – far from it. 

Just that he shouldn’t be written off. Not at full fitness, in a team that was far removed from what we will field for our season opener, this display was a subtle signal that he has something to offer.

Don’t get carried away with Rob Holding

The boy only completed his move last week, and before he knows what is happening, he is jetted away to San Jose, California, to play the best that Major League Soccer has to offer. 

For such a whirlwind week, Holding did well – and that is the problem. He will either be the next Martin Keown, or consigned to the scrapheap as soon as the smallest mistake rears its ugly head. It is never grey, only black or white.

Holding played well, but it is far too early to gauge where he stands in regard to being able to fill in where necessary in the heart of our defence. Holding must be treated like a goldfish you have just won from the fair – keep it in the bag as you gradually intorduce him to the new water in the shiny tank you’ve bought him. Patience is key, but he did his no prospects no harm.

Holding surprised most of us with his display, especially as he was tasked with some contrasting styles to combat. The guile of David Villa, the trickery of Sebastian Giovinco, and……

Didier Drogba continues to haunt our consciousness

The Ivorian ruined our defence repeatedly whilst plying his trade for Chelsea. He even ruined a few careers too (we remember a Philippe Senderos before Drogba was unleashed upon him). 

The facts spell it out quite clearly. Prior to kickoff in this game, Drogba had plundered fifteen goals in fifteen games against us.

Provided a chance thanks to Sacha Kljestan of NY Red Bulls, he took a few attempts to put it past Petr Cech and Holding, but he did just that. 

That makes it 16 in 16. If Didier Drogba runs a business into his fifties, there can be no guarantee that they will be the ruination of our football club. Everyone needs a nemesis, and Drogba’s campaign to elect himself ours is quite frightening.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hungry

Against Lens last week, and during the seventy minutes he played in this game, The Ox and his direct manner stood out against the large sedate sections of the game. He took people on, as is his wont, but his end product and composure looked a little more fine tuned. 

Whether it is practice drills, just a flash in the pan, or a little experience seeping through? Who knows. When in full flow though, The Ox provides entertainment. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

Krystian Bielik has been schooled well, it seems.

Much like Dr Dre accuses us of, we forgot about him. Not the good Doctor, no, but Bielik. His time for the reserves has sauteed his talents though, added the spices and taste that he needed. He was alongside Rob Holding at the start of the game, and Bielik looked like he had been playing for many a year. 

Will he even gain a place on the bench? Surely a loan beckons for this young man though, as it is now time where the only thing that can aid his career further is gametime. One thing is for sure, it looks like whatever club is the recipient, they stand to receive a very promising player. 

There were many more pointers that warrant mentioning. The MLS talent pool is quite clearly burgeoning, and the healthy flow of cash can only help attract more to the league. It was a very competitive fixture, and thanks to a few MLS defenders and Francis Coquelin, it meant that the winning mentality was on show from both sides. 

This MLS All-Star team played tottenham this time last year – and won 2-1. Our victory can be written off, but seeing our backup players given a chance to shine – which they duly accepted – and a confidence boosting win in the bag, can only be taken as a positive. 

Joel was again impressive. Akpom scored the winner and Jack managed forty five minutes. All plusses. 

A big thank you to Jeanne. You kept me in the loop until I could get home and glean as much as I could. I doff my cap to you madam!

The Return of the Loanees – Part One.

Whilst not matching Chelsea’s exodus of players farmed out on loan, Arsenal can look forward to a healthy amount of additions to bolster our ranks.

With the addition of Granit Xhaka, and the promise of our club continuing to plunder the transfer market this summer, our squad appears to be in rude health.

The question for the players returning to Colney is whether they can establish themselves upon Arsene Wenger’s plans this coming season, when the competition for places has become ever more heated.

Continue reading The Return of the Loanees – Part One.

Gunners Loanees – Who Will Prosper?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Part and parcel of a footballer’s development is to take the acid test of first team football. Training ground scenarios and gleaning from fellow professionals is mandatory but these alone are not enough to complete a footballing education.

Experience of the frenetic nature and pressure of ninety minutes under the gaze of thousands of scrutinising eyes cannot be replicated. This means that the higher echelon of clubs who have a burgeoning scouting and youth system must choose the best option from a plethora, to guide and nurture.

The pitfalls can be career ending, but the rewards can be unbelievable. So the time that a Manager takes to decide where one of his young charges goes to further his tutelage can be considered some of the most important they will take. The player can become a club icon, a headline-grabber. Every step of their early years must be painstakingly planned out though. One wrong step and confidence can be dented, a dry spell on the pitch can see minutes on the pitch limited, which then could start a steep decline.

We’ve all seen it and lamented the death of talent. So with some of our highly rated young players out on loan – who has the best chance to shine?

Continue reading Gunners Loanees – Who Will Prosper?

Give Youth a Chance?

The hype of the transfer window is in full effect. Fragrant nuggets of a spurious nature are peppering every social network and news source. Inescapable, false but mostly infuriating.

The flavour of this period of purchasing frenzy seems to be strikers. From the Metro to Twitter, via the Daily Mail and Facebook, players such as Karim Benzema, Lacazette and Marco Reus are dangled above every Gooner, aimed solely at enticing hopeful fans to click on the article with the baiting headline. The article is then padded out with a majority of ballyhoo centred around the rumoured player and his apparent appearance at Costa Coffee. In an airport. Somewhere on planet earth.

image

It is simple supply and demand at the heart of this football news malaise. It is no secret that Arsenal fans want to hear of a Sky Sports ticker-inducing signing. One of the ilk of Ozil and Sanchez that sends ripples through the Premiership and also causes Gooners everywhere to have palpitations. No one can argue that these purchases breed optimism.

At what point though, do the promising youngsters we have in our youth ranks get a chance to shine?

Continue reading Give Youth a Chance?

Emirates Cup – Take From it What You Will.

The Emirates Cup approaches this weekend and it is one of the rare occasions that the words ‘bargain’ and ‘tickets’ are used in conjunction with a match at The Emirates.

The reason isn’t simply down to the £25 price, which is quite frankly incredible value for money. It is because the tournament organised by our sponsors provides spectators with a chance to view two matches featuring top quality teams. Continue reading Emirates Cup – Take From it What You Will.