Arsenal Youngster Once Labeled the “Next Big Thing” Finally Hitting Stride

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Following five somewhat unsuccessful loan moves over the last four seasons, former Arsenal top prospect Benik Afobe is now firing on all cylinders during his time with League One side Milton Keynes Dons. Afobe, a England youth international, joined The Dons during the summer transfer period on a one-year loan and has scored an impressive 15 goals in 20 matches.

None of Afobe’s goals have enthralled Arsenal fans more than his brace against Manchester United in the second round of the League Cup in late August. Afobe netted the final two goals during the match, and MK Dons went on to claim a staggering 4-0 victory over the Premier League giants.

The powerful forward claims that the biggest difference between his current situation and previous loan deals comes down to time on the pitch. Afobe explained to Arsenal.com, “It’s been really easy (to settle). From day one the manager showed a lot of faith in me and I’m really happy with the way they’ve treated me. I’m really enjoying my time here.”

“Sometimes when something clicks, it clicks. I’ve done nothing different to any of my other loans in terms of preparation and hard work – I’ve always done that. I just think it’s about the timing and being in the right place at the right time. I didn’t feel like I was involved as much as I should have been on previous loans, but here I feel like I’m a big part of MK Dons’ season with the minutes I’m playing and the goals I’m scoring.”

Afobe also went on to say that while he is happy to make a positive impact on MK Dons, he has his sights on Arsenal in the future. The 21-year-old stated, “At the moment I’m enjoying my football but I want to go back to Arsenal in the summer with my head held high and happy with the season I had. I want to prove them right because I know they believe in me.”

The London-born Afobe has been associated with the Gunners for more than half of his life (13 years), and was once seen as one of the biggest prospects in all of England. While a 16-year-old, Afobe broke his good friend Jack Wilshere’s Arsenal reserve scoring record. The striker also managed to score an astounding 40 total goals in just 33 appearances for the England U-16s. With rumors of Barcelona interest, The Guardian labeled Afobe “the next big thing” in 2010.

While the talented striker was seemingly on his way to first-team action at a young age with Arsenal, two significant injuries delayed his moment to shine (imagine that, an Arsenal player with injury history). The second of Afobe’s injury, a torn ACL, was suffered while he was on loan at Millwall in March of 2013, and forced the striker to miss eight months of action due to the serious problem.

With some fans doubting whether or not he could return to being the top prospect he was once considered, Afobe has worked diligently to get back to full strength and has hit the ground running during his time at MK Dons. The out-and-out striker is an exceptional finisher (as seen here), a solid dribbler, and uses his vision well to pick out the right pass when needed.

If he can remain healthy, Afobe can be half of very talented young striking duo for the Gunners in the future. 19-year-old Chuba Akpom is also seen as an immensely talented striker in the Arsenal ranks, having scored six U/21 Premier League goals in seven matches. If Afobe was “the next big thing” in 2010, Akpom is the 2014 version.

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