By Femi Fasetire
Five Nigerian-born kids in the youth squad of Arsenal of England are showing their senior colleagues in the London-based club’s main team how to win matches, as the quintet of Folarin Balogun, Miguel Azeez, Ryan Alebiosu, Tim Akinola and Arthur Okonkwo remain on the victory path with The Gunners’ junior side.
While Arsenal’s main squad suffered yet another defeat this week, just as they did last weekend, the Nigerian-born youngsters are helping the London club’s youth team win matches and showing their seniors in the main squad how things should be done.
As Spanish icon, Mikel Arteta is facing the sack threat at Emirates Stadium, he might start looking in the direction of Arsenal’s youth squad, where the five Nigerian-born players helped the junior squad to victory the teenagers’ domestic contest.
The main team have now lost two matches on the trot in the top-flight English Premier League, but Balogun, Azeez, Alebiosu, Akinola and Okonkwo held their own in The Gunners’ youth squad that pulled off a fourth consecutive win in the Premier League 2 by beating Leicester City 2-1.
Gunners’ fans would gleefully turn attention on their teenagers, after Calum Chambers opened scoring for the home side after tucking home a rebound off Balogun's effort in the 16th minute, and their spirits stayed high even after The Foxes managed to find a route back into the game when O'Connor headed past Okonkwo just before half time.
Around the hour, Moller thought he had put the north London team 2-1 up but the goal was disallowed as Azeez was offside when he made the pass, but he amended that later when he played the ball to Alebiosu, who crossed for Balogun and the striker put Arsenal back in front.
While Balogun scored his seventh goal for Arsenal this season, it was a different case for The Gunners in the top-flight English Premier League, as their former playmaker, Alex Iwobi took special delight in being part of Everton’s squad that dented the pride of his previous club on Saturday, with an assist to show in his team’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.
Retaining his place in the starting line-up with his new role as right-wing-back, Iwobi was a thorn in the flesh for The Gunners and, though he revealed afterwards that he felt greet meeting some of his former teammates, the Super Eagles’ star was equally happy to be on the winning side.
It was smooth sailing all the way, as Iwobi grabbed his second consecutive assist in guiding Everton to victory over his former side, as The Gunners failed to halt their dismal form that has pulled them down to 14th in the English Premier League.
Pressure is now mounting on Arteta, as The Gunners, whose captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still out with injury, have now gone eight league games without a win, and their woes were compounded when Yerry Mina’s header and Rob Holding’s own goal lifted Everton up to second on Sunday.
Nicolas Pepe’s penalty initially restored parity at Goodison Park, where Arteta spent six-and-a-half seasons as a player, but it was not a platform from which Arsenal could build on, as Iwobi and his pals were back in sublime form and they made the best of playing on Merseyside.
Balogun was back in the spotlight on Tuesday, as he got off the bench at Emirates Stadium in The Gunners’ loss to visiting Manchester City in the Carabao League Cup, and the Nigerian-born youngster ended up with more accolades from far and wide.
In contrast with more woes now pilling on Arsenal coach, Mikel Arteta, Balogun has found a lot of personal and individual praise coming his way, after The Gunners bowed out of the Carabao Cup at the quarter-final stage, following a 4-1 loss to Manchester City.
The latest round of plaudits are from Arsenal’s captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who looked beyond Baloigun’s inability to save The Gunners from defeat in the Carabao League Cup, as the youngster gave his very best in Tuesday’s game at Emirates Stadium against The Citizens, who were winners of the competition for the last three seasons, but the Nigerian-born lad could not stop Gabriel Jesus making hay very early.
Though Alexandre Lacazette equalised just past the half-hour, Riyad Mahrez's free-kick was fluffed by goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson to put City 2-1 up in the 55th minute, Phil Foden then scored three minutes later and Aymeric Laporte wrapped up scoring with 17 minutes left.
Arteta then sent Balogun on to replace Lacazette in the 77th minute, thereby according the teenager his first appearance for Arsenal in any domestic competition and adding to his previous four appearances off the bench in this season's UEFA Europa League.
However, Balogun could not make any impact because he was starved of service and in the closing minutes Nicolas Pepe wasted a chance to reduce the deficit when he opted to shoot instead of passing to the Nigerian-born youngster, who was in a better position to score.
Balogun will now aim for better opportunities and more playing time, as Arsenal aim to end their long, poor run of form and chain of seven matches without victory when they host London rivals, Chelsea in the English Premier League this Saturday, Boxing Day.
Ahead of that fixture, Balogun has gained fresh applause from Aubameyang, who noted that the lad born in USA has been exciting to watch in the Europa League, in which he has scored two goals and provided an assist in less than 62 minutes of action.
The youngster actualized his dream of making his professional debut for his boyhood club when Arteta sent him on for the last sixteen minutes of the 3-0 rout of Dundalk on October 29, which drew rave reviews from many pundits and a rain of accolades led by Aubameyang.
Aubameyang told Arsenal's Matchday Programme: "I've spoken about how talented I think Flo Balogun is, so I'm not even surprised to see him scoring in the Europa League as he has been doing.
“When you are young, your dream is first of all to play with the first team. It's always something special when you get your first goal with a professional team. I'm really happy for him and hopefully he's going to score more goals for the club."
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