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Henry Onyekuru: A gamble worth taking for Arsenal

Thursday 25th May 2017
Nigerian youngster, Henry Onyekuru, has been linked with a handful of top European sides with the latest being Premier League giants, Arsenal. Though a huge gamble due to his inexperience, however, the Belgium-based forward might just turn out to be a hit if he eventually moves to the Emirates.

Arsenal, as we all know, is renowned for spotting and nurturing young talents into world beaters. The Gunners, under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger, has consistently aided the development of young players into rounded talents. It is for this reason that the club is considered one of the safest havens for teenagers, with Onyekuru likely to be the next to join this elite class.

Should the Gunners eventually meet his £6.8m buyout clause, Onyekuru will become the third Nigerian after Nwankwo Kanu and Alex Iwobi to play for the club. Just like the former, Onyekuru's remarkable goalscoring exploits for modest Belgian side, KAS Eupen, was what triggered Arsenal and other sides to come crawling at him. The 19-year-old finished as the league's top scorer with an incredible 22 goals and a further nine assists. It was undoubtedly a breakthrough campaign for the teenager, though he did show promise in 2015/16, netting six times en route to Eupen's promotion to the top tier.

Born in Onitsha, South-East, Nigeria, Onyekuru was spotted playing in his homeland and brought to the Aspire Academy in Senegal before linking up with Eupen who are owned by the Aspire Zone Foundation, in the summer of 2015. Since then, he has blossomed into one of the hottest properties in Belgium and by extension in the whole of Europe.

Why sign Onyekuru?

Henry Onyekuru might not be your ideal Arsenal signing; the high-profile buy many Gooners may have been clamouring for. However, what is crystal clear is that his addition will strengthen Wenger's squad. For a team heavily reliant on Alexis Sanchez for goals, the arrival of another consistent goal poacher will more than lighten the workload on the Chilean. That's if the latter indeed stays beyond the current campaign.

Just like Sanchez, Onyekuru has single-handedly shouldered the goalscoring burden of his team, which probably would have been relegated without him. In fact, the Nigerian was responsible for more than one-third of the goals scored by Eupen - highlighting his relevance to the side. In the event of Sanchez's imminent departure from the Emirates, the 19-year-old could just be that player to deliver the goods for the Gunners in the future.

And interestingly, Arsenal doesn't have to go through much duress in order to sign him. First, his £6.8m is very much affordable by the Gunners, besides, Onyekuru himself fantasises about playing for the club. He admitted in 2016: “I'm a huge Arsenal fan, Thierry Henry is my idol. Now I'm a professional footballer, I try to copy him as much as possible.

So what does Henry Onyekuru bring to the fore?

Onyekuru's biggest asset is obviously his finishing. The young Nigerian, who only turned pro in 2015, flaunts a terrific return of around 30 strikes in just 60 games for Eupen. Although there's much more to his game aside from his incredible eyes for goal. Onyekuru, who is adept at playing anywhere in attack, possess blistering pace, superb skills, and movement - similar to that of his idol, Henry. His low centre of gravity (5ft 9in) enables him to change direction rapidly with a good close control. Perhaps, it has to do with the fact that he runs and dribbles with a straight stance, not hunching.

How he compares to Arsenal's forwards

Using goals as the major metric, then Onyekuru is only second to Sanchez who notched six more than the Nigerian in all competitions. Aside the Chilean, Onyekuru found the back of the net more times than the club's other marksmen. His style of play is a blend of Theo Walcott's pace and Mesut Ozil's sleekness coupled with a finishing touch similar to that of Sanchez.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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