The future of the Nigerian talents in the ranks of Arsenal would certainly be up for debate as a new era surfaces at the Emirates Stadium, following the decision made by Arsenal’s longest serving manager, Arsene Wenger who has decided to step down from his post after about 22 years in charge.
Arsene Wenger is synonymous with the Premier League and when the pronouncement broke out earlier in the day, that this man who has left in his track many awesome records which are unlikely to be matched again would be calling time at a club he has been with since 1996, many things looked likely to change from there on — be it for better or worse.
And now, a host of Arsenal’s Nigerian players; Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Nwakali and Chuba Akpom inclusive would be scratching their heads for answers as to what the latest proclamation would mean for them.
Love him or loathe him, there is no hiding the fact that the Frenchman is worth every pinch his salt and had devoted a sizeable amount of his time at the helm in blooding youngsters and giving teenagers first team football and very few managers in world football today can realistically come close to laying a glove on his achievements in that regard.
Under the 68-year old, Super Eagles winger, Alex Iwobi made his senior team debut on 27th October, 2015 aged 17, and have gone on to take in over 93 appearances in all competitions for the club.
Currently, he is one of the club’s most important players having developed consistently to become a mainstay in Wenger’s XI but could his gaffer’s looming departure bode well for him? The jury is very much out on that one.
Another of the Nigerian prospects on the books of Arsenal, Chuba Akpom is currently taking in a loan spell at Sint-Truiden in Belgium and while he has impressed, his future no longer seems certain back at his parent club following one the biggest decisions football has seen in nearly decades.
The 22-year old was gradually integrated into the first team by the manager having starred for the youth ranks and at a time when he was still 19, Wenger insisted he was a player of bountiful talents and was very ‘close to his first team’. All those appraisals, all those promises, all those accolades, one shudders to think of what they could mean for Akpom now.
And then, there is 19-year old boy wonder, Kelechi Nwakali who has long been targeting a first team spot at the club — no doubt he would equally have been monitoring proceedings at the Emirates since the sounding pronouncement was made earlier today, albeit from far far away MVV Maastricht, for whom he has marked many career-high improvements since moving to the De Geusselt outfit in Holland.
More so, a host of English-born starlets of Nigerian descent who hold the promise of making the step up into first team football with the tutelage of the famous professor might now feel hard done by particularly if Arsenal’s next manager do not put much faith in youths just like his predecessor had done.
Prominent among them are Xavier Amaechi, Folarin Balogun, Saka Bukayo, Arthur Okonkwo, Tolaji Bola, Joseph Olowu, James Olayinka among others who have been deemed talented enough for a shot at first team football with Arsenal, having starred impressively in the youth ranks.
By and large, the next few years are shaping up to be trying times for these ones and could they really handle the pressure of working under a new handler when their man Arsene Wenger eventually walks?