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Next hotshot

Good day to everyone. Only 3 days in and we already have our first concern of the international break. Let it be known that none of our players have even played a match yet, not one that is classified as competitive anyway. Yet, it didn’t stop an alarm from going off yesterday. Just like in club football, injuries do happen anywhere and in this case, from the training ground.

The player in focus is Laurent Koscielny. Touted to started both France’s games as the central partner to Mamadou Sakho, news filtered through that Koscielny suffered a knee injury due to a bad tackle from Frank Ribery. The more attacking of the Frenchman is slightly early in helping Bayern Munich eliminate the key man of a team that could challenge them for the Champions League. Thankfully, just two hours later, the same source reported that the pain isn’t as bad and Koscielny is still likely to start tomorrow.

One of two things here. First, is that a lot was made out of the initial injury. Only right for the journalist to present what he witness. I will not put any blame on his part. There’s always a tendency to make things looks bigger than it seems but that was hardly the case with this one. It may well be an overreaction at the beginning but thankfully it was the least worrying scenario. The other thing could be that Didier Deschamps is willing to take the risk on Koscielny even though he may not be at his physical best. Failing both, it is a psychological ploy from the management’s point of view to keep their opponent guessing.

Koscielny is considered one of our better players. His performances last season was second only that one other player. He has not got many chances this season due to the magnificent form of Per Mertesacker and also partly due to his mistakes in the games which he did play. That said, the quality of the squad right now is also exemplified by him being on the bench. It looks increasingly like we’re are on the verge of building a very good all round team with quality covers in all departments.

When a team progress along that channel, very often the youth and young players are neglected. Teams focus on bringing in experienced individuals to cope with the demands of the season without batting an eyelid for those crop of youngsters coming through their respective academies. Fortunately for us, we have a manager who will give chances to the younger ones, provided the right quality is there. Which is why I’m delighted that we haven’t abandon the academy players just because there’s been a shift of transfer paradigm over the last 2 seasons.

Chuba Akpom is a talent that is worth keeping and promoting, should he continue his progression in the same manner. Here is a boy who just turned 17, yet is continued the main starter in the striking role for Arsenal’s U21 side. That is quite a statement of belief in his quality. Fans like nothing more (other than winning trophies) to see young players coming through the academy and playing for the first team. Players who come through the system, fully taught what it means to play for the club.

From the few times which I’ve seen Akpom play (admittedly, only ever on video), he is a very promising prospect. I can’t recall everything that has gone on since but if memory serves, Kevin Campbell was the last striker that came through the academy and become a first team mainstay. Campbell’s last appearance for us was back in 1995. 17 years is a long time to wait for the next striker to reach a level good enough to play for Arsenal Football Club. However, unless something changed from now onwards, I’m absolutely certain that this 17 year old Akpom will make it. May not be this season but eventually.

Akpom is already well built for someone so young. As a striker, while it’s not a necessity, it does help to have the right upper body strength and that little bit of height. As is normal with youngsters, he does possess adequate pace to trouble the defenders in this league. Playing as the lone striker in the same system that we used throughout the age-groups right up to the first team, he has shown enough intelligence to bring the others into play. A quality that is rare. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him in the near future.

This will be the last post at least until next Wednesday as I’m heading off for a short (deserved in my opinion) holiday to the wonderful island that is Hong Kong. Will try to check in on the usual places if and when wifi is available. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch some of the international games as well, especially ones that will involve our players.

Till then.

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