Last week Benik Afobe told the Arsenal website that Robin van Persie had taken him under his wing during his lengthy injury, advising him on motivation techniques and checking on his progress.
While on one level it appears we have a captain willing to do right by his squad, no matter their experience, on another it appears the motivation to help his young teammate is not just based on a sense of responsibility. Robin seems to truly rate Afobe as a footballer…really, really rate.
Speaking to the Arsenal official matchday programme ahead of Sunday’s tonking of the Spuds, the Dutchman spoke in glowing terms about Afobe’s potential having overcome his groin problem.
“I was delighted to see Benik Afobe back in the Reserves on Tuesday night, scoring against Norwich. Six months is a long time out at his age, especially when he did really well with the first team over pre-season making fast progress.
“He’s returned impressively though – I watched him in training ten days ago while I was doing my warm down and he looked really strong and quick, a proper English striker who holds the ball up well and works very hard.
“When you’re young you just want to be playing, improving your game and making your career, and he was denied that for a long time.”
At only 19-years-old, and with an impressive loan spell at Huddersfield Town under his belt, it wasn’t surprising to see Arsene Wenger hand the teenager a new contract in the summer. It now looks as though his next challenge is to break into the first team.
“To come back as he’s doing is tremendous – he’s a fantastic lad, a really good character to have in the squad and a player I genuinely rate, so I’m really proud of him,” continued Van Persie.
“He absolutely loves his football and treats it very seriously. That’s the main thing for a young footballer – if you really love the game like he does then you will make it, and he has everything to become a great player.”
Now don’t get us wrong, Arseblog News is not suggesting that a few warm words from the captain makes a player.
We’ve seen plenty of young attackers steal the headlines at youth and reserve level in the past, the likes of Stokes, Watt, Simpson and Lupoli all spring to mind, but none have gone on to make it.
That being said, you can’t help but stand up and take notice when someone of Van Persie’s stature uses his programme notes ahead of the biggest game of the season to talk up Afobe.
Let’s hope the lad can live up to his obvious potential. As it stands he’s only got to prove himself more useful than Chamakh and Park to bag himself a spot on the bench…can’t be too hard. Surely?