Arsenal’s participation in the Capital One Cup may be over for another year, but today there was some positive news regarding the club’s youngsters as both Benik Afobe and Dan Crowley made their respective returns from injury.
Crowley, the hugely promising central midfielder signed from Aston Villa in the summer, had not featured since early September because of injury, but Afobe had been missing for a much longer period, with the England U21 international taking to the pitch for the first time since February, when his loan spell with Millwall was cut short because of a serious knee problem.
Afobe scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over a Nike Academy side in a friendly at London Colney today, but the 20 year old will be somewhat disappointed that his return has come just too late for him to be involved in the Capital One Cup. Indeed, Afobe’s prospects of making the grade at the Emirates Stadium have dwindled somewhat during his absence, following the signing of Yaya Sanogo and the impressive progression of Chuba Akpom.
Afobe, being the determined individual that he is, will not yet have given up hope of achieving his dream of carving out a career at Arsenal. His prolific goalscoring record for the youth teams, which included 40 goals in one campaign for the U16s, prompted discussions about his undoubted potential, whilst the club also reportedly turned down an offer for his services from Barcelona when he was just 17.
For all his promise, though, Afobe has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Arsenal first-team, owing mainly to loan spells and his succession of unfortunate injury problems. He has spent time with Huddersfield Town, Reading, Bolton Wanderers and Millwall, but, the higher the level he has played at, the more difficult he has found it to score with regularity.
So what next for Afobe? He is likely to continue to build up his fitness over the coming weeks, and should play some part in the U21 fixtures against Aston Villa and Manchester United at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park next month. He will also hope to train with the first-team on occasion before potentially heading out on loan again in January as he seeks to salvage his Arsenal career, fully aware that his current contract with the club expires at the end of the season.
Having risen all the way through the club’s Hale End Academy system, Afobe certainly won’t relinquish his opportunity without a fight. With Sanogo still unproven and Nicklas Bendtner and Ju-Young Park hardly favourable options as back-up strikers, he will be hoping to be afforded one slither of an opportunity to prove his worth before it’s too late.